Review: Sword of Destiny

Sword of DestinySword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Witcher series continues to be a breath of fresh air for the fantasy genre, which continues to be a supremely ironic thing to say considering this book was first published in 1992. This book continues the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, notable monster slayer and sorceress lover. The book itself is a collection of short stories as Geralt moves from one adventure to another, though these tales feel more connected than the stories from the previous book “the Last Wish.” In particular, we see how some of the biggest arcs of the Witcher storyline begin to take shape, especially the first meeting between Geralt and his Child of Destiny, Ciri (which was a hugely exciting moment considering Ciri’s role in the Witcher 3).

If there’s one thing about this book that I wasn’t crazy about, it’s this; I feel very much like I’m exploring this world without a road map, and not in a cool “let’s see what’s out there” way but in a “I feel like I’m missing something important here.” A lot of terminology isn’t explained and concepts and descriptions must be inferred from context, which is sometimes difficult considering the sparse, utilitarian writing style. It’s a problem with the previous book as well, honestly, but it didn’t bother me as much because even though it was the first book, I thought it might all be explained. Here, though, I was aware that despite having played one of the games, read two novels, and a graphic novel . . . there were still details that I didn’t quite follow.

That said, don’t overlook this book. It’s a wonderful fantasy world and everything about it and everyone in it are interesting and exciting. Most of all, however, is the fact that nothing about the Witcher feels like it’s in the long shadow cast by the Lord of the Rings. I have no idea if author Andrezj Sapkowski ever read Lord of the Rings, but even if he did, its influence isn’t here. Maybe it’s a product of cultural difference; the Witcher draws very heavily on its polish origins, but for an American reader, that creates a feeling of an entirely new world, something that isn’t easy to come by in the fantasy genre.

So, although I didn’t plow through this book with the reckless abandon of the first volume, I still enjoyed my time in Geralt’s world and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

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Review: The Last Wish

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After spending almost two months enmeshed in the video game “Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” I wanted to explore more of Geralt’s world. While the game itself was made very accessible to a newcomer in the series (despite being based on a book series and being the third game), I knew there was so much more going on that deeper fans would understand that I was missing out on. So here I am, having finished the first book, which is a collection of short stories.

“The Last Wish” made me realize how narrow my world can be sometimes. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? It makes it sound like this was a bad book. But it’s not.

“The Last Wish” was written in 1992. It’s been out there, all this time, and yet I was wholly unaware of it until it gained enough fans to warrant a translation into English. How many other wonderful worlds are out there that I’m oblivious to? How many amazing stories are there to discover? I’ve heard constantly that the fantasy genre is shackled to the formula set down by Tolkien, but it wasn’t until “the Last Wish” that I realized what a breath of fresh air it was to be in a different style of world.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still elves and dwarves here, but the core of the Witcher’s world, the skeleton of it is based on dark fairy tales. It’s not the same old fantasy, but it reminds me of the early days when I’d first discovered fantasy novels and that feeling of diving headfirst into a mythical world. I’ve grown jaded and bitter in my grizzled old age, having read so many stories that followed along the well-worn path. But “the Last Wish” proves that there’s more out there, more to be discovered. It’s a good feeling and a great reminder.

And the book itself? You don’t need to play the game to read this book; if you like fantasy AT ALL, it’s worth your time. But there’s a very good chance you’ll want to pick up a controller after spending even a little time in Geralt’s world. Either that, or the next book in the series. Either way, it’s worth your time.

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Review: The Witcher: House of Glass

The Witcher: House of GlassThe Witcher: House of Glass by Paul Tobin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been completely sucked into the world of the Witcher since I started playing the third Witcher game a few months ago. Since then, I’ve tried to read everything I can to get familiarized with Geralt’s world and while I know there’s a series of novels waiting for me, this ended up being the first book that I’ve been able to read.

As video game graphic novels go, it’s okay. The story sagged somewhat in the middle and there were some basic assumptions about a certain character that I thought were going to be a plot twist, but ended up as something totally benign. Geralt certainly seems to have far more angst here than in the game and the continued self-references to “I’m a witcher, I don’t…” or “the witcher’s path is a lonely one” ended up getting a bit repetitive.

The art style was pretty cool, however, and there are some enjoyable moments. While the twist that I predicted ended up being completely wrong, there’s a pretty good reveal towards the end. Overall, though, I kept asking myself “why the hell would a master monster hunter allow himself to spend so much time in an obviously evil place?” Despite the fact that the titular House of Glass was full of cursed monsters and strange magic, Geralt didn’t seem to really mind that fact.

Final verdict: a fun, well illustrated graphic novel but somewhat underwhelming for my first foray into Witcher fiction, although the fact that this graphic novel appears to be a tie-in work to the game rather than the original novels might have something to do with that.

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