The Time of Contempt: The Witcher, Book 2 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
To protect his ward Ciri, Geralt of Rivia sends her to train with the sorceress Yennefer. But all is not well within the Wizard's Guild in the second novel of the Witcher, Andrzej Sapkowski's groundbreaking epic fantasy series that inspired the hit Netflix show and the blockbuster video games.
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.
- The Last Wish
- Sword of Destiny
- Blood of Elves
- The Time of Contempt
- Baptism of Fire
- The Tower of Swallows
- Lady of the Lake
- Season of Storms
- The Tower of Fools
- Warriors of God
Translated from original Polish by David French.
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 55 minutes|
|Author||Andrzej Sapkowski, David French|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 07, 2015|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #891 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#105 in Epic Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#201 in Epic Fantasy (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2021
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It is deeply ****** up.
To be fair to Andrjez Sapkowski, it's supposed to be deeply ******* up. However, the age of the character as well as the bond which had been established between the reader and them is one that makes it doubly horrifying. Readers will probably be able to figure out which character suffers such if they continue on with this review so consider yourself warned.
Except for the last thirty pages or so, The Time of Contempt is perhaps the best in the Witcher novels. It is a book which provides an immense amount of world-building to the Witcher universe. We get a multidimensional look at the Second Nilfgaard War's beginnings, progress, and horrors. We also get an expansive look at mage society in the North before the actions of Vilgefortz and Francesca Findabair destroy it. There are some great moments with Ciri, Yennefer, and Geralt as a family plus some great comedy.
Also some truly terrible bits.
A major theme is the terrible things people do in wartime as well as the moral compromises they make, which erode everything which is good about them. When Nilfgaard invades, the majority of nations lose their resolve to resist and fall over one another betraying their neighbors. Nilfgaard has re-envisioned itself as the "victim" of the First Nilfgaard War so they have begun engaging in large-scale atrocities to avenge themselves. A Sorceress betrays the Scoia'tael to be slaughtered by the North because it's the only way to guarantee her a crown and a homeland despite the fact it comes from a human monarch (which they were supposedly trying to resist).
Geralt, Yennefer, Dandelion, and Ciri are the only ones to remain true to themselves.
Well, no, Archmage Tissaia also remains true to herself.
It just destroys everything good in her world because of it.
The depiction of mage society in the Witcherverse is an intriguing one, for as long as it lasts. Mages in the North live lives of incomparable luxury and decadence compared to most people due to their powers and neutrality. They live forever, look beautiful, indulge themselves in nonstop sex, and can have fresh crab teleported in from the sea.
They're also a major force in politics while never being threatened by it. However, the Nilfgaard War has split the mages in a way which is imperceptible. Some believe Nilfgaard's triumph is inevitable and others believe it should be resisted at all costs. The Old Guard of the Mages like Tissaia believe the idea is RIDICULOUS that mages would choose their homelands over their fellow sorcerers. After all, the North is full of evil tyrants and Nilfgaard is worse.
So, why would they?
Nationalism is a funny thing.
I enjoy the depiction of Vilgefortz as well. While I initially took him to be a rather one-dimensional Jaffar-esque Evil Sorcerer, his conversations with Geralt really fleshed him out as well as the moment when he finally cut-loose with his wuxia staff skills. Vilgefortz is a self-made mage in a society of people who live lives of total privilege and had to build himself up from nothing. When he sees Geralt, he sees a kindred spirit, and there's perhaps something else there if I don't miss my guess (and Geralt is oblivious to). Watching Vilgefortz cut loose as the equivalent of Darth Vader in a world of squishy wizards was also damned impressive, bad guy or not.
Ciri is a hard character to write about this time around since eighty-percent of the novel has her being one of the most adorable Young Adult characters in fiction. Watching her fight the "basilisk", her relationship with both her parents, her adventures with her unicorn, and other stuff lulls you into a false sense of security before going for the throat. It's an emotional gut punch, yes, but not one I really think which was necessary. I'm fine reading about trauma and torture but having it happen to a fifteen-year-old isn't high on my lists of enjoyment factors.
The geopolitics of the book are well-done and a highlight. Aside from Westeros, I can't think of any book series which has done as nearly a good a job establishing the various powers and how they interact in the setting. Despite their limited screen-time, I got a strong sense for Foltest and Henselt and other major powers in the Continent. The fact Sapkowski was able to do it in a single book instead of an entire series of novels is a testament to his writing capabilities.
Geralt and Yennefer are also people who deserve commenting on as they both have some delightful moments together. They are a fabulous couple, even if I prefer Triss in the games, and they're just entertaining to watch. I'm especially fond of their "date" where poor Geralt is forced to dress up for the Platonic ideal of the "rich person's party with no decent food and too much gossip." There are many couples deeply in love in fiction but very few who are entertaining to watch. Our heroes are always entertaining and you can tell both love Ciri more than anything else in their lives.
In conclusion, I should give this book a 10 out of 10 but I can't because of the ending leaving me feeling queasy about the whole process. Many believe an author making you feel is something that should be lauded but, bluntly, I don't think an author making you feel lousy is a good thing.
1 star = did not like
2 star = it was okay
3 star = liked it
4 star = really liked it
5 star = it was amazing
I don't have much to say about the story, aside from that I liked it. I always have a weird experience with this series, because I never seem to motivated to pick it up, but when I do I don't want to put it down. It definitely keeps me interested, even if I tune out a little from the overly political parts.
I dislike Yennifer, but she wasn't so bad in this one.
Considering this is #4 in the recommended reading order, I'm a little surprised it's only just now adding some footnotes. I'm sure the publication order was different, though, so going off of that it probably makes sense, and I suppose they're handy reminders if it's been a while.
Next time I read this, I'll have to keep a tally of how many times the book uses the word "contempt" because it seemed like a heck of a lot.
From a character perspective, "The Time of Contempt" focuses on Ciri and her changes, though Geralt and Yennefer are also presented with opportunities for growth and change. Sadly, Dandelion plays a small role in this entry. Perhaps he gets more 'page time' in the next book. Fingers crossed more of the troubadour in "Baptism of Fire." And now, some quotes.
"You're right: stories. But do you know when stories stop being stories? The moment someone begins to believe in them."
- - - - -
"Secondly, he didn't want to wipe away with words the taste of her delight, which was still on his lips."
- - - - -
'Don't mock me, Witcher. The matter is becoming serious. It's becoming ever less clear what this is all about, and when no one knows what something's about it's sure to be all about money.'
- - - - -
"The wording on the sign read: 'Codringher and Fenn, legal consultation and services'. But Geralt knew only too well that Codringher and Fenn's trade had little in common with the law, while the partners themselves had a host of reasons to avoid any kind of contact either with the law or its enforcers. He also seriously doubted if any of the clients who showed up in their chambers knew what the word 'consultation' meant."
- - - - -
'Geralt,' said Ciri, putting her eye once more to the hole in the wall, 'is standing with his head bowed. And Yennefer's yelling at him. She's screaming and waving her arms. Oh dear... What can it mean?'
'It's childishly simple.' Dandelion stared at the clouds scuddling across the sky. 'Now she's saying sorry to him.'
Top reviews from other countries
1 - The Last Wish
2 - Sword of Destiny
3 - Blood of Elves (The Witcher Book 1)
Onto the review! Time of Contempt carries on straight off the back of the first book with a large war potentially brewing between the Nilfgaardian Empire and several other kingdoms while at the same time the humans and elves are fighting amongst themselves over years of bitter race hatred. In the midst of these growing tensions the Witcher Geralt and the sorceress Yennifer do their best to protect Ciri, a young girl who is the focus of a prophecy who is being chased by factions of all sides who want to use her for their own gain.
Time of Contempt is a relatively slow burn reading wise, much like Blood of Elves it takes it's time building up the world and characters. As a fan who got into the books through the video games I enjoy that a lot as I am getting a bit more of an in-depth view into relationships between the characters and the ever shifting world. Geralt is a great character but I have found the focus on both Ciri and Yennifer far more interesting thus far. This is not to say there is not a lot of action as there certainly are moments with some pretty good build up especially towards the latter half of the book, though I can't say much without spoiling anything but there are some interesting scenarios that happen as the story builds.
The entire book is very well written, though it feels occasionally a little stilted probably due to the nature of the translation from Polish it works very well with the content I have found. It's pretty easy to read and clear with a mixture of emotional and funny moments spread throughout. It has the same issue as Blood of Elves though that while being a full novel still feels at times like several short stories with an ongoing story stapled together. Some of the breaks between chapters or story arcs aren't as smooth as i'd like and it finishes just kind of randomly but it's a small gripe to an otherwise enjoyable read, I recommend the series thus far. Looking forward to the next book Baptism of Fire
+ Interesting characters.
+ Great setting and scenarios.
+ Well written.
- Ends kind of out of nowhere, some story arc breaks jump around a lot.
The narrative commences at what seems like a time of contempt indeed. The Kings aren't conversing with the Mages as they have previously, the Nilfgaardian army is still planning for war, and the Scoia'tael (Squirrels) are attacking humans in forests and villages. Many parties are all still looking for the elusive Lion Cub, the child of Destiny, Cirilla.
After an interesting and quite tragic point of view chapter following a King's messenger called Aplegatt, where the worrying and uneasy times that the world is currently facing are expressed, we are introduced back to Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer. Geralt is doing typical Witcher work and trying to find out more about the mysterious magician Rience. We are unfamiliar with the mage's motives or who his employer may be but it's clearly known he wants Ciri. Yennefer and Ciri are travelling to Thanedd which is where a conclave of mages and enchantresses is set to take place shortly to discuss these times of contempt and how it affects the magic-wielders of the world. Whilst here, it transpires that Ciri may be left with the enchantresses to study at the female magic school of Aretuza.
This is a difficult book to review, not because it is bad but because the book seems to be split into two distinctive styles of telling the story. One of these two styles generally features fan favourites such as Dandelion (although not as much as I would have liked), Geralt, Ciri, Triss, and Yennefer and includes some of the finest and well-crafted scenes that have been created in the series to date. Two of my favourites include a spectacular dual with someone who I'm sure is going to become a huge character in the saga, and also reading into the intrigue, politics, backstabbing, and agendas at the mages 'meet-and-greet' buffet prior to the conclave. A war is brewing and through unfamiliar point of view characters or slightly boring chapters where a member of the ensemble talks to another we are relaid complex political happenings that are occurring in all states across this world. These often include many complex and unfamiliar names of people, places, alliances, etc... It was difficult to keep track of who was supporting who. It also wasn't really obvious that some of the point of views were from the Nilfgaardian perspective until I was halfway through that segment and had to reevaluate what I'd just read. These later sections take up about 25% of the book. Honestly, I just forced myself through them knowing that I wouldn't follow every exact detail but it wasn't enough to truly affect my enjoyment when the scenes with less info dumping were reintroduced a few pages later. There are also a lot of names of mages to remember when the magicians' meeting arrives about forty percent through the story.
Of the scenes that aren't information dumps, I'd estimated that seventy-five percent follows the Witcher and Ciri although not necessarily following the same storyline, and the rest tracks the action of Yennefer, Dandelion, and others. Geralt and Ciri are my favourite characters so this was fine for me. Please be warned, that as well as typical fantasy violence presented in line with what has been presented previously, there is a potential/ implied rape scene towards the end of Time of Contempt. Although it is not graphic it is not for everyone so I thought I'd make you aware. This happens around the ninety-five percent mark and if you don't want to read that, it doesn't actually take that much away from the story to pass it by.
Ciri is still having her visions and nightmares, we meet the Wild Hunt for the first time, Geralt slays a few monsters, Yennefer is still beautiful, charming, powerful and manipulative, Dandelion is still a world-renowned poet. We are also introduced to some very interesting new characters including Vilgefortz and Nilfgaard's ruler. This book feels more like a progression than a full story in its self. Unlike some fantasy, I've found that these books don't really have gut-wrenchingly tragic or 'oh-my-god-I-did-not-see-that-twist-coming' endings. I believe that these should be read as one huge novel that same way that Stephen King thought of his The Dark Tower books. That being said, the ending does set up things nicely for Baptism of Fire and it looks like it might introduce a new dynamic for one of the main players.
So far this isn't my favourite fantasy series of all time yet, something does seem to click with me. I love the characters and the tales are utterly addictive. Every single one of the four entries I have read so far has only taken me two days apiece to complete. My original aim was to read this series before the Netflix show is released next year and I don't think I'll be the only person who has these thoughts. If you weren't sure whether to dive into the Witcher's world then I would personally recommend that you take the leap.
Finished reading Book 1 in the series last week. Just finished this one, book 2. Just started the next, book 3 ........ so that probably tells you I think they're worth reading!
You really need to read these books in sequence. They very much read as a single story that has been deliberately cut into 350(ish) page length 'book sized chunks'. If you read book 2 before book 1 you will probably be very confused.
As I noted in my review of book 1, its quite slow reading. Its a story of several individuals moving against a backdrop of several large nations at war and the bulk of the books are 'textbook' exposition, by characters, of the story world's races, conflicts, politics, events. There are 'action sequences' but they are only a small part of the book so don'r expect this to be a 'Conan the Barbarian' style hack'n'slash adventure - its focus is far more 'Game Of Thrones' style national politics - however much the main character says he tries to avoid being involved in politics.
Politicking focus or not, you will have to suspend your disbelief at the almost omniscient knowledge of some of the main characters - they combine magic, politics, research, spies, contacts and 'Sherlock Holmes' style logic to 'know things' that you wonder how they could possibly know
This all provides interesting backstory to the Witcher games - so its broadly what I was looking for - but, as noted, be prepared for long sections about whats happened, happening and planned in the wider world's backdrop.
The book is translated from its original Polish, which may be why it feels a bit stilted. Translation of novels is notoriously difficult I am told, so no surprises or complaints, but know what to expect. There also seems to be some obvious formatting errors where the story moves from one character to another (in a totally different time/geography) with just the change of a paragraph. No chapter change, no white space - or any other grammatical or formatting clue- which can be very confusing if you're a fast reader. This sort of thing may be common in eBook conversions, I don't know as I've only just started reading them in place of paper (because ebooks are easy to read at night without turning on the room lights!).
Finally, the this book again ends quite abruptly. Its not 'the end of the story', of course, which continues in book 3 of the series.
So, overall, very worthwhile as Witcher videogame backstory - or, more generally, as a story of characters moving against a large warring multinational fantasy world backdrop.
As for this book in the series.... the battles are raging in all parts of the land. The protagonists are together but then pulled apart again in awful circumstances and now I just dont know who to trust or believe. On to the next one it is to find out!!!