This series has become an addiction. I simply can't STOP listening. There were "things" I needed to do today but I didn't care. I was too engrossed in the story. Stopping wasn't an option. I started this book sad and aching for Geralt and though he didn't achieve what he wanted at the beginning, the book ended with Geralt of Rivia hiding a smile.
The last we heard of our three main characters Geralt was mortally injured (and being transferred to Brokilon Forest by Triss Merigold), Yennefer fighting to allows Ciri to escape (then disappearing into thin air) and Ciri running into Tor Lara, also known as The Tower of the Gull, right into an unsafe and very old portal.
At Brokilon Forest Geralt is being treated by the dryads and receiving news about the world through Milva / Maria Barring. At first she is reluctant to help but with a bit of pressing from the dryads she agrees. It doesn't take her long to realize he isn't what and who she thought AT ALL. While she was helping the Scoia'tael she decided to follow him and Dandelion and offer to join them on their long journey to find Ciri.
On the road they find two VERY unexpected allies - the mysterious Regis and someone Geralt honestly believed he should have killed at least twice already.. There are more people to get to know (help and be helped) on the road and as usual they are very colorful and interesting. While I couldn't wait for Geralt to speed up his moves and find Ciri, he couldn't, not with the burning and scorched earth around them with armed forces slowing their every move.
I liked the company they settled with at the end. The 5 of them were good together. Even if unexpected from all sides. Geralt's connection with Milva was truly touching. When she finally explains to him why she went after him my heart bled for the both of them. I think it was written / told beautifully in the most honest and heartfelt way. Geralt said little but his gestures and the very few words he did chose to say couldn't be more on point, more precious. Everyone needs a Geralt in their lives.
His truce with the two other male characters who accompanied him was also interesting and showed there is no real black and white for him even when he wants to color a person in a certain way, in the end, he is able to see that person in a three dimensional way an accept them as they are. That's part of his "Neutrality" even if he has learnt the hard way it doesn't work as he would have wished it.
I'm not sure what I thought about Ciri's whereabouts. It started in the middle of no-where - where she was ejected from the warped portal - following a difficult road of growing up and learning to survive with the skill she has learned in her time with Geralt and Yennefer. She had to sacrifice quite a lot. She isn't Geralt's little girl anymore and I think he realizes that and maybe even mourn his and her lost while looking for her.
While Emhyr var Emreis introduces to his court the "Princess Cirilla" who "voluntarily" came to seek his shelter, he knows too well she isn't the REAL Ciri. Most people don't which spreads it's own chaos around the continent. Geralt doesn't exactly know WHERE Ciri is yet through their shared link he learns enough and he isn't "thrilled" to put it mildly. Yet she did find her place with 'The Rats', calling herself 'Falka', unleashing a cruel side she didn't even realize she possesses.
And where is our beautiful enchantress? Yennefer has simply disappeared. Many speculated her reasons (putting her on Vilgefortz side) but there is one sorceress who knows exactly where she is and how to reach her and when she does, well, Yennefer shows her the thanks in her own way..
On the matter of sorcerers. After what happened at Aretuza a new conclave is being built. One made by women / sorceresses who wish to put magic in it's right place. These women might have a common goal but they are still not exactly friends and some even be called enemies. Trust is very fragile. It was a very interesting if a bit complicated matter seeing how they perceive their new role and what they have in mind. There were also a few enlightening (even if disturbing) revelations concerning the "old way" and how things were done throughout the years as well as a VERY disgusting revelation about Vilgefortz with a hint on what he has been doing.
While the book DOES finish with Geralt smiling, it won't last as he is still separated from his two loved ones - Ciri and Yennefer - and with the war still raging all around and with Emhyr having the (much) upper hand there is much to do, a lot of grounds to cover and less and less time to lose.
Can't wait to start listening to the next one! (I'll be waiting for tomorrow or I won't sleep tonight..).
9-10 February 2022