Brain hurty, help me.
I’ve loved this series so far. But I’m not gonna lie: this is the first Witcher book that I had a hard time getting through. It turned it around eventually, with one of the stronger endings in the series! But the journey to that ending was a confusing, convoluted one!
The Tower of Swallows jumps all around the timeline, making it rather difficult to properly summarize it. But essentially, this book runs in reverse. We start near the end, with an old man discovering a gravely injured Ciri. Once our favorite Lion Cub makes her recovery, she beguiles her new friend with the story of how she got her new scar and ended up there. All the while, Yennefer tries to find her surrogate daughter and Geralt continues his adventures with his Company.
The beginning of this book is super disappointing. It completely skips over the consequences of the ending of Baptism of Fire! Remember how Geralt ended up becoming a knight and it ended off on a cliffhanger? When I read that, I got super excited! What was going to happen next? How would Geralt handle becoming a knight? How would the queen react to him leaving to go find and save Ciri?
The answer is: Dandelion will tell us about it. Why? Because Andrzej Sapkowski didn’t want to write a whole book about Geralt and company being put in a fun and challenging situation like that. Congratulations! You didn’t just miss some potential, you sailed your ship in the other fucking direction!
There’s also some shit in this book that just doesn’t land the way the writer wants. For example: there’s a scene where a creepy 40-year-old dude is trying to force himself on Ciri after getting shot by an arrow. Ciri gives in, being curious, but the dude dies just as he starts kissing her breasts. I get the impression that this scene is either supposed to be horrifying or tragic. But it just comes across as awkward and hilarious in execution. No joke, I had to put the book down for a day just to laugh and try and figure out what the fuck I was supposed to be feeling.
Not to mention just how unimportant that scene really is. The only real consequence it has is “Oh, now Ciri has a really good horse.” You could pull that off in a million other, better, more comfortable ways. Why did she have to get it after some dude died just before he could fuck her?
But that’s not the biggest problem. No, that comes in the constant hopping around the timeline. In one chapter, you’ll jump to a year in the future to a year in the past to the present to a few weeks in the past to a few months in the future to an unspecified point in time. Did that sentence confuse you? Good! Now you know how it feels to read this book!
It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t keep hopping between so many characters! It’s not just the old characters, like Ciri, Geralt, Yennefer, and Dandelion. It introduces a whole slew of new perspective characters to juggle, each one with their own bit to add to the narrative. This makes the book even more confusing! In a single chapter, you won’t just jump to twelve different points in the timeline! You’ll also jump between seven or more separate characters!!
I miss the last book. Where point a went straight to point b which lead to point c. Now this book goes from point z to point f to point n to point b! It’s a nightmare!
Okay, that’s enough complaining. Let’s talk about the stuff I like.
For one: this ending is fantastic. Ciri goes full bad-ass in one of the most fun and creative, albeit one-sided, fights in the whole series! All her years of training, learning, and adventuring are paid off. This is the book where she finally becomes the badass heroine we all know and love!
I also love Vysogota, Ciri’s new friend/mentor. His chemistry with Ciri is great, with him playing the old grandfather to his young and naïve granddaughter. Their relationship feels real in a way few other stories get right. They chill, they fight, they work together, their dynamic feels truly believable. It’s a great through line for the narrative.
Also, as disappointed I am that the knight-Geralt plot was dropped, the chemistry of Geralt’s fellowship is also wildly enjoyable. These five characters work exceptionally well together. They don’t share many scenes together, but their group dynamic is wildly enjoyable! I hope to god that we’ll get more of it in Lady of the Lake!
I might be setting myself up for disappoint me, don’t warn me.
Cahir gets some pretty great character development, too. We get a pretty kickass twist that recontextualizes the events surrounding Ciri during the Fall of Cintra. Plus, we get to see him and Geralt finally put their differences aside and actually become friends! Yet there’s still that underlying conflict between them; they know that they’ll be at odds again in the end, but they’ve still come to respect each other. It’s super interesting and I can’t wait to see how it plays out!
Tower of Swallows is a weird one. It stumbled for most of the ride, then stuck the landing in one of the most solid Witcher finales yet. Honestly, even after writing this review, I’m not sure how I feel about it.
If you’ve been enjoying the Witcher books so far, I don’t think you should quit at this one. It’s still a decent book, even if it’s… well, messy. The great stuff does outweigh the bad, so this book is still worth a read. Still, I do think that this is the one I enjoyed reading the least.
But we’ve still got two books to go, so I’ll reserve judging it too harshly for now.