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Something Ends, Something Begins: A Retrospective On The Witcher Saga (Part 11)

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Welcome back to The Daily Fandom’s retrospective series on The Witcher Saga. The collaborating team of Kyle and Claudia have reached the penultimate book in the overall main Witcher Saga. Tensions are high as we head into the final act of the story, to say the least. Join them as they discuss the book arcs, themes, and plot.

Please check out the previous parts on The Last Wish, The Sword of Destiny, Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, and Baptism of Fire.

Yennefer’s Arc — Claudia’s Analysis

I am honestly surprised at Yennefer’s overall appearances in these books. I think because Kyle loves her so much, I assumed she would be as prominent as Ciri or Dandelion. However, I will concede that she is certainly more a main character than Triss.

I actually loved all her scenes in this book. It felt like a return to form after her ungracious reappearance previously. I love the feeling of having a vicious, powerful Yennefer back. And of course, the ending is a specific kind of heart-wrenching awesome.

Yennefer is formally (or as formal as you can get without adoption papers) recognized as Ciri’s mother, which is seen as a sort of resolution to her character arc, but which is a little underwhelming for me, mostly because of how little it feel Yennefer has managed to be present in the lives of the rest of the characters.

Yennefer’s Arc — Kyle’s Analysis

Yen’s arc so far has her softening up and becoming the mother figure to Ciri. Now, that comes full circle and completes itself here in this novel. She has become so determined to save Ciri at all costs that she does some very reckless things, like sailing to the maelstrom, attempting to steal from the Temple of Freya and breaking Skellige law. But in her desperation, many stand aside and let her through as they can very well tell that she is a woman on a warpath. But most interesting is her interactions with the Skellige goddess of Freya who also goes by the name The Mother. Freya understands her plight to save her child and gives her a gift that no priest of Freya thought was possible.

We get some more information about Yen’s backstory as part of the vision of Freya. Through this vision, we learn about her abusive parents, who wanted nothing to do with her. We see her considering suicide, and then later taking her anger out on the family that mistreated her so. Through this, we come to understand why Yen was so reluctant to get attached to Ciri yet still longed for a child. She was afraid, afraid of becoming her parents. This is a theme not just in Yen’s story, but throughout The Witcher Saga.

Geralt’s Arc — Claudia’s Analysis

Geralt is a bit of a stone in this book. And that is not a bad thing. For all intents and purposes the previous book was the book of Geralt character development, and this book was for Ciri. This book does, however, finalize the changes from the previous book.

Geralt is openly affectionate to his Hanse. Moreover, he’s openly in charge. Since the short stories, he has held out on this idea that he is a loner, not a good man, and not a leader. While the jury may still be out on morality in these sorts of stories, he openly invites a young girl into their group, is visibly protective of it, and once it becomes clear they are closing in on his ultimate goal he starts barking orders. It’s refreshing and gratifying to see this shift in behavior.

Most telling, however, is that in this book Geralt finally relents and leaves behind the path of the Witcher. I don’t know that as a person he will ever be able to shade the years of training and monster hunting but his new goal, which ultimately does not align with a Witcher’s morals, is one he’s decided he cannot attain without leaving his past behind.

Finally, the supposed betrayal of Yennefer is also something with which he is sure to grapple in the coming book and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it would be some juicy confrontation.

Geralt’s Arc — Kyle’s Analysis

Geralt’s travels with his company continue. But now, due to a misunderstanding of an omen, Geralt has taken on a new mission. Instead of rescuing Ciri, who everyone believes is dead, they are now to get revenge for her. While there is a doubt about whether Ciri is truly dead, Geralt cannot be certain. He hangs onto the only thing that makes any sense to him anymore. His anger and fear about what has become of his makeshift family of Yen and Ciri.

Due to this, he has fallen far from the graceful witcher with a purpose that we have seen before. As told to him by the druids of the circle, he must forsake being a witcher in order to become what he truly wants. But as explained before, Geralt is stubborn. When he is uncertain of where to go, he latches onto the familiar. This could very well get him killed.

Ciri’s Arc — Claudia’s Analysis

Ciri is easily my favorite character of the bunch in this series. I have a fondness for violent young girls in fiction and Ciri fits that to a tee. This book also, at last, gives Ciri a real voice. While she certainly was a main character in prior books, this book allows her space to exist as both a narrator looking back reflectively on past events and as a newly born force of vengeance. It’s satisfying. She’s earned every scar and every badass moment, and watching her walk into the future with that in mind is thrilling.

Ciri also returns to what I would call a state of normalcy. There’s a frenzy that can hit a person after a tragedy. An instinctual need to survive by whatever means possible. We glimpsed it multiple times last book. Here, at last, she seems to have found the space to return to reason and used it to choose her own path. The path of a Witcher. I have never been so delighted by a character before.

There’s still chosen ones and fights on the horizon but for now, I could walk away from this series satisfied with Ciri.

Ciri’s Arc — Kyle’s Analysis

Ciri has become something new, something different. She has forsaken both identities that she has used up to this point. She is no longer Cirilla the Lion Cub of Cintra nor is she the infamous bandit Falka. The identity she has accepted as her own is Ciri the Witcher, daughter of Geralt and Yennefer, and a woman whose death dogs at her footsteps. She is not the princess nor is she a chosen one. She is simply, Ciri.

At the beginning of The Tower of Swallows, we see that she doesn’t ask the fortune teller for power, money, or any such thing. She asks for a steed to carry her on her way and a sword to vanquish the evil she encounters. This more than anything shows that she has truly forsaken her destiny and only wishes to live her life separately from everything else. But reality is sometimes a harsh mistress, as she ends up in the hands of Leo Bonhart, the most sadistic man alive. But she refuses to break, she has been through hardship and simply wants to escape. She is a woman on the run from everyone and everything. It’s not just death that dogs at her footsteps, it’s her once proud destiny.

Overarching Plot of The Tower of Swallows — Claudia’s Analysis

This book is the most tightly written and well plotted of all the books thus far. Every political movement on the chessboard is easily tracked, most characters known, and all the stories told in such a way that I was able to follow most if not all of it.

It’s hard to say whether the plot itself was better. Not much happens in this book, you could argue, but self-reflection and a little wee bit of murder. And yet I enjoyed this one greatly. I felt it showed more than it told, and find it easier to recall clearly the events and people involved.

Like all the books, however, it feels very much like one piece of a larger puzzle. It’s possible these books read better all stitched together into one large tome than as separate novels. Each book picking up right after the last does not help this feeling very much.

Regardless, I can see the finish line now, and it’s far less convoluted than I worried it might be with Sapkowski’s writing.

Overarching Plot of The Tower of Swallows — Kyle’s Analysis

The Tower of Swallows is the penultimate novel in The Witcher Saga. As a result, there is a lot of set up for what will become the third act of the story. Through Vysogota of Corvo, we get some information on Nilfgaard and the history of its emperors. We understand that both he and Stefan Skellen ultimately fought for the same thing, a democratic government in place of a totalitarian state. And that the previous emperor was a usurper, who was far crueler than either Fergus or Emhyr var Emreis.

The Lodge of Sorceress continue their schemes. We come to find out that they have non-mages working as spies for them, such as Cantarella. Fringilla Vigo is in Toussaint, which is where Geralt and co are currently heading, and Ciri herself has a vision of them sleeping together. Toussaint itself seems like a land pulled right out of a fairy tale, too good to be true. The knight errants are parodies of classic knights in shining armor, ready to go rescue the damsel at the drop of a hat.

Then, of course, we get the reveal of the multiverse. That Ciri, as seen in the vision back in Blood of Elves, is truly meant to open the doors between realities. And on the other side of one of these doors lies a race at war with the extinct unicorns. Needless to say, every aspect will be picked back up on. The plot of The Tower of Swallows is very much the calm before the storm.

The Assigning Of Morality In The Witcher — Claudia’s Analysis

Perhaps this would be a better theme for after we are done. Perhaps I will pick this back up after the games. But I was, and still am, interested in the ascribed morality of various characters in this series.

I am actually a firm believer in morality. Grey moral leanings have never cut it for me either in real life or fiction. I understand that situations can be complicated, and someone can do the right thing while seeming to do the wrong thing. Ultimately, however, you either choose to do right or choose to do wrong to the best of your ability.

The Assigning Of Morality In The Witcher — Kyle’s Analysis

A discussion Claudia and I have had on numerous occasions at this point is where each of the characters lies on a standard D&D alignment scale. The problem I have always had with the alignment scale is the idea that one person is always one thing and doesn’t change or mix. One action for one person may be fine but may be morally reprehensible to another. Or even the fact that some people can do many good things and then do something awful. We as people are constantly evolving, changing, growing, it is the very purpose of life. So, to ascribe a label of “you are good” and “you are bad” without the possibility of change or understanding of perspective seems baffling to me.

There is a reason I come to the defense of Philippa. Is she a good person? No. Is she a bad person? No. She has done good and bad things all in the service of ensuring she is on top. Selfishness is not always evil because it’s only human to think of everything from your perspective. Which is why I define her as neutral. Selfishness can be taken to the point of crossing the line into evil which Philippa has come to now and again.

I do however believe that there are genuinely good people in the universe and that there are truly horrible people in the universe. Morality, just like all heavy topics, cannot be set in stone. Often times the thin line between good and evil is contradictory, blurred. The Witcher Saga has addressed this on numerous occasions, the most obvious being The Lesser Evil.

Children Becoming Their Parents In The Witcher — Claudia’s Analysis

This is a touchy topic and theme for me. I’ve had my own share of troubling experiences with parents and have been told my entire life that I’m my father’s daughter. Not a compliment, by the way. As such I am always overly attached to good fathers, violent daughters, and victims of violent homes. It’s a sort of morbid fascination that stems from have glimpsed the pit, but never having really fallen in.

I could see the argument that Ciri following the path of the Witcher as not a very good thing. I disagree. It’s a way for her to claim agency, and a way to connect with the only time in her life she seemed to enjoy herself. She seemed to have been a rebellious princess and running wild with the Witchers suited her. Geralt never did wrong by her. It’s monsters who hurt her, human or not. So I like this path. I think there is redemption in following in the footsteps of a man who did right by you.

Yennefer is more complicated. In some ways, I don’t understand her. I suspect it’s the nature of these books to not give me the depth of detail I’d like. In The Witcher, abusive parents seem to be a sort of single kind. Yennefer feels like she would be a good mother, but I cannot see the shackles she’s casting off. Perhaps it is not the same for everyone, but I know I carry in my heart a list of mistakes my parents made, and I only feel victorious in not being them when I cross one off the list. It is so easy to not beat or berate your child, but goodness and good parenting cannot only be measured in the things we don’t do.

Children Becoming Their Parents In The Witcher — Kyle’s Analysis

Yen and Ciri’s arcs are the reverse of each other and provide interesting commentary on an oft-held belief. The notion of children becoming their parents is quite common, some even believe inevitable. But we see with Yen, that with the right will and determination, you can stop yourself from repeating the mistakes and sins of your parents. There is more to a person than blood. Yen was able, for a brief time, to be a wonderfully nurturing mother to Ciri. And now, like all good mothers, is on the hunt to rescue her child at all costs. Something her own abusive parents would never do

Conversely, Ciri is becoming even more of an amalgamation of Geralt and Yen. Interestingly, at the same time that Geralt learns that in order to be happy he must forsake the life of a witcher, his daughter fully accepts that life. She has become as quick-witted, smart, stubborn, and skillful as both Yen and Geralt. But that comes with the negative traits as well. Everyone around her dies, just like Geralt. And just like Yen, she is slow to trust, and attachments are rare. The fact that she carries the Elder Blood is of no consequence to her actions, it is simply a factor that she’s running away from. She has become exactly like her wonderful parents, both for good and for ill.

Conclusion Of The Witcher Saga Retrospective Part 11

Thanks for joining us on this ever-continuing journey through The Witcher Saga. Tomorrow expect to see the Q&A session where Kyle and Claudia discuss their different perspectives on the penultimate novel and where it will all lead in the final book.

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