Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Review of Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski

Seeming to set the pace for the remaining three books in the trilogy, Time of Contempt (1995), the second book, picks up exactly where the first Blood of Elves left off. Not only pace, the novel likewise carries forward the character focus, authorial voice, and style of the first novel in consistent fashion.

At the outset, Ciri and Yennefer are on their way to Aretuza where the intention is that Ciri will train to harness her magical source abilities and become an enchantress. Their journey anything but straightforward, while stopping in Gors Velen the duo have several encounters that indicate prying eyes are interested in their progress—or lack thereof. Meanwhile, Geralt wanders the countryside and cities, earning his keep as a monster hunter. After accidentally stumbling upon a behind-the-scenes fight amongst factions of the mages, Geralt finds himself embroiled in the wider interests of Aretuza, like it or not, and simultaneously in the machinations of Nilfgardian interests to take over the lands.

Like Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt feels like the slice of a story, that is, rather than finite piece with a typical arc: intro, body, climax, resolution. Like Lord of the Rings, readers will need to immediately pick up the next book to find out what happens next, that is, versus the George R.R. Martin approach of having stories within stories, each book having natural pauses at intro and outro.

Alongside the main plot threads, Sapkowski makes progress revealing and evolving the main characters. Geralt and Yennefer’s history is talked about in more detail. Ciri starts to really show her true colors are all her expectations are interrupted. And new players, side characters exactly, are introduced in ways that make the reader pause to wonder: what role will they play given how calculated Sapkowski is at introducing them?

Recommending Time of Contempt is easy: if you enjoyed Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt continues to tell the story in very consistent fashion, and in a manner that subtly starts to build intrigue and interest in the wider picture. How will Nilfgard continue to press its intentions? How will the breakdown in the mages’ school impact the wider political scene? And most importantly, how will the characters and their interests be impacted by the disruptions to business-as-usual? The pot starts to bubble, as, if anything, Sapkowski seems to have a clear vision where the series, or more precisely the characters, are going.

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