Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Series: The Witcher #0.5
Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.
A collection of short stories introducing Geralt of Rivia, to be followed by the first novel in the actual series, The Blood of Elves. Note that, while The Last Wish was published after The Sword of Destiny, the stories contained in The Last Wish take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before The Sword of Destiny.
I know that I promised myself no to begin more sagas and finish with the ones I had already started, but there are a couple of reasons for starting The Witcher earlier. Well, three actually. The first one: the couple of Epic Fantasy sagas I’m already reading are in stand-by until the next release. The second: I want to “pollute” the books with the TV Show as little as possible. And the third… well.. who wouldn’t enjoy the company of Geralt of Rivia sooner than expected? Let’s unsheathe our weapons and see what adventures we find in the first book of this saga!
In this collection of stories we follow the witcher called Geralt of Rivia. A witcher is a mutant with no human emotions that devote their life to fight the monsters that crawl all over the world. But having fur and sharp fangs doesn’t make you a monster and our beloved witcher is pretty fair during his hunts. Sadly, Geralt is as welcome as he is useful, and when the job is done… he must deal with a much more common ugliness sported by the human race.
I’m not a fan of anthologies. Too many stories in a pretty short length usually means there is not much time to explore them thoroughly. I haven’t had that feeling this time, though. Granted, the almost literal adaptation for TV of most of these stories has helped a lot to connect with the book. I had had more liberty to catch details that otherwise I would have missed trying to focus on the stories being narrated. Because this is not just a simple gathering of tales about a sturdy guy with big swords killing monsters. They have a real life depth that needs a level of concentration that is not usual for this genre. Don’t get me wrong. This book is not a boring thesis about the human nature, but it has some good soup for thoughts.
Leaving that aside, there is obviously a good amount of fighting where poor Geralt is treated like a ragdoll by mean creatures of the dark. My favourite story of the bunch is the one where he meets Yennefer. It has the perfect mix of figthing, humour and worldbuilding. If you have watched the first season of the TV Show, you will find in this book many stories that will ring a bell: becoming the butcher of Blaviken, figthing the striga or the importance of the Law of Surprise. That last one is the one I have found more disappointing. It is possibly the most important one of the book and I had high hopes to understand it better than the episode of the TV Show. But it has left me even more confused than my initial state. It has even made me dislike Geralt of Rivia a little bit.
In my opinion, the weakest part of this book are the characters themselves. Not because they are horrible written or lack interest or charisma. Nothing like that. Being an anthology, I wasn’t expecting character development, but I wanted to get to know them a little better. Very little is told about the witchers or Geralt in particular, so you can imagine the rest of the cast gets even less of a biography. And if you are wondering who the hell is that guy called Dandelion who has robbed the role of Jaskier and doesn’t even toss any coin to the witcher; I must inform you that he is, in fact, Jaskier. It seems that in the English version of the book they decided to change the name of the character. Kudos to the TV Show writers for keeping the original one!
You may be asking yourselves why this weird reviewer has put the “angry” badge in this book. I’m not angry at the story. Not at all. The problem rests in the cover. Yeah, the art is superb as you can see; but in the edition I bought they have added a rather big an ugly label to remind the reader this book has been adapted as a TV Show. They have almost ruined the cover…