An extraordinary tale which highlights Sapkowski's masterful character creation and often astonishingly exciting set pieces.
I received a review copy of The Tower of the Swallow in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Andrzej Sapkowski and Gollancz. Minor spoilers may follow for this book and the previous entries in the saga.
The narrative begins with a hermit called Vysogota finding what he believes is an injured boy in a forest. It transpires that this young gentleman is actually the girl, Ciri and she is very close to death. The hermit takes her to his shack which is untraceable unless you know it's there and prays that he can aid her recovery. He was formally a scholar and a medical practitioner which is fortunate.
"He involuntarily drew back and hissed at the sight of the ghastly mask of dirt and congealed blood where they boy's face should have been."
After days of assistance, constantly watching and caring, Ciri slowly recovers. She wishes to leave straight away, to escape, as it transpires that a bounty hunter called Bonhart is tracking her. The former scholar guarantees that there is no possibility that they can be found and to heal first before venturing out. The duo get to know each other and exchange stories. Firstly, the Hermit explains who he is and why he lives in such isolation. Following that, Ciri - The Child of Destiny - explains what has happened to her since the ending of Baptism of Fire and this is where the story really starts. This is the main storyline for forty percent of the novel but is not all included at the beginning and after certain segments, they will conclude the story and reflect, and do chores.
"Had someone crept up after nightfall to the cottage with the sunken, moss-grown thatched roof, had they peered inside, in the dimly lit interior they would have seen a grey-bearded old man listening to a tale told by an ashen-haired girl sitting on a log by the fireplace."
Another frequent storyline that is presented is regarding Geralt and his band of companions including a vampire, an archer, a poet, and a traitor swordsman as they aim to trace the druids who may know about Ciri's true whereabouts. These sections were brilliant. It's not just these two train of events that we follow, however. There is a large amount of point of view perspectives and occasionally after getting my teeth firmly set into a stunning set-piece or chuckling at some rollickingly good banter, Sapkowski would then throw us somewhere else in this extravagantly large and detailed world to follow individuals who I wasn't at all familiar with. Initially, it was a buzzkill - but in these segments, after two-pages of missing Geralt or Ciri, it actually seemed to make sense why this was presented in this manner, and I can conclude when the finale approaches - you will be, or at least I was, very impressed with the overall structure. Although certain times the choice of the next point of view chapter did seem sporadic and slightly random.
I've mentioned previously that in this series I find the characters to be exquisite. Much has happened to the main two characters - Geralt and Ciri. They have developed spectacularly across these six novels and in a way have almost swapped places. I won't explain that statement as might approach spoiler territory but see if you agree after you've finished this narrative. Also, if you are thinking of approaching this series just because you enjoyed the Witcher games, since The Sword of Destiny, it is very rare that Geralt has actually just gone solo monster-hunting. If anything, as the saga progresses it's almost presenting the real monsters as being the politics, corruption, warring nations and all people involved. Geralt, who never ever questioned good or evil as long as he was paid for what he was doing is brooding a lot but also changing his outlook on the world. His number one objective is to find Ciri and will do all in his power to succeed.
One of my qualms about previous entries was about needless information dumping sections about political happenings one hundred years ago or who married someone else previously and what effect it had on characters I don't know. They distracted from the main story and thus far haven't heightened my enjoyment at all. There is only one such section here and although I did want to skip past it, it was an okay read but still seemed a bit like a dull interlude.
All in all, this was an extraordinary tale which highlights Sapkowski's masterful character creation - many of who will stay in my mind long after I complete this saga - and often astonishingly exciting set pieces. Especially the scene including ice-skates! The storytelling is also top-notch barring the occasional hiccup I've mentioned in my reviews thus far. Only one book remains for me now - excluding Season of Storms which is set prior to the main set of novels - and I'm intrigued to see how this can all be wrapped up in just one book. It seems like a phenomenal ask but I'm going to jump in straight away and see if Sapkowski can fulfill the promise he has flaunted thus far of being able to make this one of the best fantasy sagas of all time. Conclusions are very important to me so I'll let you know if I believe he succeeds in my next review.
Review by James Tivendale
8.8/10 from 1 reviews
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