The Witcher had a knife to his throat. He was wallowing in a wooden tub, brimfull with soapsuds, his head thrown agains the slippery rim. The bitter taste of soap lingered in his mouth as the knife, blunt as a doorknob, scraped his Adam’s apple painfully and moved towards his chin with a grating sound.
I absolutely loved playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and was captivated by elements of the story, maybe even more than the gampelay itself. Knowing my reputation as both a bookworm and a gamer, I’ve had a couple of people recommend me the series of books that inspired the Witcher games. This month, I decided it was finally time to dive back into Geralt’s story, thisi time, in book-form, starting with The Last Wish.
The main character in The Last Wish, as in the Witcher video games, is Geralt of Rivia, a witcher, a man who has undergone a combination of genetic mutations and training, granting him with the powers, instincts and strength to hunt and assassinate monsters.
A guardian of the innocent, Geralt meets incestuous kings with undead daughters, vengeful djinns, shrieking harpies, lovelorn vampires and despondent ghouls. Many are pernicious, some are wicked, and none are quite as they appear.
The book consists of a collection of short stories from Geralt’s past, interspersed with chapters from his troubled present, in which he rests in a temple after sustaining a life-threatening injury. As he rests in the temple, he recounts his past experiences with monsters and humans alike, introducing some of the beloved characters from the Witcher franchise, including Dandilion the bard, and Yennefer, the sorceress.
This book surpassed my expectations by a long-shot. What I loved about these stories is that whilst they contain plenty of action and witcher contracts, this isn’t all they are. Each story is humorous and smart, each one containing surprising twists, and revealing more about Geralt and the world he lives in. These aren’t simply stories about monster-hunting: at times they say more about humanity than the monsters that need slaying.
“People,” Geralt turned his head, “like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves.”
My love for this book increased as I read on, with the final short story being my favourite by far. I found it hard to put this book down: it was fast-moving, intriguing and humorous, and flowed beautifully. I particularly enjoyed some of the nods this book contained to well-known fairytales, the intriguing secondary characters, and Geralt’s dry sense of humour. My favourite short stories were the ones which featured characters I had met in the video games, particularly the final story in the set, in which Geralt first meets Yennefer, which I loved so much I read it in one sitting.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves the Witcher video games and wants to find out more about the characters, but also to anyone who hasn’t played the games, as while the setting may be unfamiliar and strange to those new to the series, The Last Wish stands as some enchanting storytelling in its own right.
“It doesn’t rhyme. All decent predictions rhyme.”