Sapkowski, Andrzej

About the Author:

Andrzej Sapkowski is a Polish author and the winner of the first David Gemmell Legend Award.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

3.3 out of 5

(4 books)

Blood Of Elves

The first book of the The Witcher Saga (but following on from 'The Last Wish' and 'Sword of Destiny', just to confuse matters).  Several years have passed since the war with Nilfgaard and the world at large believes Geralt and his ward Ciri to be dead.  However, as war with Nilfgaard looms once more and the Elven guerrillas known as  the Scoia'tel begin to rise up against the human kingdoms, Geralt re-emerges to protect Ciri and see that she completes her training as both Witcher and magician.

This is the first full-length novel to feature Geralt and is, sadly, a big disappointment.  The pacing of the book overall is terrible and there is very little in the way of compelling plot.  Considering how much I enjoyed the linked short stories which made up the two previous books (mentioned above), it was a real shame that this book failed to recapture either the clever plotting or the sense of the lives of the main characters unfolding.  In short, this book drags and, ultimately, leads nowhere (except perhaps into the sequels).

It's not that there isn't stuff to enjoy here because Sapkowski continues to give us solid prose and compelling characters, but it is all just so much lesser than what has come before that anyone who's read the previous volumes cannot help but be disappointed.

2 out of 5

 

Season Of Storms

A prequel/sequel book of the Witcher series, set amid the various adventures of 'The Last Wish'.  Visiting the Kingdom of Kerack, Geralt of Rivia finds himself arrested on trumped-up charges.  Although he is able to negotiate his freedom, Geralt discovers that his Witcher swords, one of steel and one of silver, have been stolen.  Intent on recovering his stolen weapons, he finds himself forced into encounters with seductive sorceresses, ruthless criminals, sadistic wizards and vicious guardsmen.

This is only the second Witcher book I've read and it makes for a very interesting comparison with the first one.  'The Last Wish' has received some criticism for being a series of short stories stitched together to masquerade as a novel, but I actually quite enjoyed that aspect of it.  Here, conversely, we have a novel whose structure is attempting to masquerade as a series of short stories, with the Witcher going off on all manner of tangents in his hunt for his missing swords.  It doesn't work out half as well, I'm afraid.  Where the short stories of the first book each had their own internal logic and narrative structure, the sidequests here really do feel like unnecessary tangents.

There's also a surprising lack of monster-slaying in this novel about a professional monster-slayer.  In fact, fully the first third of the book is taken up instead with the mighty Witcher going toe to toe with Kerack's bureaucracy, to little effect.  It's not that this book isn't well-written, it really is, but that doesn't change the fact that we end up sharing in Geralt's frustration and ennui regarding the processes of law, politics and bureaucracy.

What does continue to shine through, however, is Sapkowski's wonderful sense of humour and irony.  There are some genuinely funny moments scattered throughout the book, usually involving Dandelion in some way.  However, the bit that had me snort out loud was where Geralt hears the rumours of King Foltest and the striga (from the very first Witcher story ever written and incorporated into 'The Last Wish') and says '"It indeed sounds like a fabrication... Hackneyed and banal.  The person who came up with it didn't make much of an effort."'  Full marks for self-depricating humour Mr. Sapkowski.  Full marks.

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

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