July 15, 2020

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A review of The Witcher Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski

Season of Storms is the last canon story written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Published in 2013 under the original title “Sezon burz” it is the eight book in the series. Or 6th novel if you consider the first two books were a compilation of short stories. Translated in 2018 by David French it is a standalone story. That said, it does lean a lot on the author’s prior Witcher writings.

With Season of Storms we read about a Geralt of Rivia that does not seem to get a break. Journeying with his horse Roach he manages to kill a number of monsters, but earns no respect from the locals. His fate turns decidedly worse when he is arrested in Novigrad on trumped up charges. Several factions demand Geralt do what they want, but the reader can enjoy his stoic resolve not to get involved. What it is they are involved in is the true mystery of the story, and I think quite effectively resolved at the end. That said, despite Geralt’s desire not to do anyone’s bidding he has little choice when his two favored swords: one steel and one silver, are stolen from him.

Geralt and his two swords

This handicap appears mostly psychological as Geralt does not relish to return to Kaer Morhen to obtain new ones. And so once more Geralt becomes entrapped in the machinations of others, not unlike the short stories as depicted in The Last Wish. In fact, Season of Storms is stylistically similar to the stories of The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. It is very densely written, unlike the last iterations of The Witcher Saga, much like a short story. I go so far as to say this novel probably started out as a series of short stories – conceptually that is.

And so Geralt start’s his journey, intermittently with Dandelion at his side. His first stop is the Novigrad underworld and their unique association with the tiny kingdom of Kerack, just to their south: which is suffering from a succession crises. But then Geralt turns to the mages of Rissberg to aid them with demonic powers that have killed dozens of civilians. In true Sapkowski fashion the true demon is discovered to be human. Even here the reader already starts to wonder why Geralt is even doing this assignment as his swords were stolen in Novigrad. Season of Storms has many such twists and turns that can confuse a reader. Somehow it remains magical enough to continue reading.

Season of Storms and its faults

Not everything about Season of Storms is well written. Just as with Sapkowski’s earlier work a lot of it feels fragmentary. There is a lot of back and forth before the storyline becomes clear. About a third of the way into the story Geralt is in Novigrad and the story appears to involve a mysterious sorceress named Lytta Neyd. It is a brief romance that leads to Geralt to go on his quest to Rissberg. But it is not clear how Lytta fits into the story other than act as a deus ex machina. And that is the problem with Season of Storms. It is a collection of stories without a clear end that suddenly turn into a new direction. Ironically it feels a bit like the video game The Witcher 3 if you were to skip the cutscenes.

I won’t go into the details of the plot too much, but I did enjoy Sapkowski’s depth of knowledge of his Witcher world. Geralt is very knowledgeable about the different types of monsters and magical creatures. Season of Storms depicts in gruesome detail what happens when such creatures are unleashed against humans. This happens at several occasions, thus returning the author and Geralt to their horror roots. Despite the similarities to the previous iterations there are also notable differences. Geralt appears less at ease in the Witcher world than in previous stories. The author has created a complicated backstory involving the feudal society of Novigrad. Geralt has to suffer considerable abuse of those more powerful and influential than he. Although he remains somewhat aloof of politics it is less so than before. It feels as if the rapidly changing world Geralt finds himself is a stand-in for modern day Poland.

All good things end

Season of Storms ends Geralt’s story with him on his way to Vizima to help king Foltest with his Striga problem. This is told in the original short story – The Witcher. However, there is an epilogue. We see Nimue continue her journey of retracing Geralt’s journey and dream parts of his life. In her last dream Geralt directly speaks to her and tells her to stop uncovering his fate. She should instead create her own destiny if she is to be a sorceress. This is a message to every fan of the franchise. While you may enjoy the story, don’t let it overtake your life. With that The Witcher franchise has ended. Sapkowski has not written any new work, though in 2018 he did announce he was writing a new story. I myself will be delighted if he does, but it is not necessary. I think The Witcher is done.

On a side note production of The Witcher season 2 for Netflix starring Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra has restarted. The prospective release date for the new season will be 2021.