After the relatively sedate Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt kicks the events of the Witcher Saga up a notch! This second book in the core saga is once again translated by David French, who also translated Sword of Destiny, and who I don’t normally rate as highly as the other translator Danusia Stok. However, with this novel French has done a really good job, as not only does he bring across a lot of the humour, but this time there is also a lot more epic and dramatic action; although the odd translation error does still creep in here and there unfortunately. Much of the characters from the previous novels return, and with all the setup near the end of Blood of Elves a lot of the groundwork had already been done for a novel full of plot twists and turns and much backstabbing.
The opening chapter is fantastic, as it follows a messenger from place to place, quickly picking up the locations and current actions of the main cast. This opening also does a good job of reminding the reader that there is an ever-present threat of war, as the uneasy truce between Nilfgaard and the Northern Kingdoms edges nearer to breaking point. Also, the sombre ending to the first chapter reintroduces the Scoia’tael elven commandos who are raiding the countryside and putting another spanner in the works. I really enjoyed the way that Time of Contempt opens and thought it was a great first chapter; I was back up to speed and ready for the cataclysmic events that followed.
The middle section of the novel is excellent and packed with action as there is betrayal, coups, and out-and-out fighting involving all the major characters, yes even Dandelion!! There is also a lot more information about the sorcerers and their hierarchy, about magic and how it works, and about Tor Lara (the ‘Tower of Gulls’), which is the setting for the most action-packed sequences. The only downside of all this is that Geralt seems a bit marginalised in this novel, and the days of fighting monsters for money, of *actually being a Witcher*, are vanishing fast. Still, the events that happen here are so massive in terms of their impact on the story that it takes a whole post-chapter of Dandelion’s (explaining what has transpired to Geralt) in order to take in the full magnitude of it all.
Similar to the previous novel, Time of Contempt has an odd choice of final chapter(s) as the rest of the main cast is completely dropped in order to exclusively focus on Ciri, especially Chapter six which is just her surviving out in the wilderness with no other human characters at all. I really enjoyed the change of pace here, and it was good to just spend some time concentrating on Ciri and seeing her basically go through her own version of a “trial of the grasses” but without mutational drugs. The very final chapter acts as setup for the next novel and introduces some great new characters, the Rats, who I’m very excited about reading more of in the next instalment. I’m now moving on to Baptism of Fire, which is the last book with a published English translation – if I want to continue past there then I’ll be moving on to fan translations loaded onto a kindle.