Book – The Last Wish
Author – Andrzej Sapkowski
Year – 1993
Pages – 280
Genre – Fantasy
Series – The Witcher
Bought for me by Alex Campbell
I don’t know if I can think of any other series of books that is more famous as a computer game than in a different medium, but outside of its native Poland, The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapowski may be one such example. The Witcher III was released a few years back, and was lauded as one of the most impressive games around. With the upcoming Netflix series due to arrive any time soon, there is a chance for these books to become all the more relevant, so having received this book as a Christmas gift, I thought it was time to give it a whirl.
Geralt is a witcher of some renown. Trained in combat and also magic, they travel the world looking for monsters to slay, but always for a price. Geralt is injured in a battle, and rests up at a temple where he is looked after. As he rests, he has discussions with various friends that remind him of things that have happened to him in the past. This provides a framing story for these tales, and gives us some backstory into what made him the man he is today.
So far, so fantasy. But it’s great when this is well done, and this really is. I particularly enjoy how much of the world is influenced by fairy tales – there are elements of many stories that echo Beauty and the Beast or Snow White for example – but without the world even slightly coming across as a fairy tale land. It has many of the elements of high fantasy but with enough crossover to make it somewhat fascinating. Geralt sometimes struggles for work as people don’t want to pay to get rid of the monsters – as one mayor says, the troll demands very little to cross the bridge, and the amount of upkeep he does on it is probably worth that level of taxation. This gives it a somewhat modern feel – maybe even more so now than when it was first published two and a half decades ago.
It was interestingly not the first Witcher story written, and this, along with a second book of short Geralt stories are a precursor to the more traditional saga that makes up the bulk of Sapkowski’s writing on the subject. Something that I think I will take the pains to find and read.