Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Lady of the Lake

I took my sweet time reading The Lady of the Lake (Pani Jeziora / Järven neito). Knowing it was the final book and there would be no continuation, I did not want to end it too quickly. The book also turned out to be pretty good, probably the best one in the five volume saga. Even with the odd tone the Finnish translation by Tapani Kärkkäinen adds to the Witcher novels (the English one is not coming out until March), I quite enjoyed this one.

Like the previous novel in the series, Lady of the Lake tells much of the story in flashbacks. This time it is two historians who want to learn the real passing of events around Ciri. They attempt to accomplish this by one of them dreaming about it. A fairly silly way to study history, one could say.

The historians form a framework around the beginning of the book, giving it a slow and steady start that picks up speed as the story progresses and they are visited less and less. Their involvement comes to a conclusion before halfway point when Ciri -- jumping between place and time -- stops by their tower to ask for directions.

Conclusion is a big theme in the novel in general. The book continues on a good while after the main events have been resolved to make sure every side plot and character gets a proper ending. Some are told far beyond the point of time the novel ends at. It is almost as if Sapkowski was laying the groundwork for the game series. Obviously that is not the case but I certainly started to appreciate even more how faithful the games are to their source material.

Especially The Witcher 2's political schemes and characters' motives became so much clearer to me than they were the last time played it after having read the saga only up to Baptism of Fire. The game series might be using artistic license somewhat in regards to its beginning, though. The final book's bit of a bittersweet ending does not maybe quite allow Geralt's and Yennefer's story to continue like that. But just maybe -- it is not too far out there.

I think that despite the general darker atmosphere the novels often have, Lady of the Lake has a lot of your classic, good-guys-win fantasy story in it. The evil guys get what they deserve (although I do not quite understand why Ciri had to voluntarily get caught for that to happen). I do not mind the feel-good bits, though. It was so nice to have Geralt for once outplay the conspiring Lodge of Sorceresses, for instance.

There was a small revelation of the Emperor of Nilfgaard, Emhyr var Emreis, having appeared earlier in the saga (or the short stories?) as someone else. I felt like it was supposed to have a bigger impact but since it had been already so long since I read whatever book that was in, my reaction was merely: "Who?".

Surprising was also how much of the novel consists of describing the key engagement and turning point between Nilfgaard and the Northern Kingdoms, the Battle of Brenna. The sole reason why Nilfgaard lost seemed to have been one scout not daring/feeling like checking behind one hill for enemy forces. No matter how great a tactician Menno Coehoorn was, he simply could not win the battle because he did not have all the information available. It was a pretty interesting read.

Now that the I have finished the saga, I look forward to playing the culmination of the franchise, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game of the year edition is currently at 40% off but I would like to wait for just a bit better deal. That is how patient I am.

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