Review: Season of Storms

Posted: July 21, 2018 by in Books We Like...and Hate (3/5 single_star) Meta: Andrzej Sapkowski, Dark Fantasy

Some series have a definite end while others linger on, bringing joy to their long-time readers and fans. For me, and those who enjoy the seminal series, THE WITCHER, SEASON OF STORMS is both a return to Andrzej Sapkowski’s original 1980s short stories, and at the same time, it is a eulogy for the series, in a certain sense.

SEASON OF STORMS is set, for hardcore fans, after the events of THE LAST WISH, with Geralt broken up with Yennefer (in a long series of makeups and breakups in their legendary relationship…) but before the contract that made him truly famous throughout the world of THE WITCHER.

At the start, he’s just killed another monster, and he earns a dubious bonus on his contract from a not particularly upstanding village official. Like so many contracts before, Geralt heads out of town without thinking much of it. Travelling to a major city to reunite with everyone’s favorite fop and seducer, Dandelion, Geralt finds himself leaving his swords, the silver and steel all Witchers carry, with a particular bunch of strong-arming, belching, all-female guard.

Some sorceresses and political machinations later, Geralt’s swords have gone missing, he’s now been fined and restricted to the city, and without any other options, he must uncover the fate of his beloved weapons.

This is a classic Witcher setup: a seemingly minor incident leads to a buildup of disconnected but marginally related conflicts our haggard mutant must contend with, time and again. With a cast of cunning sorceresses, crooked underworld brokers, princes vying for a backwater throne, strange creatures on the prowl to devour the minds of mortal men, fans of fantasy and the series will find Sapkowski’s returned with a tried-and-true standalone within his long-lived series.

Fan favorites like Dandelion and Yennefer appear, of course. But to my surprise, there are certain cameos from characters in later novels that segue neatly into the events of the series’ timeline.

However, at the same time, for those who wish to see a more epic Witcher, well, there’s none to be found. While SEASON OF STORMS dabbles with court-room debates, wine-sipping politicking, wizards’ internal politics and journey to better mankind, with dubious results, the story doesn’t do much with any of its political material. Given its cynical lamentations throughout the earlier and grander novels, it’s surprising to not find a balance like previous stories.

The novel does not feel like a coherent story. Instead, it reminds me of THE LAST WISH short story collection. Each three to four chapters follows a mini-arc, with the search for the swords acting as its overarching plot, and it follows Geralt in a road-warrior story structure. There’s a FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS vibe to it, as Geralt picks up and loses several companions over the course of the story.

As it stands, SEASON OF STORMS is an odd duck; it’s not strong enough to establish any forward plot movement (given the end of the series…), but it’s not weak enough to be another frame-device story.

In a sense, it’s a eulogy for the series as a whole. SEASON OF STORMS acts as a throwback to Sapkowski’s original stories, of a vagabond monster hunter hated but needed in a world of misfortune and mortals, and how the line between monsters and men is so often blurred for Geralt.

For fans of the series, SEASON OF STORMS is a eulogy, but it's also a throwback to the original idea of a monster hunter hated but needed to save the world.

But with its final scene, which should be a treat for long-time fans, it’s something of a fond farewell.

And the Witcher can finally rest.

For long-time fans and those interested in one of the original gritty fantasy series, I recommend it.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: Plenty of swearing and innuendos
  • Violence: All varieties of violence: murder, poison, assassination, decapitation, drowning
  • Sex: Full blown but mostly one off as well

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