I will preface with this: the novel is excellent. If you are even a mild admirer of the Witcher series, this whole line of novels will suck you in. The Time of Contempt swiftly sets rolling the ball Blood of Elves positioned. It leaves you wanting more. In no way is this a bad thing. In fact, non of my complaints have to do with those things Sapkowski directly controlled, that which a translator can not alter: namely plot, pacing, and characterization. The grievances do start, however, when it comes to syntax. To some it may be a relief that Danusia Stok didn't translate this book, but rather the task was given to David French. I stumbled with his translation efforts. Many times throughout the book I had to reread sentences because they were composed in an especially unusual manner, and even after looking them back over, a number of them made no sense whatsoever. To quote one of the less egregious missteps:
"'Lydia,' smiled Vilgefortz, 'thanks for your acknowledgement.'"
It becomes clear further in the paragraph that Vilgefortz is speaking for Lydia, not thanking her as the syntax would imply. This blundering mistake could have been fixed with a simple word, added to the effect of 'thanks you,' but by some act of malevolence or neglect, it was left as is through the editing process. But as stands, this still is a coherent line, just with poor flow. What follows is something I still can't puzzle out:
"The manhunters didn't touch Mistle, not once they'd checked she really was untouched."
I really want to throw a copy of The Elements of Style at the translator and his editors, as I can't make head or tail of what this was meant to say. Danusia Stok may have struggled with Sapkowski's style and produced some prose that was stuttering, but I don't recall from either of her translations (Last Wish and Blood of Elves) such terrific errors as are in this book.
But, these errors having been examined, it still stands that a translator is but a mirror, and no matter how smudged its surface is, light always reflects back. It is exceptionally fortunate that Sapkowski's original Polish work is very bright. Even such blatant disregard for grammatical rules essential for communication in the English language cannot mar entirely what makes Sapkowski's books so loved. The characters are voiced uniquely, and he brings them about in ways which we would expect, and even in some ways we wouldn't. Geralt returns partway through the book, and his reveal is just as momentous as it is akin to returning to an old friend. He is, admittedly, less bitter and sardonic than he was in the previous books, but perhaps that is because he takes a backseat in this novel. As the book progresses, it become clear that it is Cir, not the headlined Geralt, who is the star of the novel, and in no way is this a bad thing. I can't say much in regards to why I am so excited to find out what she makes of the situation she is in by the end of the book without spoiling it, but her evolution throughout the tale almost put her above the Witcher as my favorite character from the series. Almost. The story arc of the Witcher and Ciri takes place in the backdrop of the politics and scheming of the north in the face of the Nilfgaardian threat. While a relatively minor part of the novel, it was very clear that large pieces were being moved on the proverbial checkerboard. I took great joy in the few clever twists Sapkowski threw into the book, carrying the same disbelief as did the characters. The book, in a summary, is intense and gripping. It involves us in the protagonists and their affairs. In true Witcher style, none of the sides are motivated simply. There is no right or wrong, and neutrality is still a narrow road to walk. I may have complained extensively about the translator, but that is because that is the only aspect I can truly critique. And even then, the book is a quick read despite the translator's staggered efforts. This is a book to be picked up by every fan who read Blood of Elves and enjoyed it, as it is more of the same and then some. And best (and worst) of all, it leaves you wanting more. At this moment, I am considering the long wait to the next edition against the inconsistent waters of fan translations. If not obvious, I loathe badly translated works. If the fact that I am willing to resort to the unpolished efforts of fans in translating the sequential editions of the series, in lieu of waiting for Orbit to tumble out another official release, is not evidence enough of this series's compelling drive, then I am at a loss as to what else to say.