Synopsis: Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.
A collection of short stories introducing Geralt of Rivia, to be followed by the first novel in the actual series, The Blood of Elves. Note that, while The Last Wish was published after The Sword of Destiny, the stories contained in The Last Wish take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before The Sword of Destiny.
“Only Evil and Greater Evil exist and beyond them, in the shadows, lurks True Evil. True Evil, Geralt, is something you can barely imagine, even if you believe nothing can still surprise you. And sometimes True Evil seizes you by the throat and demands that you choose between it and another, slightly lesser, Evil.”
The Last Wish is the first novel by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski to be published in English of The Witcher series (translated by Danusia Stok!) It is the collection that inspired CD Projekt Red’s badass Witcher video games, of which I am a huge fan of. I’ve been playing those games for years, with the intention of eventually getting to the source material. Mainly the setback was that it took a long-ass time for the English translations to be released. Then of course there is the problem of an endless TBR.. which truly is a wonderful problem to have! But it makes getting to a series more difficult, of course. There’s just.. so much out there that I want to devour! With season one of the Netflix adaptation having finished production, here I am. Finally.
The Witcher game series takes place within this world (an unmapped land known as the Continent), but is set years after the final book. The games aren’t direct adaptations, rather, they are spin-offs. Written in 1993, The Last Wish introduces us to Geralt of Rivia. In the first game, Geralt suffers from amnesia & doesn’t remember any of the events that happened in these books. The books consist of two short story collections & five full-length novels.
Witchers are genetically enhanced humans that train intensely from an early age to battle monsters. After years of mental & physical torture.. er.. “training,” they go through a ritual where most do not survive. Those that do are never the same. They become merciless assassins with magical powers that are immune to most diseases. They also gain an unnaturally long life span, yet become sterile.
The Last Wish is a loosely connected collection of six short stories. It actually took me a hot second before realizing that because the book is broken up into chapters, which made it seem like one full story. It literally begins with Geralt getting fucked, which.. if you’ve played the games, you know this isn’t out of character. Dude doesn’t have any trouble getting laid, that is for sure.
My favorite was the titular story, The Last Wish. Unsurprising, really. This is when Geralt meets Yennefer, the powerful sorceress who I couldn’t help but fall in love with in the game. ::Spoiler:: Having to choose between Yen & Triss is one of life’s toughest decisions! ::End spoiler::
I was also happy to see more of Dandelion, the bard (& Geralt’s best friend), in these stories. He steals each scene he is in! The Last Wish managed to give him more depth & elevate the friendship that we get a glimpse of within the games.
Delightfully dry humor, mythology brimming with radical creatures & a group of interesting characters, The Last Wish is a great introduction to this universe. However, something I was missing is the detailed world-building I look for in a first book. Because these are short stories, it feels like it jumped around in terms of fleshing out the Continent. I’m assuming this will be rectified further in the series, considering there are plenty more books to detail such things.
I’m thoroughly looking forward to more of Geralt’s adventures!
(Massive thanks to the radical folks over at Orbit Books for sending me the series to read & review last year. Excited to finally get started on them!)