Title: The Last Wish: Introducing The Witcher
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Published: May 1, 2008 (English translation)
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Final Rating: 5/5
The Witcher video game series is one of my favorite games to play. I’ll admit that I haven’t finished them yet, but I love the play style and storyline. When I found out that it was originally based on a fantasy series that was actually a New York Times bestseller, my book-loving heart had to read them! The books were originally written in Polish, and the first two books in the series (seven in total) are written as short story collections. All books, except for the last one, have officially-released translations, and they are all available on Kindle or Audible.
I loved The Last Wish. It was simply a straightforward, uncluttered, and action-packed collection of stories about Geralt of Rivia. There wasn’t a lot of unnecessary time spent on world-crafting or conlangs or lore or exposition. The world, lore, and character development fell into place as I read, and there wasn’t a dull moment of plowing through attempts to match Tolkien in high fantasy or history. It is a book written for fantasy lovers and people who like action and swordfights. I wasn’t lost in trying to keep up with a hundred characters or trying to figure out the geography or political setting. I simply could enjoy the series as a well-written, uniquely creative, and continuously-moving tale of monsters, fairy tales, and Geralt, who kills those monsters and somehow woos women while he’s at it.
But there is also somehow more to the story than just fights and monsters and implied love scenes. I meet new characters that I don’t know much about yet but somehow they’re not disjointed within the story; their development organically occurs as I continue reading, but I’m never lost, and their history comes up in pieces that sit neatly into place. The author doesn’t hold my hand and have to explicitly describe every single thing (such as the “last wish” of Geralt towards the end of the book), but I can figure it out on my own from what I know of the characters. It’s descriptive enough to seed my imagination, but I’m not plugging through pages and pages of eloquent wording just to know what a character looks like. There is unique lore surrounding the witchers that I learn, but it doesn’t feel forced or like I’m being beaten over the head with all of this random information and history that I must remember. It feels like a book written by a fantasy lover for fantasy lovers, not a history book written by an overly pedantic author who thinks he is the next Tolkien (minus the creativity and skill).
There’s really not much that I do have to say about The Last Wish, other than it is exactly what I want in a recent fantasy book. The lengthy world building isn’t there, but I know exactly what I need to know to follow along and see these characters develop. Characters don’t monologue excessively as a development strategy, but the author isn’t holding my hand to describe every single hair on Geralt’s head. There is plenty of action, but I never feel like it’s a mad rush from one swordfight to another. It seriously is just a good book and a refreshing, enjoying read that is completely unique from every other fantasy writer that I’ve encountered.
The Last Wish: Introducing The Witcher is 384 pages, available on Kindle, Audible, and Amazon.