“Evil is evil, Stregobor,’ said the witcher seriously as he got up. ‘Lesser, greater, middling, it’s all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I’m not a pious hermit, I haven’t done only good in my life. But if I’m to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”
The Last Wish (The Witcher #1)
By Andrzej Sapkowski
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.
Like literally millions of other people I enjoyed the hell out of The Witcher 3 : Wild Hunt when it was released last year. It was my first foray into CD-Projekt’s world adapted from the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, and it ultimately compelled me to take a chance on the source material itself.
The Last Wish is the first of the series chronologically. It is also, unlike later titles, not a single cohesive novel. Sapkowski divides the books into shorter stories that are themselves framed within each other- stories within stories. Each of these tales follows Geralt, who is essentially a mercenary monster hunter, to a different location to deal with a different type of beast or being. Through these stories readers are given twisted versions of familiar fairy tales (Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin) while they are being introduced to the complex realm of magic and politics that Sapkowski creates.
As a player of the games, I have to say that CDPR absolutely nailed the tone. The contracts and quests in-game feel just like those in the short stories of the source. Geralt deals with lords and commoners alike, fighting monsters both great and small and solving community problems in ways that may not have been originally intended. The stories vary in scale of importance to the overall world- but that is also true in the video games. When you make your living (or your virtual money) off of dealing with magical creatures, no posting is too insignificant.
Should You Read This?
Enthusiastically, yes. This is great fantasy, even for someone who may not consider themselves to be a fan of the genre. The stories are short, but engaging. They take familiar themes and tropes and make them darker, more gritty, more unexpected.
You also could easily read this without having played any of the games. This book predates the first in the game series by 15 years, and the games themselves take place after the books end (or in a future alternate universe, depending on who you ask). You know what, do this. Read this book, then hit up the video games. Wild Hunt is probably the best AAA release I’ve played since… hmmm… Mass Effect 2?
And for players of the games? Familiar characters make their appearance in these tales- we see the first meeting with Yennifer, adventures with Dandelion, and the origin of Ciri before Ciri ever came to be. My reading certainly added to my appreciation of Wild Hunt, and makes me wish I had more time to play it since I still haven’t picked up either of the expansion packs…
Summary from Goodreads