Book Review – GOOD STUFF BAD STUFF – THE LAST WISH by ANDRZEJ SAPKOWSKI
THE LAST WISH
By ANDRZEJ SAPKOWSKI
I was never into fantasy novels, they tend to overwhelm me with their lingo. When you don’t understand the majority of what you read because the author assumes you have prior knowledge of every single subject, you can’t get much enjoyment out of the experience. This is how I would cautiously advice to read THE LAST WISH, the first book of THE WITCHER series.
I came to discover a lot about the world of THE WITCHER by playing the video game. A craving for more stories surrounding Geralt, a mutated monster slayer for hire, lead me to the origin of it all: Sapkowski’s books. The game prepared me to not confuse Spriggan with Striga, but for everyone unfamiliar with the series, like in other fantasy books, there will is cause for confusion.
THE LAST WISH contains one overarching tale that is interrupted by several short stories of Geralt’s ventures from town to town, looking for work. Don’t be fooled, though, for these are not some cheesy action stories surrounding a badass macho male character slaying vile beasts. These stories are driven by characters, their emotions and moral dilemmas, and then, well, a side of badassery with slaying of vile beasts.
Geralt is a Witcher, a human who was abducted as a child and underwent painful mutations to enhance his senses for combat and tracking. He also gained the ability to cast “simple” spells like shooting a short burst of fire or perform a Jedi mind-trick. This might sound impressive to normal humans like us, but sorcerers within the book never seize to mock these abilities as if they were magic tricks at a children’s birthday party.
Witchers are freelancers in the pest control trade where they go from door to door in search of their next source of income. Not all creatures can be bested with sword and fire, though. Sometimes a Witcher will need to lift a curse by performing a ritual or find another alternative way to fulfill his contracts. Geralt also has a moral code where he will not mindlessly kill monsters that are sentient rather than beasts of instinct. Besides being torn between murder and mercy, the Witcher always has to deal with some kind of mystery or an unexpected plot twist surrounding his jobs.
Some of the short stories are variations of Grimm’s fairy tales but provide fresh and dark details to surprise you even if you think you know what will happen. Most of the times I didn’t even recognize the fairy tale that inspired a short story until the very end.
Even if you are not a fantasy reader, these stories are intriguing as they focus mainly on characters that point mirrors into the minds of people in modern times. The world and magic within it are merely the stage and setting on which the main personalities perform.
THE LAST WISH is also a very quick read. The stories are mostly short enough to keep you craving more and more, until you realize you have already finished the book. Luckily, I always have the next one handy.
Despite this being the first book that introduces you into the world of THE WITCHER, Geralt has lived a long live already, met many people from different social classes, and visited a lot of places before. Characters might pop up out of nowhere who Geralt had met years before and with all their many strange names, it is easy to forget some of these people or get confused by the sudden familiarity displayed by the Witcher. Getting used to the names of people, places, and monsters can be tricky if you haven’t already devoted some of your time to the universe via the video game. This can be overcome with an open mind and a little patience, but if you’re not ready for it, it could put you off from reading any further.
If you’re a fan of the games and need more lore, you will love the books. Fans of fantasy will find this to be an easy, enjoyable read. However, if none of these apply to you, I would proceed with caution. The best way to give this book a chance when you’re on the fence about it is to skip right ahead to the short story GRAIN OF TRUTH and use that as a sample to find out whether the rest of the book, and the entire series, is right for you.