the Little Red Reviewer

The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski

Posted on: February 16, 2020

 

Confession!   I did not read any Witcher books until after I watched the Netflix show, and the major reason I got into the TV show was, um,  Henry Cavill is super hot. Yes, I am super shallow, and my response to my shallowness becoming public knowledge is: IDGAF.

 

The video games and the first two books has been floating around the house for a while,  my husband would play the game and my commentary was 100% about Geralt’s hairstyle.

 

So we watch the Netflix show, and I become obsessed with it.  If this has happened to you as well, I highly recommend @incwitcher on twitter, for the kindest most welcoming fandom on the interwebs.

 

We had the first two Witcher books on our bookshelves, and I decided to give them a try.

 

Spoilers:

Were they different from the TV show?  Yes, very much so.

Were they good?  Oh my sweet summer child,  these two books are the most fun I’ve had in ages! Snark, dry humor, adventure, good conversations, people who think they can escape the consequences of their terrible decisions (surprise! You can’t!), all my favorite things!  Apparently I really, really love world building through dialog? Who knew. Reading them made me want to watch the TV show again, so I did.

 

Why have I only read the first two books,   why haven’t I continued on in the series? Simply put, binge reading a series is totally not my thing.  Also, we haven’t picked up the others yet.

 

The first book,  The Last Wish,  is all episodic short stories, many of which have a “monster of the week” feel to them. There is a framing device which worked well for me, but other readers have been turned off by it.    I am wondering if these short stories originally appeared in magazines or other anthologies, and they were “fixed up” into a novel by way of a framing device. There’s no table of contents or anything, this isn’t presented as a collection – it is designed to be read as a novel.

 

The gist of a lot of the stories is that yes, yes, we know Geralt’s job is to literally kill monsters. But who is actually the monster here?   I recently read the original Frankenstein, so my brain was thrilled to get more of these kinds of conversations! I’m a sucker for the “monster” who is a person who was broken by their own community, sometimes their own family.

 

It certainly helped that the first couple short stories involve mythology and fairy tale retellings, which I am also a sucker for.

 

Someone on twitter, I wish I could remember who, said something about how whatever they were reading wasn’t grimdark, it was grimm – dark,  grimm as in, in these fairy tales the kids die at the end, the witch wins, there isn’t a happy ending, it is dirty and dangerous and dark AF.  That describes The Last Wish pretty well, and I just really liked that description of liking dark fiction, but fiction that isn’t “grimdark”.

I basically enjoyed every page of The Last Wish.

 

My favorite  stories involved a retelling of Snow White, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast,  and the last story, “The Last Wish”, which starts with Geralt and Dandelion opening a genie’s bottle,  having to find a sorcerer who can cure Dandelion, and if you’ve seen the TV show you know how this one ends.  It’s even more humorous in the book.

 

If you’ve seen the TV show, you remember Renfri, right?  And her band of “protectors”? In the story “The Lesser Evil”,  we get her full story, and it is a super grimm version of Snow White, like the polar opposite of the Disney version. In this version,  Renfri is the “bad guy”, or is she? Born under a curse, did her family turn her into a monster, or was she destined to be a horrible human?   They send assassins after her, and finally a wizard tries to take care of her. It is awful of me, I know, but I laughed out loud at this exchange between the wizard Stregobor and Geralt:

 

“I turned her into a near slab of mountain crystal, six ells by nine. When she fell into a lethargy, I threw the slab into the gnomes’ mine and brought the tunnels down on it.”

 

“Shabby work,” commented Geralt. “That spell could have been reversed. Couldn’t you have burnt her to cinders?  You know so many nice spells, after all.”

 

“No.  It’s not my speciality. But you’re right, I did make a hash of it. Some idiot prince found her, spent a fortune on a counter-curse, reversed the spell and triumphantly took her home to some out-of-the way kingdom in the east”

 

I was dying laughing at this version of Snow White’s glass coffin, and her prince charming!

 

I also got a kick out of the Beauty and the Beast retelling, which shows up as “A Grain of Truth”.  Geralt is investigating an especially dangerous area of a popular trade route, traders are showing up dead in gruesome ways.   He enters the property of what ends up being an enchanted castle, and meets Nivellen. Nivellen is happy to host Geralt for a few hours, talk to him about his life, share some wine etc.  As it turns out, Nivellen was cursed for being a truly awful asshole, who also blamed his actions on other people. The curse turned him into a beast and gave him some conjuring powers. The house also, is sort of magical.  Huge thanks to Sapkowski for not burying me under huge piles of exposition.

 

Geralt and Nivellen agree pretty quickly that although Geralt is a “monster killer”,  Nivellen is not the monster responsible for these recent killings along the road. So who is responsible? And would Nivellen like Geralt’s assistance in lifting the curse?  Surprisingly, Nivellen has gotten pretty happy with his current situation, it’s turned into the world’s strangest and funniest dating program. A threat to a passing trader, followed by guilt and a bag of money, turns into traders showing up with their daughters in tow.    Nivellen treats the girls like princesses – clean bed, baths whenever they want, good food. He spoils them. The girl realizes that Nivellen isn’t that bad, and that if she plays her cards right she’ll be able to brag about bedding a bad boy. (this is not a world in which anyone cares about who people sleep with, or when, or why) Suddenly, even more  traders are showing up with daughters in tow, the girls get to live like queens for a year, the family gets a bag of gold, and everyone is having a good time. Before you scream and bitch that “this isn’t fair to women”!, this is basically a slow mo version of The Bachelor. And the way it’s presented? I was laughing my head off! And I enjoyed the conversation between Geralt and Nivellen.

 

But the curse can’t be lifted until Nivellen finds some who truly loves him.  And he’s being mighty secretive about the creature flitting around the castle.

 

The story was highly entertaining, and I loved the ending.   True love doesn’t always work out the way you planned, does it?

 

Other things I enjoyed about this book was how the world building is done through dialog.  There is hardly any exposition. Do some of the conversations feel like people are talking at each other and not with each other? A little bit, sometimes.   But this book hit all my buttons. I loved the dialog, I loved how the stories were presented, I’m a sucker for anything mythology/fairy tale retellings with a twist, I like grimm stuff that is dark AF,  I appreciated the dry sense of humor. It seem like Sapkowski had fun writing this, and I sure as hell had fun reading it!

 

And I guess, if your sense of humor is a good match for mine, and you don’t mind some crassness,  this book is for you?

 

I’m really thinking I should rename this blog “your mileage may vary”.

 

19 Responses to "The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski"

I read this one and Sword of Destiny last year, and then picked up A Season of Storms just a couple weeks ago….it’s good stuff. SoS is technically the newest one, but it happens just before the story with the Striiga, so I read it before moving on to the saga proper…. though there’s a few hints of what’s going to happen later, it wasn’t enough to actually spoil anything.

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yeah, and apparently I have my reading order all messed up? is SoS a sort of prequel then?

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It is a prequel, mostly. It happens in among those short stories that make up The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. Most lists put it at the end of the series, since it just came out (in English anyway) within the last year or two, but it happens just before and even kind of leads into the story with the Striga. There is some stuff that it references that I don’t think you’re supposed to know yet, in terms of backstory or characters’ eventual fates (one of the running interlude threads is set after the end of the series proper, kind of? It’s complicated), but especially if you have knowledge from the games and show I think you’d be fine. I’m about to start the series proper with Blood of Elves, but haven’t done so yet….

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I read them too after watching The Witcher – uhm three times. I like the stories well enough, I even laughed a lot.

But the casual misogyny was really really jarring to me. It was unneccessary and really broke my suspension of disbelief, because Geralt is such a deeply decent and kind character, for all that he is a monster hunter.

Hoping the author might have grown a bit in that respect, I jumped ahead to The Season of Storms from 2013 and I’m sad to report it did not in fact get any better.

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good to hear I’m not the only one who has rewatched (and rewatched!) the series! If I get to a point in reading the books where I’m not having a good time anymore, I’ll skip ahead or just ditch the whole thing.

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Hahahahahaha @ that first paragraph and the attachment! 😂

I want to watch the show, but I’m one of those people that “has to” read the books first. It’ll happen eventually.

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that is my favorite image!! i use it theraputically at work!

Please break your rule for this TV show! firstly, because the TV plays fast and loose with timelines, so that you can meet more characters quicker, and secondly because there is like 7 freakin’ books in the series.

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If it helps, the show is only the two short story collections so far. So if you just want to read The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, that would get you through the source material for season 1….

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Hmmm…okay. I’ll think about it.

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I read (and loved) Blood of Elves a little while ago, thinking it was the first Witcher book, only to find out it wasn’t, which upset me so much I haven’t yet gone back to reading the series. 🙂
I have always found Geralt hot in the Witcher games … and now Henry Cavill is a VERY good reason to get back to reading these books so I can watch the show!

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he is hot in the games too! read the books . . but don’t let you not finishing any of the fiction stop you from watching the show. if you have access to Netflix, do yourself a favor and enjoy the show!

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☺️ well, ok then!

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This is such a great review!!!! I recently finished this as well and realized how fun it is… I’m currently in the middle of Sword of Destiny and that’s going quite well too 😊😊😊

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Bailed out of the tv show after the second episode. Could not stand the bard character.

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yeah, Jaskier is one of those characters that either you love him or you hate him. Once I got used to him, I was OK with him. (and that song is so damn catchy!) He’s far less obnoxious in the books.

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Haven’t seen the show nor read the books, but if you say it’s good…

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to be totally honest, i am not sure if this is the series or show for you. you may want to pass on this.

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I watched the show but haven’t read the books so I’m in the same boat you were. Need to rectify that soon.

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There is no point in visual medial existing, if you’re not allowed to watch them primarily for the visual experience! And I’m not just saying that because I watch pro-wrestling for the eye candy 🙂

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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