Introduction – Skip this part if you just want to read about The Last Wish
Hello, a bit about my journey with the Witcher. I first came to the series with the first game, which I bought but couldn't quite get into despite it's praise (mostly due to the combat system). I later bought The Witcher 2 and had similar issues getting into it, plus it came out around the same time as Skyrim which stole my attention. I never got past the first chapter in either of those games (though did at least get beyond the prologues). Fast forward a bit, I started hearing about The Witcher 3 coming out and was hungry for a new open world western RPG and got very hyped for it, even building a new PC to play it (which conveniently I was able to get W3 for free due to a promotion from Nvidia when I bought my GFX Card).
I loved the game, and have become a die-hard Witcher fan as a result of it, I bought all the expansions, I have 2 editions of the Strategy Guide (original collector's guide and complete collector's guide) and currently have 2 replays of the game going on, one as a NG+ run from my first playthrough, and another on my handheld PC (GPD Win 2). I also bought The World of The Witcher companion book, read all of the graphic novels released from Dark Horse, and also bought all 8 of the novels currently available (the large red spine paperbacks) in English. So I decided I wanted to really immerse myself into The Witcher and thus I began reading the books:
Book 1 – The Last Wish
For those who haven't read it yet, The Last Wish is a collection of short stories, it has a framing narrative that sort of helps move between the different stories, but they are largely stand-alone and have little bearing on one another.
The initial story has Geralt fighting a Striga, the daughter of King Foltest transformed into a monster, this story is what inspired the amazing CG fight that CDPR made as well as the storyline in the first Witcher game. I loved this part and read it twice before continuing. It really helps to introduce how Witchers work and that despite being more than human, that Geralt is still mortal and can die.
The next story after this introduces Melitele's Temple and Mother Nenneke, a woman referenced a few times in The Witcher games who acts as a stern but compassionate matriarch who looks after Geralt and helps him whether he wants it or not. This section is the framing story that ties the other ones together, often as Geralt recounts a tale of the past in some fashion. I didn't find the story itself here particularly memorable but it works fine as a median to tell the other stories.
The next story is A Grain of Truth which seems to be an interesting take on the whole Beauty & The Beast tale with a much more grimdark twist to it. Going off the beaten path Geralt finds a merchant and his daughter murdered, later he comes upon an elaborate but rundown manor where he meets Nivellen, a cursed man who has become and learns to accept being a monster and relishes in it's few perks, namely the women he is able to barter for companionship. I really liked this story because it is the first such example of taking a popular fairy tale and twisting it in interesting ways such as showing a monster that is happy with his curse, and a true love that isn't all that she seems to be.
Then there's The Lesser Evil. A story often alluded to throughout The Witcher series every time Geralt is called The Butcher of Blaviken. This tells of how he got his title, and how a misunderstanding and a plot to kill a wizard lead to Geralt having to accept the fact that sometimes you have to pick a lesser evil. I loved hearing the details of this, and really enjoyed the twists and turns it took, despite already knowing how it would end, seeing how it got there was great. Though in hindsight I kind of expected the level of notoriety that Geralt shows with that title, that the body count would have been more than just 7 people.
A Question of Price comes next and was perhaps the most interesting bit for me because it sets in motion the events that would later lead to Geralt being the adoptive father of Ciri. It is also quite interesting as it gives us the first taste of Skellige, including Crach an Craite and Mousesack (known as Ermion in W3). It also introduces Pavetta, Ciri's mother and gives us our first taste of a Source (natural and often unwieldy affinity for magic). Most interesting of all though is the tale establishes both the Law of Surprise, as well as the character of Duny, which given his personality and demeanor in this story and who he eventually becomes as of W3 I am very eager to see his journey that transforms him from what he is here to what he becomes, as well as seeing the eventual fruits of this event, which I think have the greatest impact on the stories to come.
The Edge of the World is the next story and gives us our first taste of Dandelion and Geralt's relationship, as well as a general taste of what life is like for a Witcher desperate for work. Of course this soon spirals into a plot of conspiracy where a group of rogue elves are utilizing a sylvan to extort a local village for food. It does a great job of introducing how non-humans tend to be treated, even on the fringes of the wild and their various attitudes towards men. The tussle and fight with the Sylvan also does a great job showing that Witcher work isn't always solved clean and easily with a sword at the ready.
The last story, The Last Wish, of course tells the tale of how Geralt met Yennefer and of their fateful entanglement at the hands of a Djinn. I love how it starts innocently enough with Geralt and Dandelion just trying to fish and ends up cascading out of control as Dandelion gets magically injured and Geralt seeks help from a nearby town where he is directed to the only person who may help, a Sorceress, Yennefer, which he only meets after sneaking (or more precisely bullying) his way in. While the story does a good job introducing us to the haughty self-serving nature of Yennefer, it doesn't quite delve deeper into her personality or her true motives, though they are hinted at in the framing story where there are references to her seeking a cure for Sorceress infertility. Overall I thought it was a good start to their meeting and a good template to build off of, but definitely leaves room for their relationship to grow.
I really enjoyed this novel and despite hearing it wasn't that great of a book I felt it has some very good stories in it, I understand translating from Polish to English might take it';s toll on the quality of the prose but it felt very natural and fluid to read and it didn't waste time on flowery words and stuck to telling an interesting narrative.
The Last Wish is a great intro into the series I feel and for someone like me who really got into the series with The Witcher 3 videogame I really appreciated all the references I now understood better after reading this, you see so many inspirations for characters, events, and plot lines that all started here. It grounds Geralt as a Witcher just trying to make a living but who keeps getting tangled up in grand stories beyond the scope of his traditional role, yet he always manages to step up in some capacity even if the results aren't quite what he expects or hopes for.
I am quite excited to continue the series and will be reading Sword of Destiny next. I will try to post my thoughts and reactions on it after I finish it as well.
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