Time of contempt (Andrzej Sapkowski, 1995)

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Time of contempt, by Andrzej Sapkowski (1995, original title:Czas pogardy, Spanish version by José María Faraldo).

Score: Entertaining though sometimes awkward.

Time of Contempt takes off where Blood of Elves left: Yennefer is planning to enroll Ciri in a school of sorceresses to sharpen her potential and also to hide her from the secular powers that want to use her. Meanwhile, Geralt is following the tracks of Rience.

The pacing is much better than the previous novel and the world and character developments go in the right direction. But I can’t help but think that, despite Sapkowski’s opinion on the matter, The Witcher III is much better written than any of his books that I’ve read so far, with the sole exception of The last wish. The narrative is much more alive when the characters are put under stress and now that the war against Nilfgaard is taking shape the characters are more rounded up and mature, and exposed to more interesting situations. I rather enjoyed the last three chapters, and the fifth one had a very interesting structure. Sapkowski plays his cards well and sows some very interesting cliffhangers.

But the chapters with the sorcerers were quite silly, really. Sapkowski’s portrayal of the wise, powerful and sophisticated looks like a juvenile caricature born of estrangement and inability to grok the kind of world he is trying to describe. Sapkowski’s sorcerers are supposed to be an elite of rich, powerful, knowledgeable and multi-centenarian people… who are ridiculously shallow, vain, envious and childish. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that a bunch of people who have been alive for centuries, have read books by the wheelbarrowful and know arcane secrets that allow them to bend space and time at their will can behave like a bunch of obnoxious brats. Besides, how can you get upset about someone wearing the exact same earrings as you in a world where the mass production of garments is not a thing?

The language has stayed quite stable from The sword of destiny onwards, but the genius from The last wish is gone. I don’t know if the problem is with the original or the translation because I can’t read Polish, but I compared my version with the English version and it looks like Faraldo had a very funny slip (”The velvet from Lydia van Bredevoort’s dress whispered velvetily”, no shit, it’s velvet! How do you want it to whisper instead?). The English version I checked doesn’t adapt accents and registers, and that’s a shame. But at the same time I wonder if what I read was a fabrication or actually more faithful to the original than the English version. I’ll never be sure unless I learn Polish…

All in all, it’s a nice book for commute and lunch break reading, but not as rich and insightful as the videogames, at least the last one.

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