Series: Witcher #1
Publisher: Orbit (December 14, 2008)
Author Information: Website
Length: 388 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
Before picking up The Last Wish, I was briefed by my friends on what to expect, prepared to experience a pulp fiction story similar to Robert E. Howard’s Conan and Michael Moorcock’s Elric, so I was not surprised to find this novel a “frame” tale collecting a series of unrelated short stories. Certainly, I could see that there was an overarching plot right under the surface, but the fascinating thing about this volume was the unique spin on old fairy tales, the compelling introduction to the main character. And so — for the type of book it was — this initial installment of The Witcher series was was a damn fine read.
The protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, is a witcher: A man trained and transformed to hunt and destroy monsters. In his world, monsters — few though they may be — still torment humankind, and to be rid of their threat, nobles and commoners alike are willing to employ witchers to hunt down and destroy these creatures. But though he and his fellow witchers are useful, Geralt’s kind is not loved, but viewed as a necessary evil at best, charlatans at worst. Even worse is the reality that as witchers go about ridding the world of vile threat, they are, in reality, slowly creating a world which does not need or want them in society. This inevitable situation leading Geralt to struggle to find a balance in life, second guessing his decisions and, ultimately, causing him to look for a new place to create a new life.
Obviously, my favorite part of The Last Wish was getting to know Geralt; the tidbits of information about his past and his hopes for the future delectable morsels that I savored, even as I was thrilled by his pulse-pounding monster hunting adventures. The horror infused and moody atmosphere of many of his adventures especially compelling.
As for criticisms, I don’t have any important ones. Certainly, the translation from Polish into English did result in a few rough edges and problematic prose here and there, but it wasn’t too distracting. And, no, I personally did not love Dandelion very much (though I realize other readers seem to adore him); his more humorous personality detracting from the moody atmosphere which otherwise prevailed around Geralt at all times. But these were minor issues in the scope of the reading experience.
Overall, The Last Wish was a great introduction to The Witcher series. This book delivering a nice collection of stories which introduced me to this world, entertained me with intriguing adventures, and inspired me to carry on with Andrzej Sapkowski’s well loved fantasy series. Definitely, I want more of the dark, brooding magic of the initial stories in this volume, but I am willing to endure more Dandelion if that is the only way I can see where Geralt’s path takes him.