Geralt heads toward a castle
Dleoblack; https://www.deviantart.com/dleoblack

Something Ends, Something Begins: A Retrospective On The Witcher Saga (Part 15)

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Welcome back to a special part of The Daily Fandom’s retrospective. This month, Kyle and Claudia are covering Season of Storms, the final book in The Witcher Saga. It is technically a prequel, set between some of the short stories and leads directly into the first short story written, The Witcher. However, due to a chapter that deals with Nimue, it must be read last.

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

Geralt’s Arc — Claudia’s Analysis

One of the earliest conversations Kyle and I had about the Witcher was the starkly uncharacteristic behavior of Geralt in the first short story. This is the prequel to that.

Geralt is a perfectly serviceable character, but just as he seems a little shallow and off in the first short story, The Witcher, the lack of Ciri and five books of character development have reduced him to something less, but not necessarily worse.

His arc is rather flat because not much can be done without ruining the character for the many stories to come. Instead, he’s set on a fairly straightforward quest (get his swords back) that will take him through a series of adventures that are more about building the world then Geralt’s personality or moral compass. It’s still unquestionably well written but is borderline unnecessary for the full enjoyment of the series.

The highlight of this choice, however, is that for once we Geralt as he is often described, a lone wolf adventurer and witcher. Often in the series, it feels like references are either made to his exploits or to the type of man he was, but save the short stories we as readers don’t spend much time with a pre-Ciri Geralt and so this book does fill that gap in characterization quite nicely.

Geralt’s Arc — Kyle’s Analysis

As Season of Storms is set directly before The Witcher, the very first short story. So, this is a younger Geralt that hasn’t gone through all the development we’ve seen. But Geralt is still Geralt regardless. He’s stubborn, a damn lovable fool, and a man who cares deeply for a world that cares very little for him. This sense of caring is what will get him killed and here it gets him in all sorts of trouble. From initially sparing Sorel out of pity, to engaging in a sexual relationship with Lytta in order to prevent her from harming Mozaïk.

Geralt fulfills the duty of a witcher
Michał Rychtyk; https://www.deviantart.com/afternoon63

Geralt loses possession of his swords and spends the majority of the book looking for them. This is used as a narrative tool for Sapkowski to have Geralt interact with the other plots going on. In addition to this, it is used to further the main theme of Geralt’s overall arc in The Witcher Saga. He’s a stubborn man who lives a life full of contradictions but refuses to admit it. Geralt says he has no emotions, but he is lying. He says he doesn’t love Yen, but he is lying. He says the swords don’t mean anything to him, but he is lying.

Geralt wraps himself up in a comfort blanket that keeps him forever at arm’s length. He travels the path of a witcher, forever alone, with no one to care about. It’s an illusion he throws up when he’s vulnerable. In Baptism of Fire, Regis, Milva, and Dandelion called him out on this. In truth, Geralt just wants to live a simple, happy life with Yen. But he’s a stubborn and caring old fool. It will take a certain Child of Surprise to get him to become the man we know him to be.

Mage Plot — Claudia’s Analysis

Unlike Kyle, I have a very cool relationship to the mages and the mage politics throughout The Witcher Saga. This is mostly because to me, commentary on power and privilege in the way that it’s done in Sapkowski’s work feels weak, incredibly black and white, and cliche. I don’t think the writing is bad, for what it is, but I think Kyle and I have always come down on different sides in regards to the politics of Sapkowski’s world.

One of the glaring issues, which we discussed during our Q&A is the repeated queer coding or outright just queer nature of the morally corrupt mages. While I agree it’s not inherently meant to be malicious it’s a little unsettling to have queerness so closely associated with manipulation and unnatural monsters.

I enjoyed the utter evil factor present here. I’m a tiny bit of a horror fan and I can appreciate a good horror story about the evils of eugenics and capitalism. And while I don’t see this story as meant to be a strict critique of capitalism, I do see Sapkowski’s economics degree coming through here. Sapkowski likes to make sure that the evils in his world are evils born of or supported by the actual lived economics of his worldbuilding. Part of why I think some people find his stories, and villains, so moving is this factor, which makes even the most cliche plans and evil actions seem more likely.

Mage Plot — Kyle’s Analysis

Out of the major plot threads that run throughout Season of Storms, this is the most interesting to me. It’s chock full of social commentary and philosophy. Things that Sapkowski can practically write in his sleep, he’s so good at it. The major thematic implications of everything to do with the mages at Rissberg Castle comes down to power and privilege. Power gives people privilege; this privilege enables them to do what they want and not be questioned. Add in the fact that the leader of the Rissberg mages is lied to, and you have yourself a recipe for the abuse of the system.

We get a fascinating look into the way magic is used to advance and stall technological development. We also come to understand magic’s relationship with the economy. It’s supply and demand. The mages claim they’re here to help society, however, Ortolan’s longevity serum was seized is only given to other mages. They create new monsters, even perform magical surgeries to breed species that were biologically incapable of producing offspring together. They experiment with mutations, attempting to match Alzur’s crowning achievement, the witcher. Essentially, the mages manufacture the virus and then sell the cure.

Then we have the entire false pretense of them hiring Geralt because of a demon that got loose. The was no demon, it was just a lure to get Geralt and steal his eyes. When Sorel’s crimes come to light, Rissberg cleans up the official story, blaming it on mental illness. The privilege that Ortolan and Sorel have led them to not being punished for their own grievous deeds. Rissberg gets results which is useful for other mages. It’s only when Geralt takes matters into his own hands, where power and privilege no longer hold sway, that justice is done.

Kerack Plot — Claudia’s Analysis

Like the mage plot beforehand, I have less interest in the politics of The Witcher world than is probably intended. If I’m being honest this portion of the story interested me the least. Like Geralt, the world of kings and states is not one for me.

That said I thoroughly enjoyed Lytta Neyd and her young student, Mozaik. Perhaps I should give Sapkowski more credit for how he weaves together elements I have little interest in with stories I care deeply about. As is tradition for me and my reading of these stories, the romance did little for me. I didn’t find it realistic or of interest, but Mozaik and the twisted relationship between Geralt and Lytta were hard to ignore.

Mozaïk, the servant of Coral
Alicia Varela Martínez; https://www.artstation.com/aliciavm

For me, Lytta’s cruelty and manipulations were as revealing and informative of the world as the coup staged by Belohun’s son. The events leading up to the coup, and the fallout of the storm, feel like they were all perfectly tailored to demonstrate the type of person Lytta was, and exactly why Geralt was not like her.

There’s also something to be said for the many power dynamics at play. Bastard children bickering for the throne, an old foolish King headed to his doom, a student whose only chance at a good life is to stay with a cruel master, and a sorceress who is doomed to die.

I like to think the tumultuous political circumstances surrounding Lytta and Geralt’s involvement were intentional.

Kerack Plot — Kyle’s Analysis

This plot takes another look at privilege but this time it is focused on how it relates to world affairs and gender politics. Kerack was a city built next to an old elvish settlement that had been taken over by humans. A pirate that found wealth and power crowned himself king and claimed Kerack as a new independent state. He bought himself the power and privilege he needed and was not questioned on this action.

Years later, his son Belohun has worked to increase the profits of Kerack. This ensures that its valuable position is not swallowed up by other nations. However, he’s misogynistic and has outlawed abortions. Lytta struggles to reason with him and even points out the issue of his succession. He has taken many wives, had many affairs, and has many children from different mothers. Everyone knows this but don’t say a word. He is king and therefore it is his right and privilege to do whatever he wants. This is a powder keg that will be sparked into a war of succession when he dies.

Belohun is not the brightest but knows something will happen. He has taken steps to prevent his death. But his belief that women are lesser beings blinds him to the fact that his new wife is working with his son. When Viraxais inevitably seizes the throne in an effortless coup, the people of Kerack just go along with it. Viraxais even cites completely made up laws to justify his coup, and they still accept him. He is king and therefore it is his right and privilege to do whatever he wants. The irony, of course, is that Kerack will die a slow death due to improper financial management and an ongoing conflict with the dryads of Brokilon.

Aguara Plot — Claudia’s Analysis

Classically, as the person who adores fairytales, this was my favorite part of the book. This plot is the most like the original short stories, capitalizing on a monster and a short term problem to explore deeper philosophical questions or character, it’s more closely related to the personal growth of Geralt as a character than the other two, and it has the most likable characters, one of which is the monster itself.

The Aguara is certainly not good (kidnapping is a crime kids) but she is protective. She cannot reproduce by natural means, and the comparison between a fox and Geralt’s symbolic wolf seem intentional. The Aguara is a monster who must forcefully take a child if it wants one, and whose destiny for said child is for them to become a monster. Geralt is a witcher, said to be an emotionless killer, who cannot have children, unless he invokes the law of surprise. There is an instant and undeniable connection between these two.

Geralt also strives to end thing quickly and without unnecessary violence. Even as his companions panic. While morally it would have been nice to rescue the girl, the human girl, Geralt returns the aguaran girl. And the aguara recognizes this, and the man in front of her, for what he is: a reflection of herself.

With how important parenthood is to these stories, and with how well I think Sapkowski handles it, this is easily the story that resonates most throughout this book.

Aguara Plot — Kyle’s Analysis

This plot is very separate from the political implications of the other plots. Season of Storms has an almost episodic feel to each of its subplots. As a matter of fact, this part of Season of Storms is so separate, that Dark Horse Comics published a comic adaptation of it.

The cover of The Witcher: Fox Children
Dark Horse Comics 2015

The purpose of this plot is to further Geralt’s arc and give him a perspective that he’ll understand in the future. Aguara are infertile, they reproduce by “kidnapping” elven children and performing a ritual to transform them. Aguara become incredibly protective of their children and will stop at nothing to get them back if they are stolen. They will kill and kill mercilessly. If this sounds familiar, then it’s because it’s Geralt. He invoked the Law of Surprise and is now bound by destiny to a child of the Elder Blood. He rejects that life, clinging to the illusion of the isolated witcher. But soon, this young and naïve Geralt will come to understand what it means to love a child. And to quote him as I did above, in order to protect Ciri, he would kill, and kill mercilessly.

When Geralt resolves the situation on the boat peacefully, he proves to the aguara that the legend of the mindless killing machines known as witcher is nothing but a story. An illusion as she puts it. When she shows back up at the end, she calls Geralt out on the illusions that he surrounds himself with and tries to believe. In order to find happiness, he must see through the illusions, he must accept the thing he found but did not expect to find, love. As well know, he will eventually understand this message and fight tooth and nail to put his makeshift family back together.

Status As Prequel And Sequel To The Witcher Saga — Claudia’s Analysis

Season of Storms is, to be perfectly frank, the most skippable of the Witcher Saga. It offers the least in terms of relevant material, is very disconnected from the main series, and doesn’t introduce any new themes or new takes on the same themes from the original series. Basically, it suffers from the same problems as many prequels.

However. It is one of the better-written books in the series and so explores similar themes with more elegant writing than some of the early books, it explores lore and backstory that will not be addressed in the main series, and has just enough nods to the core books to be worth reading.

I understand the motivation for calling it something other than a prequel. Prequel comes with baggage and expectations, but as far as prequels do go, it is fairly well done. The addition of the small reference to Nimue creates an interesting perspective. As this story was written so long after the others, Sapkowski is able to tread lightly around the idea of Geralt as a myth and we are treated to the idea that the possibility for future stories is endless.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter. The only stories Sapkowski couldn’t tell are tales set in the Witcher World after Lady of the Lake. Everything else is fair game with how loose and easily turned to myth the stories of his world are.

Status As Prequel And Sequel To The Witcher Saga — Kyle’s Analysis

Season of Storms is a bit of an oddity when it comes to The Witcher Saga. Published in 2013, it comes a full fifteen years after the publication of The Lady of the Lake. It’s also around the time that the video games by CD Projekt Red started seeing widespread acclaim. They had not conquered the video game industry yet, that would come in 2015. Sapkowski holds to the belief that the story he wanted to tell in The Witcher Saga has been told. What happens after the end of The Lady of the Lake is inconsequential.

So, this new book has the difficulty of fitting in. Sapkowski refuses to call it a prequel instead preferring the term “sidequel.” This means that this is a side story that happens to take place before the Saga. There’re no feelings of having to explain things that’ll happen, he simply tells another story in the life of Geralt. Sapkowski doesn’t let the prequel status of Season of Storms or the ever-increasing shadow of the games affect his storytelling. It’s still just as sharp, witty, socially biting, and politically relevant as ever.

Only in a handful of moments in Season of Storms, does he feel the need to explain certain future events. This leads directly into The Witcher short story by having Geralt getting the contract to cure Adda. Lytta was mentioned several times in the main Saga, and now we finally get to know her as a person. What seemed like throwaway lines, such as the border post war of Temeria and Redania, become plot points. This is used to deepen our understanding of the world, but it is never the sole purpose of the book. Even the epilogue doesn’t undermine The Lady of the Lake. In my opinion, it adds to it.

Legacy In The Witcher — Claudia’s Analysis

For this portion of the article, I revisited my theme from Blood of Elves. Back then, I asked specifically about the Legacy of the Lioness of Cintra, as at the time I was fascinated with how this single character has such an overwhelming impact of the politics and motivations of the rest of the world. This theme is obviously a little more general, but it’s similar in principle.

The first example that comes to mind is the Aguara. A child is kidnapped and, without choice, turned into a monster. Much like Ciri will one day be. And that child will live with that fate no matter what happens, no matter whether they did anything to deserve it.

King Belohun of Kerack
Belohun by Jana Komarková

Then there’s Belohun, who makes his bed and must lie in it when his son comes for his bride and his kingdom. Surely this fate is deserved? Surely Belohun’s choices are what created his downfall?

And then there are the mages, who since book one have been trapped in a manufactured cycle. Creations fuel an economy which fuels the need for more creations. Old choice, terrible choices, allow them to make worse choices in the future. Consequences be damned.

I always felt that Sapkowski handled this theme best in the third book of the main saga and when he was showing the tired, desperation of war, but here I feel like I’m finally appreciating all the ways in which people build their own enemies. Or maybe the writing is just better.

Legacy In The Witcher — Kyle’s Analysis

Cycles of violence have been a clear theme throughout The Witcher Saga. This was even my theme way back during Blood of Elves as well. But the addition to the legacy of the cycles of violence is something that Sapkowski does quite well. We had back in the main part of the Saga with the Elder Blood gene, the Scoia’tael, and so forth.

But in Season of Storms, we are given a particularly interesting lens to look at. This is a prequel and as such, we can see the future in a way. We know for instance that Kerack is obsolete by the time we reach the Saga. Belohun, for all his faults, was good economics. Under his reign, perhaps Kerack would’ve prospered as a mercantile country and continued for generations. But his own inability to see past his biases and propensity to rely on his privilege to keep him out of trouble, he was killed. Kerack passes to his son’s hands, who may be cleverer than his father but led the country into ruin. They both were faced with the consequences of their actions and perpetuated a cycle that only ended in destruction.

A basic law of the universe says that for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. While scientifically this is true, if think about from a societal point of view you start noticing the problem. Life becomes a circle, you go around and around in loops, acting and reacting. Sapkowski has never held back on his belief that this is flawed thinking. Geralt’s entire arc is about accepting something more in order to break his illusions. Every action comes consequences and that means you must be willing to break your circle and accept responsibility.

What Makes A Monster — Claudia’s Analysis

This has been a theme revisited by the books time and time again. Regis, which his refined behavior and odd friendship with Geralt embodied the question. Sure he was an abomination that drank human blood but…was he really that bad?

Geralt himself often is labeled a monster. And his wanton killing in certain circumstances could make it seem such but ultimately he always strives to make the “good” or at least less bad choice.

These characters alongside the Aguara further blur the lines of what is and is not considered a monster. And when placed up against the likes of Vilgefortz, the Mages of Rissberg castle, it becomes obvious that rarely is it the “monsters” who are monstrous. Maybe it’s a case of truth in fiction, maybe it’s just the story Sapkowski likes to tell, but the worst monsters in his stories are always the people behind the curtain. Men who abuse and torture the people below their station. 

What Makes A Monster — Kyle’s Analysis

Throughout Season of Storms, we are asked the question of what is a monster? The opening sentence of the novel compares witchers to monsters by saying “it lived only to kill.” Time and time again, Geralt encounters people from all walks of life that embody some aspect of this theme. The aguara is a literal monster, that by all rights he should slay as a witcher. But he doesn’t because she is only defending her children. She has just as much right to live as anyone else. And the humans on the boat are more monstrous in their actions than an angry and protective mother that just so happens to be an aguara.

Sorel Degerlund of the Rissberg mages
Sorel Degerlund by Jana Komarková

The mages of Rissberg Castle conduct morally despicable experiments in the name of science. They are morally bankrupt on many different levels, but no one does a damn thing about them. When Geralt believes that Sorel was actually possessed by a demon, he took pity on him. But when he found out that Sorel was really just an amoral scientist that killed to satisfy his own curiosity, that is when he knew he had found a true demon.

The monsters of the story are not magical creatures that keep you up at night. No, the real monsters of the story are those that use and abuse their position, give into personal biases, and do whatever they want without consequence. They are protected by society and are allowed to indulge in their negative impulses. The truly scary monsters, the ones you see in nightmares, are not what witchers kill. Real monsters live among us, waiting for their opportunity to strike.

Conclusion Of The Witcher Saga Retrospective Part 15

Thank you for joining us as we recounted our thoughts on the final book in The Witcher Saga, Season of Storms. As per usual expect the Q&A session between Kyle and Claudia to land tomorrow as they go more in-depth with their opinions. This will be the final part on the books by Andrzej Sapkowski, Part 17 will begin Kyle and Claudia’s journey through The Witcher games by CD Projekt Red.

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