With our main protagonists still dispersed the events take a lot darker turn. We leave the merry and only sometimes dangerous world of the short stories and initial novels. The world Ciri finds herself in is sinister and hell-bent on destruction. Geralt and Yennefer desperately try to reach her and help, but their efforts are cannot measure against the massive tide of events.
We left Ciri with the Rats, and now we meet her months later. She is found by Vysogota, a hermit living in the swamps. Ciri is hurt and Vysogota nurses her back to health, gradually gaining her trust. She does recount her story and the terrifying events of the last few months. During that time she lost her friends, has been captured, forced to brutally murder people in order to survive. She has been hated for the simple fact of being herself. The part of the story when she is in Bonhart’s captivity is bone-chilling.
Meanwhile, Geralt and his group continue their search. Initially joining the army of Queen Maeve, they decide to leave them, to locate druids that may be able to find Ciri. The group is separated but eventually comes back together in the kingdom of Toussaint. Where they are able to find a safe haven for a while, thanks to Dandelion’s favors with the local queen. Geralt is repeatedly told to abandon his quest but stubbornly refuses to do it.
Yennefer, quite surprising to everyone, is still alive. After her spectacular escape from the Lodge, she ends up in Skellige, calling in her favors from yarl Crah an Craite, who also knew Ciri when she was a child. She wants to locate Vilgefortz, at all costs. Because unlike Geralt she believes the only way Ciri will be safe is when the danger from the sorcerer is neutralized. One may say she partially succeeds in her quest. But it is a costly victory.
In this book, Sapkowki regains his pace. It is also a very dark one. It is brutal, hopeless, full of evil, and the good is certainly losing its grip. There are no more clear loyalties, trust has been lost on all sides. No one comes out of war clean and this book shows that. But it also shows that not only everyone is sullied, they are also all damaged. No one remains intact. It is a chilling change of tone, for in the previous books there was still hope in the camaraderie, friendship, and love. All this is lost here, what remains is bitterness, violence, and aimless stubborn search. And because of this shift, I think the book regains our attention, now we care again.
Links to previous reviews in the series:
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska