By: AndrzeJ Sapkowski
Geralt of Rivia, known to the common folk as the White Wolf, is a Witcher. His soul purpose in life is to hunt and kill the dangerous monsters plaguing the world. That is…in exchange for a handsome fee. However, his years of experience have taught him that not everything that looks monstrous is evil and not everything fair is good…and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.
I was surprised to find out that the Witcher video games were actually created based off of these novels. The series was recommended to me by a man who worked at Barnes and Noble as well as a friend of mine who stated with great enthusiasm that the books were both awesome and just like the games. I decided to see if their claims were true and I was not disappointed.
The Last Wish is not the first book in the series, but is instead a prequel to the first book built on a collection of short stories that follow a similar thread. I’m not usually much of a short story reader because I like to see how things develop over the course of a novel. I also feel that short stories are usually the best medium for telling morals much like Grimm’s Fairy Tales, so I have to be in a certain mood to want to read them. Which is why I was enticed when I realized the stories were connected in their own strange way and they proved themselves to be exceptionally entertaining.
Geralt is a character readers can truly admire. He is suave, smooth, and undeniably sophisticated for a man hated as much as the monsters he kills. I always knew him in the games to have a dry sense of humor and a great understanding of monsters, but I had no idea the extent of his knowledge and eloquence (which are commented on quite a lot in the book). I have a new found appreciation for Geralt after seeing how he outsmarts the people of such “superior rank” as him. He’s truly the underdog that wins the day, even when no one wants him to win.
The book bounces back and forth between the present (Geralt at a temple after becoming wounded in the first story) and the past (Geralt on some crazy, suicidal mission of yesteryear). It took me a little while to realize what was going on since I initially couldn’t tell what was the present and what was the past. In an attempt to prevent you from having the same problem, I’ll impart what I know about how to tell the difference. Any chapter marked with the title “The Voice of Reason” is Geralt in the present. Any with another title is something he is remembering.
You could argue that this novel is essentially a long “bathtub story” (one where the main character stays in the same place, doesn’t actually do anything, and just keeps having flashbacks), but I kind of liked that about it. The name of the book also come from the story that is the second to last in the whole novel, so if you are wanting to understand the title, you have to read the whole thing. While the short stories could technically be read independently of each other, they make more sense as a collective otherwise the reader won’t understand why that story is significant.
There are also heavy references to the books in the games which I (naturally) never noticed before. Characters, places, relationships, and pretty much everything in between is true to the books. That’s probably what I liked the most about it.
This novel has all the mysterious creatures, magic, swordsmanship, and crazy made-up words a J.R.R. Tolken nerd could ask for. You don’t have to play video games in order to enjoy this book. Simply possess a heart craving adventure in a far off land where fairy tales are real and (almost) anything is possible.
Overall rating: 4
P.S. If you pick up the book because you see Geralt fighting a dragon on the cover, spoiler alert…there’s no dragon. I’m sorry.