The Lady of the Lake
After walking through the portal in the Tower of Swallows while narrowly escaping death, Ciri finds herself in a completely different world... an Elven world. She is trapped with no way out. Time does not seem to exist and there are no obvious borders or portals to cross back into her home world.
But this is Ciri, the child of prophecy, and she will not be defeated. She knows she must escape to finally rejoin the Witcher and his companions - and also to try to conquer her worst nightmare. Leo Bonhart, the man who chased, wounded and tortured Ciri, is still on her trail. And the world is still at war.
The following is the seventh 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.
We have finally arrived at the last tome of the mainline Witcher series—and just in time for the Netflix show! And even though The Lady of the Lake is the series’ conclusion, there is much it must accomplish—too much. Imminently, Yennefer remains in Vilgefortz’s prison, Ciri is stranded in dimensions unknown, and Geralt, bereft of leads concerning the whereabouts of his daughter, winters in Toussant with his company. With a war going on to boot, it is no wonder that The Lady of the Lake clocks in at a voluminous 531 pages. Thankfully, this text uses its word count more judiciously than The Tower of Swallows.
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 Lady of the Lake. 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 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, for posterity:
- Because this is the series finale, expect violent imagery, for there are deaths aplenty.
- There are two sex scenes, humorously depicted.
- An attempted rape might be triggering to IRL survivors.
- Racism as allegory resurfaces from earlier texts through a pogrom, resulting in the deaths of 184 humans and non-humans in Rivia (leading up to Merigold’s Hailstorm).
A fundamental problem with The Lady of the Lake is that if the novel were separated by five acts, the first and third are tedious, which feels like an effect lingering from The Tower of Swallows. I wonder if Sapkowski’s editors advised him to divide his finale between two books. As the final novel in the Witcher saga, it features a riveting climax and a lugubrious conclusion, but Sapkowski takes his sweet time getting there.
Sapkowski doubles-down with the frame story structure that he fondly favors. The Lady of the Lake begins with Sir Galahad of King Arthur’s court disrupting Ciri’s moment of tranquility as she bathes in a lake. Mistaking her for a nymph, the knight coyly propositions her. She declines, recounting how she arrived in this strange land to dispel suspicions that she is magical. Her efforts are unconvincing, of course.
The book shifts to Nimue, a sorceress in the future who recruits the talents of oneiromancer Condwiramurs Tilly to piece together the adventures of not only the Lion Cub of Cintra, but also and especially, the love story between Geralt of Rivia and Yennefer of Vengerberg. Lastly, there is the matter of resolving the Second Nilfgaardian War. Sapkowski finishes what he started with reviving Jarre (but strangely, not Iola) in The Tower of Swallows and his adventures with the Poor F***ing Infantry division. The three points of view that Sapkowski deploys can be confusing to the point of being irksome. Notwithstanding, if readers are anything like me, they will just want to know what happens to the main characters; who has time for new ones?
Fans of the Witcher 3 will have recognized Avallac’h’s name even in The Tower of Swallows. But even among them, few may remember Auberon, though Eredin’s name should lift some eyebrows. The Aen Elle elves, the Lodge of Sorceresses, and Vilgefortz all want Ciri for their own selfish purposes. In this novel, she finally activates her some agency of her own, embracing rather than hiding from her destiny. Elsewhere, Geralt stumbles upon a lead on Yennefer’s and Vilgefortz’s whereabouts, spurning him into action.
The finer details of this novel are too sensitive to discuss. Anyone bold enough to try and read this novel out of order will not only be completely lost, but will spoil the payoff contained within. Of course, those who actually read the preceding novels will want to experience The Lady and the Lake, digressions included. I would even go as far to say that Sapkowski’s literature ends on such a satisfying note, that stopping there is reasonable.
Without question, I highly recommend the video games too. After all, they are why I started reading the books in the first place.
+ Merigold's Hailstorm
+ Appropriate conclusion
+ Geralt is witchering again
- Digressions such as Jarre
- Interdimensional travel is wonky