Title: The Witcher: The Last Wish
Author: Andrezej Sapkowski
Published by: Gollancz
Publication date: 19 Dec. 2019
Source: Personal Collection
“Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, a man whose magic powers and lifelong training have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin.
Yet he is no ordinary killer: he hunts the vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent.
But not everything monstrous-looking is evil; not everything fair is good . . . and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.“
I was brought his (And several of the other Witcher books) for my birthday and was told that The Last Wish was the perfect introduction to the world setting and characters of the series so picked it up over the first book in the series – my knowledge of the novels is limited as I’ve not seen any of the Netflix series, but played part of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
The Last Wish is a collection of short stories brought together with an over-arching story in between the chapters/stories. In a lot of respects it reminded me of The Stuff of Nightmares, a young-adult story that follows the same format that I read and reviewed last year. However, whilst I didn’t really find it overly effective in The Stuff of Nightmares, The Last Wish really makes a success of it. Naturally, the short stories are more enjoyable than the wider-plot and some more so than others – having said that I didn’t find any of the stories difficult to get through – some just stuck in the mind more than others.
I do agree with the advise I was given, The Last Wish, is a good place to start as an introduction to the vast amount of world building and characters behind The Witcher, it gives the reader a brilliant starting point to the intricate workings of the world, magic, monsters and religions and how the characters fit within these within the setting.
Naturally, we’re introduced to Geralt of Rivia, the main character of The Witcher novels, and his place within the world – or out of it. How his ‘powers’ work and what he does in order to survive in a world that dislikes that which it doesn’t understand. Essentially what we are shown within the book is a demonstration of Geralts powers and how he uses them to defeat various different monsters ranging from Vampires to Devils. I don’t know how much grounding in ‘reality’ the monsters used in The Witcher series have; possibly because of my lack of East-European folk-lore, but after reading The Last Wish I suspect that Andrezej Sapkowski has added his own twist to the folk-lore in which some of the monsters originate from anyway, so knowledge isn’t required. I am given this impression as The Last Wish does touch upon some of the more well known ‘fairy-tales’ adopted by Western Society; Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin among others.
Of the short stories one of the ones that stands out the most is the origin story of how Geralt and Yennifer of Vengerburg met was particularly entertaining in it’s own way and hearing more about the mysterious woman and the complications of their relationship from the outset was a good read, it added a bit more depth to the ‘yet another Witcher contract’ that this book could have suffered from without it.
Among the other pivotal characters we’re introduced to is Dandilion, Geralts one true friend within the series and whilst he differs greatly to the unshakeable Witcher, I found his childish sense of humour a good balance
I found the book faithful to my recollections of The Wild Hunt and thought that the book read as a stylish collection of contracts/side-quests that The Witcher might pick up within the game and I believe that my background knowledge – as slim as it is – helped the pages fly by.
I could understand that this book might confuse people who have no prior knowledge of the world setting or characters as it is said that Geralt ‘makes the sign of Aard’ (Other spells are available) and that this casual use of magic might not go down to well if it’s not know that it is magic that is being employed.
As just touched upon, this book could get a little tiresome had all the short stories been ‘Geralt find monster, Geralt kills monster.’ but I am happy to say this isn’t the case. As each sotry has it’s own satisfying conclusion – possibly with the exception of the over-arcing story between the short stories; however I found this tale to be equally engaging and it led into each short story nicely. There was a reason for each short story to be told which felt much more satisfying than the same concept in The Stuff of Nightmares – which is the only other book I have read with this format so it’s my only point of reference. However, The Stuff of Nightmares is a Young-Adult horror novel whereas The Last Wish is aimed at a more mature audience so maybe this comparison of execution is a little unfair.
I was warned by Dave over at Wordaholic Anonymous that some of the language within The Witcher series might be a bit off, due to it being translated from Polish. There were a few sentences that I had to read a couple of times but I didn’t find it too much of a problem and it didn’t hold me back as I finished this book within a couple of days of picking it up. I also know that this series is on Daves ‘to-read’ list somewhere, so when I see a review of the series go up by him, I shall add a handy link here, it’s always nice to read another readers opinion on the same book!