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The Last Wish is the first book review I have of The Witcher series; it’s the first book, after all. The book comprises a selection of short stories featuring our favorite witcher, Geralt. I loved the Netflix show, even though it was confusing at times, and I thoroughly enjoy the Wild Hunt (the third Witcher game), but would I love the book? I’m thrilled to say that I loved the stories as well. I think the book actually makes more sense than the series since they’re all told from Geralt’s perspective. No confusing timey-wimey stuff (well, a little bit, but it’s a lot less confusing).
Andrzej Sapowski is the author of this highly succesful series, making him one of the most successful Polish fantasy authors. It actually stared with a short story about the Witcher, published in a Polish literary magazine. Readers loved it, so Andrzej wrote more stories taking place in this world. And so we have The Last Wish novel.
Genre: Adult Action-Epic Fantasy, Short stories | Publisher: Orbit
If you don’t want to read the full book review of The Last Wish:
The Last Wish is all about Geralt of Rivia: the witcher. While a witcher should just stick to accepting coin to kill the monsters plaguing the world, Geralt finds himself intervening in the lives of humans more often than not. It’s his opinion that not all monsters look like one. And not all who look like monsters are one.
The stories really dive into the moral dilemmas that go with this. He wants to do what’s right—deep down he wants to be a hero. But fate has other plans, and sometimes the choice that seems right results in more serious consequences. And sometimes the choices are still evil.
“Evil is Evil. Lesser, greater, middling… Makes no difference. The degree is arbitrary. The definition’s blurred. If I’m to choose between one evil and another… I’d rather not choose at all.”
What I thought was an excellent choice on the author’s part was the short story called ‘The Voice of Reason.’ Here, Geralt is resting at the temple of Melitele, and the things that happen in this story, or the people mentioned ‘trigger’ the other short stories. It’s a sort of ‘red threat’ story that ties all the other stories together. It also serves to, on occasion, give a little more background on the Witcher and the people close to him.
I love Geralt—that sarcastic SOB lives in my heart. He’s brooding, smart, skilled, and always has the perfect comeback. He’s not without fear—his fight with the Stryga was a pretty close one—and he’s a lot more complex than he initially shows. I believe he’s loyal to his friends and tries what he can to help them.
“People”—Geralt turned his head—“like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves.”
Naturally, the best side-character is Dandelion. Not sure why they changed his name to Jaskier in the show, but they did stay true to his character, at least. Boastful and trying to make a song out of everything, he goes with Geralt on a few of his adventures. It usually ends up with him almost dying and Geralt needing to save his ass.
Unlike the Witcher show, Yennefer doesn’t feature much in this book (I think probably more in later books, though). She does occur in one of the stories, though—the story of how they met. And how Geralt instantly fell in love with the sorceress. I enjoyed reading about her and get a sense of her character. She’s cunning, fierce, and powerful—desperate to regain what she lost.
The world featured in the Last Wish has a ton of detail. In every short story, we learn something new—a new land, realm, or monster. We get details about wars between countries and races, different religions, sorcerers, and curses—even detailed information about some plants and the kind of potions Geralt uses. So much detail, yet it’s all told organically without becoming boring.
“Nonsense,” said the witcher. “And what’s more, it doesn’t rhyme. All decent predictions rhyme.”
What I loved the most were the details about Witchers and how they come to be. It turns out they’re chosen by Destiny—which means something miraculous must happen when the mother is pregnant. They’re then put through some pretty gruesome trials and mutations that aren’t really explained in the book, but a lot of children don’t survive. But when they do, they become spectacular assassins.
I thought the writing was excellent, with good pacing and a good balance between action, dialogue, descriptions, and internal reflection. I can’t say there was a moment I felt bored while reading.
Every one of the short stories was different—sometimes more focused on beating a monster, sometimes more about humans’ affairs, and sometimes more about Geralt’s relationships with other characters.
You’re always rooting for Geralt to beat the monster, whether they’re actually monsters or monstrous humans. With the little details the author added to the stories, the world becomes alive, and we’re taken along Geralt’s train of thought. We know his fears and desires. I couldn’t fault any of it.
So, in case you jumped straight to the conclusion, a summary of the Last Wish book review: it is an excellent collection of short stories tied together by a story that weaves through the other tales. All stories are different, yet all are exciting and reveal something new about Geralt, his companions, or the world. It’s full of great details, and all the characters are interesting and complex. Even minor character’s become vividly real in your mind. So basically: great stories, great characters, great world-building, and great writing.
Very short conclusion of this book review: read The Last Wish ASAP.
Have you read any of the books? Or watched the Netflix show or played the games? What are your thoughts on them? Let me know in the comments!
This book review is added to the November 2020 link-up, hosted by Eline from LovelyAudiobooks
If you liked this, you might also like…
- Full review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff: violent fast-paced action fantasy with trained assassins
- Red Sister by Mark Lawrence full book review: dark coming-of-age fantasy with assassin nuns
- Full review of Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: Dark Urban Fantasy, with both humans and non-human monsters
- October 2020 reading wrap-up: mini-review of The Last Wish, Echoes of the Storm, and Blood & Honey