The Time of Contempt: This story is getting darker

The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski epic fantasy audiobook reviewsThe Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski

The fourth installment in Andrzej Sapkowski’s popular WITCHER series is The Time of Contempt (1995 in Polish, 2013 in English) which begins immediately after the ending of the previous novel, Blood of Elves. (You must read the previous stories before beginning this book and you do not need to be a fan of the Witcher video games.)

War is imminent as the elves of Nilfgaard, an ancient kingdom that was displaced centuries ago by the humans who now control the northern land, begin to plan their revenge. The kings of the northern kingdoms no longer trust the sorcerers and sorceresses they used to employ and haven broken off relationships with them. Even the sorcerers themselves are (rightly) starting to mistrust each other as everyone worries about plots, coups, and betrayals.

Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher, would normally stay out of the intrigue, but he feels compelled to protect Ciri, a teenage girl with a special lineage who has become a pawn in the political game. Someone is stalking her and Geralt doesn’t know who it is or what they want with Ciri. The sorceress Yennefer, Geralt’s on-again-off-again lover, plans to hide Ciri by enrolling her in a magical school for girls, but Ciri is only pretending to comply and is looking for a chance to escape so she can find Geralt.

As tensions rise and battles begin to break out across the land, Ciri continues to have frightening visions as her magical powers increase. She explores her own needs and desires, and she is faced with tragedies and temptations that are too heavy for a girl her age to handle. They will surely shape her developing personality and character.

Meanwhile Geralt, who always insists that he is neutral in his interactions with humans, is feeling pressured to choose sides and is discovering that dealing with humans is a lot harder than fighting the monsters he usually encounters in his job as a travelling witcher. By the end of The Time of Contempt, everything has fallen apart for our heroes.

The Time of Contempt is a dark story. The writing (and its translation from Polish) continues to be excellent and tinged with an appealing sardonic tone. There are a few scenes that are quite funny, but generally the story has gotten to a place that’s much heavier than what we witnessed in the first two WITCHER story collections, or at least it feels that way because by this point we really care what happens to Ciri and Geralt and we sense that even darker days are ahead. By the end of this book, there will be few readers who won’t want to immediately pick up the story in the next novel, Baptism of Fire. Indeed, I’m already halfway through it.

I’m still listening to the audio versions of the WITCHER books. The Time of Contempt is 12 hours long and Peter Kenny’s narration is top-notch in every respect. I wouldn’t think of reading this series any other way.

Published in 1995 in Polish, 2013 in English. The New York Times bestselling series that inspired the international hit video game: The Witcher. Geralt is a witcher: guardian of the innocent; protector of those in need; a defender, in dark times, against some of the most frightening creatures of myth and legend. His task, now, is to protect Ciri. A child of prophecy, she will have the power to change the world for good or for ill — but only if she lives to use it. A coup threatens the Wizard’s Guild. War breaks out across the lands. A serious injury leaves Geralt fighting for his life… … and Ciri, in whose hands the world’s fate rests, has vanished… The Witcher returns in this sequel to Blood of Elves.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. These sound good!

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