The fourth full-length novel in Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher series, The Tower of the Swallow was a dark and gripping read, revolving almost entirely around Ciri and the events that took place on her journey to Tor Zireael (The Tower of the Swallow.) Much of the story seems to be told second-hand, through accounts of people who were there to witness events as they unfolded. This method of storytelling isn’t a favorite of mine, but for the most part it worked. There were several moments I wanted to skip because I just wanted to get back to the action and the characters I cared about and those minor deviations frustrated me.
Ciri is broken, weary and half-dead when an old philosopher named Vysogota finds her in the swamps near his hermitage. Vysogota takes her in, nurses her wounds and brings her back to health, scarred and filled with sorrow and the kind of rage born of abuse and suffering. After healing her, she tells him her story, how she came to be where he found her and of the men who will certainly find her if given enough time.
The things Ciri endures in this story are absolutely soul-crushing. She’s come to believe everyone she ever loved is dead, they would have to be dead not to have come to her aid, wouldn’t they? But Geralt is not dead, he travels with Cahir, Dandelion, Milva and Regis toward the Druids he hopes can tell him where to find Ciri. Yennefer, returns, accused of treason and guilty of crimes that will be judged far worse by those who love her.
There were moments in the scenes with Yennefer that tore me to shreds emotionally because she is a hard woman to love, but when you fall in love with her you’re hooked in the same way Geralt is. You may not know why, or even how, but you love her and you can’t stop. She is a callous and often complicated character whose motives are called into question as her frigid and occasionally heartless approach to her relationship with Geralt feels like nails on a chalkboard. However, there are moments every once in a while where Sapkowski brings the core of her being into the light, and we see who she really is and it breaks my heart.
One of the things I love about this series is how each book, though different than the last, simply flows into the next, building toward an epic ending to a phenomenal story.
The relationships between the characters are brilliantly woven, making each and every central character to the plot grip the heart. The supernatural elements are fantastic in that way fills me with wonder. The politics are despicable, but they are politics and really, what more would you expect.
Even though some of the distancing from the story by minor character, secondhand accounts really got under my skin, overall I loved the book and would gladly give it five stars and here is why: Once you’ve invested yourself in this story there is no turning back. You are drawn in, you love these people so much you must know what happens, and yet you don’t ever want their story to end at all. I’ve been slacking through the final book, Lady of the Lake, because I just don’t want to ever finish this story. That’s how much I love it.
So there you have it: 5 out of 5 stars for filling me with such emotion I get teary-eyed at the prospect of finishing the series. I recommend this series (if you can find all books in your language,) to anyone who loves fantasy.