Title: The Tower of Fools.
Series: Hussite Trilogy #1.
Writer(s): Andrzej Sapkowski.
Release Date: October 27th, 2020 (First Published 2002).
Genre(s): Fantasy, Historical Fiction.
My Overall Rating:
Mankind is capable of many vices. Throughout history, we have been subject to severe punishments, attempting to cleanse the population of these vile beings capable of corrupting good whenever they please. As various factions rose to power, the indoctrination of the populace was within their grasp and anything they willed could become a heresy. Just when the common folk became vulnerable, things couldn’t get any more chaotic as the Church finally got their hands deep in the jar of power. For one young man who lives and breathes in vices, both the human and magical kind, whether he wants to or not, life got a lot more complicated. Originally published in Polish in 2002, translator David French offers readers the chance to read the Hussite Trilogy in English by the best-selling author who brought the world the critically-acclaimed Witcher books.
What is The Tower of Fools about? The story follows Reinmar of Bielawa, also known as Reynevan to some, in his journey to escape from powerful men looking to rip his head off his shoulders. It all began when his uncontrollable desires lead him to bed a taken woman only for her brothers to discover this blasphemous act. Things get a bit more problematic when one of the brothers meets his death in a tragic manner and vengeance drives the rest of them on a wild hunt. Unfortunately for Reynevan, the young man’s aptitudes as a healer/magician also lead the Holy Inquisition to hunt him, whatever means necessary. Set during the Hussite Wars, in Silesia in 1425, the religious tensions thus rise while the young charlatan runs from menacing and mystical threats and sees him stumble his way to the Narrenturm where lies the Tower of Fools.
“Vanitas vanitatum, Reinmar! Vanity of vanities and all is vanity! Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry, ‘for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.’ Remember—melior est canis vivus leone mortuo, a living dog is better than a dead lion.”— Andrzej Sapkowski
Writer Andrzej Sapkowski introduces readers to a story abundantly rich in history and light in fantasy. A relatively linear storytelling narrative sends the protagonist on a journey with countless peripeteia that will require him to showcase some significant cunningness to escape the grasps of a myriad of individuals looking to capture or kill him. Although the author does, unfortunately, drown the reader in historical context, confuse them with Latin words and expressions interspersed in the narrative, and name drops far too many characters for readers to ever truly immerse themselves in the story, it is safe to say that every chapter sends the reader down an episodic adventure where Reynevan grows his fellowship and encounters outlandish individuals, from past acquaintances to inhuman creatures, such as witches or werewolves. It is especially through the protagonist’s subtle wickedness and slyness that the story develops a somewhat amusing prose that captures the premise’s idiosyncrasy.
On top of the extensive historical overlay, this story also heavily incorporates religious, political, and philosophical undertones that are sometimes clumsily incorporated in the story. In spite of their relevance in starkly exposing a time period brimming with power struggles and conspiracy, they also hinder the reader’s ability to properly connect with the deeply flawed and fairly despicable protagonist while also stripping away any opportunity for an authentic sense of companionship among the group that is slowly formed throughout the story. It is also enjoyable to see how writer Andrzej Sapkowski incorporates the light-fantasy elements into this alternate historical world, however, it all remains poorly developed in the grand scheme of things as readers rarely get to embrace the magical elements during the various action scenes in the narrative plot structure. While this adventure is rough around its edges, it undoubtedly has great potential to deliver a stunning sequel and finale.
The Tower of Fools is a sweeping journey packed with strange encounters and peculiar resolutions, wrapped in an overloaded historical fantasy.