When I started reading the Witcher short stories and novels a couple weeks ago I was mad at myself for not allowing enough time to burn through them all before the Netflix show premiered. Now that day has come, and it turns out that not only will The Time of Contempt be the last Witcher book I read before I start watching the show, it will be the last Witcher book I read period.
If you read my reviews for the short story collections (The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny) and the first novel of the series (Blood of Elves) then you already know what I’m going to say here because I continue to have all of the same gripes, starting with the main man himself, Geralt. Or the person I expected to be the main man, I should say. Unfortunately the protagonist and main playable character of the video games continues to feel like a far less integral part of these stories, and a far less interesting character because of it. Yet he’s still someone that everyone desires, for… reasons? Seriously, I don’t think there is one female character in these stories who hasn’t either slept with him, or isn’t trying to. I keep trying to convince myself that the women of this world aren’t poorly written, but I think I was being generous to the author by convincing myself that power equals complexity, when in reality all of these women are simply the same character. They’re all abrasive, catty and sex crazed, and honestly largely kept around because there would be no boobs to ogle without them. The male characters are equally one dimensional (though I will say I do find Dandelion to be far more enjoyable than the rest), but at least they aren’t objectified as the females are.
The story itself continues to inch along as the war against Nilfgaard stays at the forefront, with nary a beast for the Witcher to cut down. Gone are the underlying messages of alienation and discrimination that gave this world depth by sympathizing with the creatures and individuals who were victims to a society that refused to understand them, and though the Scoia’tael are out there fighting for their lands, we’re stuck reading about the politics of it all instead of experiencing the struggle in a more interesting and humanizing way.
With all that in mind, I was willing to keep reading this series because of the context to the games it provides, had it not been for the final nail in the coffin that happens right before the book ends. For those wary of minor spoilers, I’ll just say something happens that is very typical to this world, unfortunately; and though I hate the event itself, I probably would’ve moved on to book 3 in spite of it had it not been for the way Andrzej Sapkowski chose to write it. (Minor spoilers for the rest of the paragraph, which I am choosing to include because those with certain trigger warnings will probably want to know about it ahead of time). To put it simply, Sapkowski implies that Ciri enjoyed getting raped with the words: “she felt herself slipping from their grip and sinking downwards, downwards, deep, deeper and deeper, into a warm and wet well of resignation and helpless submissiveness. A disgusting and humiliatingly pleasant submissiveness.” Even if Sapkowski is trying to imply that it isn’t the assault itself that is pleasant, but that closing off and no longer struggling to fight back is somehow a release, he can still go ahead and F right off with this and his continued need to sexualize this young girl.
Honestly I have no idea how these novels continue to have such high ratings on Goodreads (Blood of Elves currently sits at a 4.17 out of 5 stars, and The Time of Contempt averages 4.27 out of 5 stars), and with that end to The Time of Contempt, I’m done trying to convince myself that I enjoy these books more than I do. As much as I’d love the additional context and backstory for when I start my run through of the games, it’s just not worth it.