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Literature / The Time of Contempt

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The fourth book in The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. The book was originally released in Polish, and an English translation was released after numerous delays in August of 2013.

While mentoring Ciri in the art of magic, Yennefer is invited to the upcoming council of sorcerers at the Isle of Thanedd. Thanks to the insubordination of Ciri, who is not thrilled by the prospect of becoming a humble student of magic, they reunite with Geralt. However, things go downhill fast; the schemes wrought during the council go well beyond the average when a coup d'etat breaks out amongst the mages. Meanwhile, Nilfgaard wastes not the opportunity to renew its northward onslaught, starting a massive campaign that leads them to crush the Northern Kingdoms one by one.


Tropes found in the book:

  • The Archmage: Tissaia is able to tear down all of the defenses of an island by herself, which other mages had spent months putting up. It proves to be a profoundly stupid thing to do.
  • The Beautiful Elite: This is how mages are portrayed.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Second Nilfgaard War has the Nilfgaardians act in a truly monstrous fashion but the Kings in the North act thoroughly contemptible during it too. Still, Nilfgaard is actively destroying nations while the Northern monarchs are just profiting from it.
    • Displayed on smaller scale, when a Kaedweni platoon leader instructs his men to absolutely stay their hand from pillaging the villages they pass through in order to appear "representable", but concedes that raping women is okay, as long they do it out of sight.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Tissaia finds the idea ludicrous that a mage would ever choose their homelands over their fellow wizards. She is disgusted, contemptuous even, that mages would fight for the North against other mages who would fight for Nilfgaard. She also believes magic should be a wizard's only passion and that all sorceresses should be sterilized.
    • Leads to a Break the Haughty moment when she discovers not only DO mages hold nationalist sentiments but they are willing to fight and die for them. That compared to their homelands, political power, and race, that magic is a MINOR consideration.
  • Break the Cutie: The entire book is one long, drawn-out case of cutie-breaking for Ciri. Aside from suffering her recurring nightmares with the Nilfgaardian black knight, Ciri is nearly captured by multiple people during the Thanedd Coup, is forced to draw blood for the first time, ends up stranded in a desert where she is forced to eat bugs and drink mud to stave off starvation and dehydration, loses the unicorn she befriended over the course of that ordeal, is captured, hog-tied and nearly raped by a band of brigands, only to be rescued by another band of brigands, one of whom more or less does rape her. It's no surprise Ciri's character begins walking down a dark road.
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  • Brought Down to Normal: While not normal, Ciri relinquishes her potential to become a godlike Sorcerer forever.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Vilgefortz and Franscesca Finderbair along with all of their associates are in the pocket of Nilfgaard.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Vilgefortz, irritated with Geralt's taunting, proceeds to beat the living shit out of him. A tad earlier, Geralt slices through Cahir's squad.
    • Lampshaded. While recovering from his fight with Vilgefortz, Geralt thinks of what he could have done to avoid being so badly hurt, and comes to conclusion that nothing would have helped — his opponent was so above his level that if he wanted to leave the fight unharmed, he should have run away.
    • On a larger scale, the Nilfgaardian Empire swiftly crushes nearly all resistance in the Northern Kingdoms upon arrival, leaving the last few free kingdoms scrambling to sign non-aggression treaties.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The mages live lives of hedonistic luxury, fine food, sex, and gossip. They're also now bitterly divided into those who support the North and those who support the Empire.
  • Dirty Coward: How the North's monarchs react to Nilfgaard's invasion once things go South.
  • The Dragon: Vilgefortz has been serving as this to Emhyr for decades. In truth, he's been The Starscream all the time. Emhyr wasn't fooled for a second, though.
  • For Wantof A Nail: The narration jokes that the history of all the events that happened later would have been much different when, right after the Thanedd coup kicks off, Geralt wakes ups and heads towards a bathroom instead of pissing in a flowerpot in his and Yennefer's room like most would have done.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Tissaia's disgust for Philippa and Dijkstra's arrest of the Thanedd Coup members is built around her belief the North is full of genocidal murderers even if Nilfgaard is just as bad. The idea that the people they've arrested really are dangerous murderers who want to slaughter their fellow mages for Nilfgaard doesn't cross her mind.
  • Kick the Dog: After Blood of Elves made things murkier, Nilfgaard is back to being evil.
    “War to the castles, peace to the villages,” Coehoorn said to his commanders yesterday. You know that principle,’ he added at once. ‘You learned it in officer training. That principle applied until today; from tomorrow you’re to forget it. From tomorrow a different principle applies, which will now be the battle cry of the war we are waging. The battle cry and my orders run: War on everything alive. War on everything that can burn. You are to leave scorched earth behind you. From tomorrow, we take war beyond the line we will withdraw behind after signing the treaty. We are withdrawing, but there is to be nothing but scorched earth beyond that line. The kingdoms of Rivia and Aedirn are to be reduced to ashes! Remember Sodden! The time of revenge is with us!’
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Mages traditionally look down on combat and fighting-skills as beneath them. Vilgefortz is the exception and it costs Geralt dearly.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: A sex scene between Geralt and Yennefer about halfway through the book elicits both applause and complaints from people in nearby rooms.
  • Information Broker: Codringher (and Fenn), an Amoral Attorney complete with Right-Hand Cat, who for a good price can find any info or secure any court verdict. Geralt hires him to gather info on matters related to Ciri.
  • Irony: In the prologue there are rumors of the death of Princess Cirilla of Cintra, and a horse messenger is hired to deliver a message from King Foltest to King Demavend which confirms this. Unbeknownst to the messenger, he had encountered Ciri(lla) and Yennefer in a town he'd passed after he first heard the rumors.
  • Magic Knight: Geralt never suspects Vilgefortz is one of these, even though he notes that he'd been a mercenary in his youth. It ends poorly for him.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Tissaia thinks this is a stupid disgusting idea and that the North is no better than Nilfgaard. She thinks mages must hold themselves to a higher standard of morality. The vast-vast majority of mages, it turns out,disagree.
    • Philippa, in particular, is a nationalist of Redania and is genuinely outraged by the betrayal of the mages allied with Nilfgaard.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: In-Universe, Ciri names herself Falka.(an infamous rebellion leader in the North) to the Rats.
  • Neutral No Longer: Almost every single mage in the North chooses a side between Nilfgaard and the Northern Kingdoms. Tissaia is stunned when she realizes she and a handful of others are the only mages out of thousands who are more loyal to each other than their homelands.
    • Geralt insists on remaining neutral but because of his Papa Wolf protection of Ciri, he's in EVERYONE'S way.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: Tissaia frees her fellow mages from bondage at the hands of Dijkstra and Philippa. The bound mages then proceed to start massacring everyone they can lay their hands on.
  • Papa Wolf: Everything between Geralt and Ciri is slaughtered in a manner not too dissimilar to Taken. Until Geralt meets Vilgefortz and the best he can do is slow him down by letting him beat on him.
  • Party Scattering: Happens to the main cast of the series during the Thanedd coup at the end of the book.
  • Questionable Consent: Ciri is rescued from gang rape by the Rats, Affably Evil types after she kills her first person. Traumatized, Ciri doesn't resist when Kayleigh tries to have sex with her but is obviously terrified. Mistle 'rescues' her only for her to have sex with her instead. Ciri still feels frightened and contaminated by her rape by Mistle. She continues to exhibit signs of dissociation, submissiveness, and Stockholm Syndrome several books on. It could be a genuine depiction of a young teenager who’s been through wave after wave of trauma while being sexually menaced by everyone she encounters. She could easily have fixated on Mistle as the least horrifying threat and channeled her subsequent rage and humiliation into violence toward the Rats’ victims. Survival does scary things to people.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Rats.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: How Nilfgaard handles the Second Invasion of the North.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Nilfgaard abandons the elven Scoia'tael partisans that assisted their invasion of the North by refusing to let them retreat to the Valley of Flowers, behind the front lines.
  • Self-Made Man: Vilgefortz went from the gutter to being the most powerful man in the North after the monarchs.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Ralf Blunden, The Professor, (no, not the one from the game!) speaks this way.
  • The Starscream: Vilgefortz is this to Emhyr and betrays him during the Second Invasion by sending him a Fake Ciri.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Implied to be the case for Ciri and her feelings towards Mistle. Even though Mistle effectively raped her, Ciri gets attached to her because she had just gone through a severe Trauma Conga Line and the Rat was the first person to consistently treat her with some measure of respect and kindness up until that point. That and because the alternative was to be alone.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The portal in the Tower of the Seagull is supposed to be connected to the mysterious Tower of the Swallow but has long been known to malfunction. Ciri learns this the hard way when she ends up in the middle of the Korath Desert after using the portal to escape from Thanedd.
  • War Is Hell: How the Second Nilfgaard War is portrayed for Aedirn and Lyria.
  • We Can Rule Together: Vilgefortz really thinks Geralt should abandon being a Witcher, study to be a sorcerer, and become his right hand man. Geralt is genuinely confused why he even cares.
  • Wham Episode: The Thanedd Coup represents the turning point in the saga, where things go completely to hell, not only for the North, but for the protagonists. The differing allegiances of the sorcerers are revealed, causing fighting to break out everywhere between those aligned with the North and those secretly working for Nilfgaard. Yennefer disappears without a trace, Ciri is forced to escape the chaos by running into a portal, and Geralt battles his way across the island to find both of them only to be defeated by Vilgefortz. In the aftermath, Geralt is gravely injured, Yennefer's whereabouts are unknown, and Ciri is left stranded alone in a desert far from civilization.
  • Wizarding School: Arethusa on Thanedd, where Yennefer intends to enroll Ciri.

Alternative Title(s): Times Of Contempt


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