Title: The Last Wish
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure
First Publication date: 1993
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.
A collection of short stories introducing Geralt of Rivia, to be followed by the first novel in the actual series, The Blood of Elves. Note that, while The Last Wish was published after The Sword of Destiny, the stories contained in The Last Wish take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before The Sword of Destiny.
I had The Witcher series by Andrzey Sapkowski on my reading list for years but somehow I never got around to reading it. After finishing the Kate Daniels series I needed something new and different so here we are, jumping into another world of magic, mythical creatures and a man that desperately tries to escape what he is.
The Last Wish turned out to be more of a prelude rather than the first book (my fault, I didn’t read the summary I just saw the dragon). It is a bundle of short stories about Gerald (a witcher) and his adventures in search for work in his field. Being a Witcher is a bit like being a sorcerer (you don’t say, right?) All witchers are chosen by destiny, taken very young from their families and they go through a series of tests and life-altering changes that make them non-human at best. Then they are sent into the world to kill monsters where somebody is willing to pay for it. They can do spells and they are all skilled with weapons and hand-to-hand combat. I have to admit, the idea of a witcher is cool and everybody loves fights with supernatural so what is there not to like?
Well, the short stories tripped me from the start. I am not a big fan of short fiction. This one wasn’t bad per se, or even badly written, but I’ve never thought a story could be told properly in such a short form. Short stories, as an extra for the readers, are cool and they can really help us get to know the characters better but in this case a whole handful of them, including characters we have to keep track of and never heard of before, turned out to be too much for me. There was no overall story arc, no build-up, no revaluation or conclusion at the end which was disappointing. But I am judging this as a novel rather than separate short stories, so maybe I am biased.
I’m sure I’ll be grateful for them later since I read there is a lot of references to those stories in the main storyline. But for readers’ sake – those stories should have been incorporated in the main story in some way instead of us being forced to read them so we can understand the main story.
There were a few among them that I really liked though – there was one with a vampire princess that was cursed from birth(first one, I think) and one with a djinn and where we also meet Yennefer, a sorceresses that tricks Gerald in doing her dirty business and who he falls in love with.
All in all, for those who have played the game and are already big fans of it reading the short stories may be exciting. But for the ones like me that have never played the game or read any of the main story books The Last Wish was a bit disappointing. It was mainly my hype for the main story that keeps me reading so let’s hope it is worth it.
So I’ll give this book a 3/5 rating and hope the next book, Sword of Destiny (it turns out it is again a prelude with short stories), does better.
What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on The Last Wish?