This is a review of “The Last Wish” by Andrzej Sapkowski.
Geralt would always stand out, either for his appearance, his personality or his job as a witcher and the powers that it grants in the fight against the vile fiends that ravage the lands. As guardian of the innocent, Geralt meets incestuous kings with undead daughters, vengeful djinns, shrieking harpies, lovelorn vampires and despondent ghouls, and none of them are exactly what they appear to be.
This is a large, medieval world that doesn’t shy away from the uglier or more difficult side of living in such a time. It is brutal, it is scary, it is ever-changing and the humans are just trying to get by no matter if they live in small villages or in big castles protected by thick walls.
The author obviously drew heavily from folklore for the various creatures, and familiar, old fairytale show up during some of the stories, changed to fit the grim world of Geralt of Rivia but still recognisable in the end. There is also a slew of strong, independent female characters who aren’t afraid of or brought down by their sexuality and, in fact, use it to get what they want.
The short stories didn’t exactly provide lots of opportunities to get to know the various characters well. While even a good deal of the secondary characters were well-rounded, it was much easier to get to know the characters that showed up more than once. Dandelion and Nenneke are well written and interesting enough to want to know more about them.
Geralt is rough and ready for fighting – or something more pleasurable – but he also has a brain and knows how to use it. He knows that sometimes it is simply better to retreat or not react, and I like that about him. Yennefer is still a bit of a mystery though.
There are few things about the stories that bother me. First there is the amazing amount of knowledge about the body, its organs and functions. This is supposed to be a medieval world after all. The relationship between Yennefer and Geralt was a bit too sudden and forced considering how important it is, and some of the characters seem to suddenly change their opinions at the end of the story for no real reason. This could, however, simply be a drawback of the short-story format since the author avoids this in the other stories about Geralt.
All in all this is an interesting world and with interesting stories.
I recommend this.