As I was saying about The Tower of the Swallow as well, The Lady of the Lake is often confusing, flitting between a patchwork of times and places, switching points of view, not giving the characters room and sometimes leaving the reader with something of a puzzle to put together. However, though there’s something to be said about the nice feast scene and the great sex scene that follows, perhaps the best example of this patchwork, Ciri hopping through worlds and times, is also where the book seems to really get going, being confusing and yet somehow right, and including emotionally intense moments.
The chapter about the Battle of Brenna was also quite impressive, though not for the depiction of the battle itself, and perhaps mainly for that bit at the end about the future of the healers. What follows, Stygga Castle, is a much smaller battle but better presented, more thrilling, and if you make some allowances for the bad guys exhibiting the sort of typical behavior that offers the heroes a chance to defeat them that they shouldn’t have, what I hoped to find in this book. And the aftermath can pack quite a punch. Then it’s back to jumping between times and places, yet it all paints a picture if you put it together… A desolate, depressing picture, which only gets worse in the final chapter.
Sapkowski mercilessly destroys his characters, those who die earlier being perhaps the lucky ones, and the survivors the most unfortunate. The world depicted sadly continues to accurately mirror our own, the way it turns out despite all the characters’ efforts, shunning and punishing them after all they have sacrificed, Evil that has rights and is taken into account in treaties, “progress” that is anything but, not because of conspiracies or secret plots, but because of the rotten, “simple and indeed universal traits” of people… There’s no place left for the heroes, they’re forced into lives that are not their own, leaving them disheartened, broken, mentally and physically, more or less lost… And then, of course, there’s the manner of death…