The Last Wish is the first book of “The Witcher” series, an epic fantasy tale created by Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski. Possibly the least famous one among my fantasy collection, The Witcher Saga is pratically a diamond in the rough. The first book, “The Last Wish” is a collection of tales about our hero, Geralt of Rivia who is a monster slayer who kills monsters for money. This book is different compared to a lot of other fantasy books mainly because it’s a series of short stories. Yet the author somehow pulls this off with ease and makes Geralt’s story very refreshing.
Like a lot of people, I was introduced to the world of Andrzej Sapkowski through the video games that are based off the same name, “The Witcher” and “The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.” These games are really great fantasy RPG’s, and they made me want to know more about this fascinating world.
If you played the games first and decided to hop into the books like I have, know that these games are not tie-in books. The games were based off the books and not the other way.
Sapkowski introduces the reader to a beautiful combination of Slavic mythology, eastern European setting, and high fantasy. The series is filled with a large variety of grey characters that expand from several races from humans, to dwarves and even werewolves.
That sort of goes into what I really loved about this book to is how the author used moral ambiguity and the idea that the real monsters were actually the humans. Sure their are vampires, dragons and sorcerers in this book who do awful things. But half the time it’s knights or even peasants that commit the worse crimes in the short stories. What’s great about it too is that most of the time the reasoning behind their horrible actions, actually make sense. You probably won’t sympathize with the villains but you can understand why they did it.
As Geralt said in the book, “People like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves.”
There were only two flaws I could find in this book. One there is very little world-building. Though this is the first book of The Witcher series, and it was made up of short stories I still felt a little let down. The second is that Geralt isn’t as fleshed out as he is in the video games based off him. I think that’s also a fault on my end. I’ve played the games since they’ve came out around the late 2000’s. To see him grow as a character in the video games was really outstanding. Then to go into the books and come across Geralt as a stereotypical anti-hero sort of left me disappointed. Again this flaw is mainly part of my own design, but it was hard to get past it. Still besides those two flaws this book is incredible.
What makes it so amazing is that one short story could be filled with humor and sarcasm, while another story would have heavy elements of horror into it. Even better is that several stories are interwoven with familiar fairy tales. Except they are darker, grittier, and more mature than the originals such as Snow White or Beauty and the Beast. This book is surprisingly thought provoking with great fight scenes and sarcasm to boot.