The Tower of Fools – Andrzej Sapkowski

“The end of the world did not occur in the Year of Our Lord 1420, although much had indicated that it would.”

Oh, this book. Just… why, why did I continue slogging through it, really? Sigh.

So. It’s 1425 Silesia (which would now be partly in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany) and a war is brewing between the Roman Church and the sect known as the Hussites. This is all real history, as it happens, and would have made for an interesting tale – not least as it’s from a very different viewpoint to what we tend to be taught or hear about in the UK. Actually, I was reminded of the same kind of argument in Name of the Rose, where one group preaches holiness through poverty, and thus comes up against the might of the powerful, wealthy, ruling parts of the faith. Enter inquisition, etc.

With this going on as more or less background, we follow the misadventures of one “Reinmar of Bielawa, also called Reynevan”. Why he needs two names I have no idea, perhaps it has a cultural significant that I missed? It’s not as if the book requires more names, given there’s a cast of hundreds, most of whom I neither cared about nor could quite keep straight. Okay, okay – that’s not uncommon for fantasy or historical fiction.

Ah, there’s another complaint. This was ‘sold’ to me as fantasy, and it’s not really. True, there are fantastical elements (demons, witches, magic, and whatever the heck a ‘wallcrawler’ is?) thrown in, but rather than enhancing a bit of historical fiction I felt it just cheapened it. Either have a lot more so it is undoubtedly fantasy (based on history), or (almost) none, imo.

Anyway, back to Reinmar. He’s not a likeable main character, given he’s an idiot driven by his… let’s say hormones (ahem), into quite frankly stupid choices every time and bumbles into an increasing number of scrapes that others then have to get him out of. Very early on I was wondering why on earth they were bothering.

And… that’s about it. So. Much. Yawn. The ending hints at further adventures in books 2 and 3, but after almost 500 pages of him being a total a*%e I have zero interest in spending more time with Reinmar, nor would I believe any improvement in his character.

Can I whine about more? Oh yes. The language feels inconsistent in tone and that’s before the many, many bits of Latin and worse thrown in that just irritated me. The first few preamble lines suggested that this might be a tale being recounted third hand, but that stylistic element almost disappears – apart from some vaguely amusing chapter headings, I’ll grant it that. Most of all, very little makes that much sense: why the magic? Why does anyone give a stuff about the main character? Why would I enjoy a book where women are bodies to be made use of – and then described in terms of pomegranates?!

So. Hard pass on any of the rest of the series, and seriously recommend avoiding this one like the plague. Admittedly, I seem to be very much in the minority based on the reviews of the original version, so blame could be perhaps put on the translation? It probably doesn’t help. And of course, don’t go in thinking it’s anything like the Witcher. At least, not in any positive ways.

eARC from SecretReaders: 464 pages / 29 chapters
First published: October 27th 2020 (in English, original in 2002)
Series: Hussite trilogy book 1
Read from 16th June – 22nd July 2020

My rating: 3/10 – not actually the worst thing I’ve read, just… bleh. Urm, still – thanks to the publishers for the chance…? o.O

As an aside, this was my first attempt at using Secret Readers, an ARC service from Hachette. The idea isn’t bad, but I hated being forced to read on my phone since you were tied to the app – NetGalley sends books direct to my kindle for less eye-strain, thank you very much! – and it isn’t a particularly user-friendly app at that. This may have made me hate the book even more, but it was doing a pretty good job on its own.

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