About the Author:
Andrzej Sapkowski is a Polish author and the winner of the first David Gemmell Legend Award.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.7 out of 5
Season Of Storms
3 out of 5
Sword Of Destiny
Book 2 of the Witcher series (but still not part of the Witcher Saga). Geralt of Rivia returns in a series of adventures that sees him reunited with his friend Dandelion the bard, as well as with his great doomed love Yennefer of Vengerberg, to face dragons, mimics, dryads and mermaids. His adventures also inexorably lead him towards his destiny; a small princess by the name of Ciri.
Although this book is like 'The Last Wish' in that it's a collection of short stories, here they aren't presented with a framing narrative and instead flow one into the next in a much more satisfying way. Sapkowski has done such a good job of threading major themes through his otherwise independent tales that this feels much more like a natural novel. The two things that particularly tie this book together cohesively are Geralt scorn of destiny, despite its obvious influence, and his impossible romance with Yennefer. There's a great deal of pathos in seeing Geralt and Yen rediscover their feeling for one another, only for the relationship to fall apart, followed by brief trysts and, ultimately, to have Geralt confront the possibility that she has been killed fighting the forces of Nilfgaard. You genuinely feel for these two characters who seemingly believe themselves undeserving or incapable of love, but nevertheless clearly deeply love each other knowing that it can't work.
Also, although we lose most of the fairytale elements that were in 'The Last Wish', the book never takes itself too seriously, giving both Geralt and Dandelion (Jaskier in the TV series, if you were wondering) some great moments of cynical meta humour. As before, it's Geralt's capacity for sarcasm that really endears him as a character and Dandelion is absolutely his equal in that, whilst being of a completely different nature.
This is a great read and if you've not read 'The Last Wish', this would be almost as good a jumping-on point for someone looking to get into the Witcher series.
4 out of 5
The Last Wish
The first book of the Witcher series (but, confusingly, not Book 1 of the Witcher Saga). Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, a magically-created mutant who hunts monsters for a living. Whilst recovering in a temple after battling such a monster, Geralt recalls a number of his previous adventures in which he faces were-creatures, vampires, devils, elves and more. He also relates the stories of meeting his two closest friends; the wandering bard Dandelion and the tempestuous sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg.
Some have called this book an anthology because it primarily consists of a number of self-contained stories which were previous published separately as short stories. However, the bookending device threaded between the stories gives it enough connective tissue that it feels more an episodic novel than just a collection of stories. And, honestly, I quite enjoyed that episodic feel because it's a good way to give us, the readers, a wide-ranging introduction to Geralt's world and the denizens thereof.
Cards on the table, I came to this book after having watched the Netflix TV series, but it's been on my radar for years thanks to the popularity of the computer games series it also inspired. What surprised me was discovering that the fairly modern sensibilities of Geralt's scathing wit was not something added-in to the TV series and instead comes straight from the pages of this book. A case in point is where a wizard is very seriously laying out a world-threatening prophecy and Geralt tells him it's rubbish because it doesn't even rhyme. In fact, what sets Geralt of Rivia apart from other fictional anti-heroes who fit the 'grim loner with a code of honour' mold is his wonderfully sarcastic sense of humour. I'm British, so sarcasm runs in our veins and I really enjoyed it being added to irreverently into a fantasy world.
What really hooked me on this book though is its approach to the fantastical world it's set in. For all the gritty realism of Geralt himself, the world he lives in has definitely fairytale elements and, almost despite himself, Geralt is forced to admit things like the existence of genies or the power of true love's kiss. Sapkowski also does a brilliant job of blending eastern European folklore, something not often explored in so-called 'high fantasy', and more familiar fairy tales (many of which, admittedly, probably originated in that part of the world before migrating westwards). So, be prepared to find references, often darkly cynical, to the likes of Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and even Cinderella.
4 out of 5