Season of Storms
Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, one of the few capable of hunting the monsters that prey on humanity. A mutant who is tasked with killing unnatural beings. He uses magical signs, potions, and the pride of every Witcher - two swords, steel and silver.
But a contract has gone wrong, and Geralt finds himself without his signature weapons. Now he needs them back, because sorcerers are scheming, and across the world clouds are gathering.
The season of storms is coming...
2013 Polish; 2018 English
The following is the eighth in a series of eight reviews of the Witcher books. Because this review assumes reader familiarity with previous entries, there may be spoilers for the preceding texts.
Just when everyone thought that Andrzej Sapkowski was done writing Witcher books, out of nowhere in 2017, publishers Orbit and Gollancz announced that they would be publishing the US and UK versions, respectively, of the next entry in the Witcher saga, Season of Storms. Considering the fact that the video game series follows the conclusion of Sapkowski’s previously-final novel, The Lady of the Lake, and with the video games themselves coming to an end with 2017’s Blood and Wine, from where doth this man summon the inspiration for another book? Well in actuality, Sapkowski published the Polish edition in 2013—still fourteen years after The Lady of the Lakei (in the author’s native tongue).
I suspect that hubris motivated Sapkowski to write Season of Storms a decade into the 20th century. Witcher fans may remember the infamous story of Sapkowski selling the rights of Wiedźmin (derived from Polish “wiedźma” or “witch”) to CD Projekt Red for less than $12, 000 USD. The game developer was able to acquire rights to the fantasy franchise for such a paltry sum of cash because its owner maintained at the time a negative perspective on video games. Only after the successes of The Witcher (2007) and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (2011) did Sapkowski begin to change his tune. Perhaps then, by penning a new book, he wanted to remind the world who the Witcher franchise’s real father is—not CD Projekt Red.
Readers sensitive to mature content should approach the literary Witcher series with caution equitable to the video games. This is literature for adults. As each book in the series is over 400 pages, an exhaustive content guide detailing what Christians might find offensive would be a novel itself. In this space, I will adhere to The Tower of Swallows. To supplement potential gaps, I recommend reading the content guides of our reviews of The Last Wish, The Sword of Destiny, Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of Swallows, The Lady of the Lake, The Witcher, The Witcher 2, and The Witcher 3 for additional insight concerning the mature nature of this franchise.
I do not believe that there is anything I could indicate here that would be different from what one should come to expect from a Sapkowski novel. At any rate, one controversial subject unique to Season of Storms is an ad hoc debate concerning abortion. The reasons for guarding life are largely for the purpose of maintaining patriarchy and “keeping women in their place”; the sorceress responsible for the outrage finds her practice highly profitable, though she is of the opinion of “women’s right to choose.” Reminder to readers: sorceresses are (almost always) sterile.
“It has reached our ears,” he puffed angrily, “that the Honourable Madam Neyd makes magical concoctions available to womenfolk who don’t want children. And helps those who are already pregnant to abort the foetus. We, here in Kerack, consider such a practice immoral” (11).
Though magic has always existed in the Witcher saga, understood as the Power, this novel introduces Goetia, or demon-summoning. A major plot point in Season of Storms concerns suppressing one bold enough to violate the laws of magic forbidding this kind of conjuration as it has resulted in the slaughter of entire villages. However, things are not as they appear….
The violence and profanity here are consistent with prior books and video games, but sex scenes featuring a certain sorceress are the most extensive of all the texts.
Additionally, a man sexually assaults a young girl; as a result, an entire gang of men pay for this crime with their lives. In terms of other sexual deviances, it is possible that an elder man had groomed a younger man for the purpose of the former’s pleasure.
Those who have read my Sword of Destiny review will recall the timeline that I published for all of Sapkowski’s short stories, including Season of Storms. This novel falls between “The Last Wish” and “A Matter of Price.” Despite Geralt and Yennefer’s passionate tryst, the former abandons his lover and resumes his journey on The Path, which takes him to the minor kingdom of Kerack. Season of Storms opens with Geralt tracking a rare monster that can camouflage itself in the woods. Shadowing a lone family traveling through the woods as bait, he slays the beast, though perhaps not quickly enough. Regardless, Geralt brings his trophy along to collect his reward; as a man of honor, he refuses the exceedingly generous offer from the nearby ward.
The tallest guard, clearly the commandant, pushed her bowl away and stood up. Geralt, who always maintained there was no such thing as an ugly woman, suddenly felt compelled to revise his opinion (21-22).
Checking in his swords with the crude local guardswomen, Geralt goes into town, seeking company with his good pal Dandelion. After a display of astonishing skill, thrashing some armed ne’er-do-wells with nothing more than a broom handle, city guards arrest not the perpetrators, but the defender, Geralt! Thrown in jail for days, a certain benefactor he pays fines for the fabricated charges, though they do not make it difficult for him to find her. Promising riches beyond his imagination, Lytta Neyd, fondly known as Coral, sends Geralt on a mission to hunt demons while unfortunately unarmed as his trademark swords have been stolen!
“Not exactly. Warewolfes, werebats, wererats, and similar creatres are therianthropes, humans able to shapeshift . The aguara is an antherion. An animal—or rather a creature—able to assume the form of a human” (252).
Though Season of Storms is a singular novel, Sapkowski writes it as though it were a collection of short stories like those it chronologically falls between. Its functionality is as an “expansion” to the Witcher saga, rather than an essential entry, mitigates its potency. Though Sapkowski tries to tie the stories together by beginning and ending with a monster hunt and prolonging the resolution of the sword heist, I believe that the novel would have been better-served as individualized stories rather than an awkward assemblage of serial misadventures.
“For it was Cosimo Malaspina, and after him his student Alzur, yes, Alzur, who created the witchers. They invented the mutation owning to which men like you were bred” (148).
For example, Geralt’s interactions with Coral establishes the path to the novel’s ersatz villain, but he first follows a lead on his witcher swords ending with a confrontation with a unique monster that narrowly relates to anything whatsoever. After aimless wandering and a serendipitous encounter and defeat, Geralt tries to follow another lead that ends in folly. Only after introducing a deus ex machina character and then explaining how Geralt knows them afterwards does the novel present a resolution to the main conflict that must have a resolution for the sake of human decency. A perfunctory scene at Kerack court gives Geralt reason to never return for the remainder of the saga.
Of course, those who are reading Season of Storms will already come prepared for its chronological and modular inconsistencies, having prior devoured eight Sapkowski books, one encyclopedia, three video games plus two expansions, and perhaps even some Witcher comics. Simply put, this novel is “more Witcher” for those who feel that they have not had enough, though at no point does it discard the feeling of capitalizing on the game’s success, or a contractual obligation to write (someone get George R. R. Martin on that plan!). Therefore, I would recommend Season of Storms particularly to those like me who inhale all things Witcher. Others are not missing much.
+ Return of Witcher elixirs
+ Geralt really knows how to fight!
+ Dandelion's development as more than a burden
+ Origins of several original magical phenomena, such as anti-aging and the witchers
- Cora is NOT Yennefer
- [spoiler redacted] is NOT Vilgefortz
- Addarion Bach is NOT Yarpen Zigrin or Zoltan Chivay