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Book Review: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish (The Witcher series)       

Author: Andrzej Sapkowski

Publisher: Orbit

American release date: July 18, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy/LGBTQ/352 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. Which means he slays monsters for a living. He wasn’t born that way. Rather, witchers are made, through the use of herbs and spells and potions and such. They are considered to be mutants, despised by many except when their talents are of use. In becoming a witcher, Geralt’s hair turned completely white, devoid of any pigmentation, thus earning him the nickname of the White Wolf.

The Witcher – Geralt receives a cold welcome on his arrival at The Fox inn in Wyzim, but demands to be taken to the castellan, Velerad, whom he shows the proclamation which has brought him there. After viewing Geralt’s witcher emblem, Velerad tells the tale of the king who lay with his sister and created a child, born a monster known as a striga. The people of Wyzim want the striga to be killed, as it has been running rampant and killing townspeople. King Foltest wishes his daughter to be uncursed, but there are others who wish her dead, and are willing to pay for that to happen.

Geralt begins to prepare for his job, speaking with the king as well as those few who survived the striga. It is said that the way to undo the curse is to survive the night in the old palace where she holds sway, and that after the third crow heralding dawn, if she remains outside her sarcophagus, all will be well. Easier said than done, apparently. Geralt prepares himself with his usual potions and his silver witcher sword. He also has an ace in the hole. He wishes to undo the curse, if he can, but he has sworn he won’t hesitate to defend himself if necessary.

A Grain of Truth – After finding the bodies of a dead couple who were viciously mauled, although not by a werewolf, Geralt discovers a tower hidden in the forest. As he approaches, he spies a young girl who instantly flees from him.  Dismounting from his steed Roach, he approaches the mansion on foot, and strange things begin to happen, such as the doors and shutters flying open and closed at one time. Then a monster rushes straight toward him. Although he threatens Gerald in no uncertain terms, Geralt doesn’t run, as has been suggested, and instead converses with the creature, whose name is Nivellen. Once he calms down, Nivellen agrees to tell Geralt his story, and how he came to be there.

The Lesser Evil – Entering another town, Geralt runs into someone he knows, an alderman named Caldemeyn, so of course they have to get a drink together.  Geralt has brought a strange spider-like creature with him, slung across his saddle. It’s known as a kikimora and he hopes to receive a bounty for its death. Caldemeyn has no use for such a creature and suggests Geralt consult the local wizard, irion. They had to the wizard’s tower, but a fish-head on the door informs them that Irion is not receiving and to go away. On learning that Geralt is there, the wizard agrees to let him and turns out to be someone Geralt knows, using a different name. Irion tells Geralt his tale, and why he is holed up in this tower under an assumed name. But every story has two sides, and Geralt has a choice to make. Will he be forced to choose the lesser evil?

A Question of Price – Geralt is invited by a queen to a banquet. The odd thing is that he is to go disguised as someone else, posing as the Honorable Ravix of Fourhorn and wearing a coat of arms of a bear passant. Geralt questions the castellan who admits that something bad is happening, something that has people frightened. They say there is a monster that is small and hunchbacked, that creeps around the castle at night and rattles chains. Geralt is still not sure why he needs to go in disguise. Geralt finds some interesting people at the banquet. Once he figures out what he needs to do, then it’s just a question of price.

The Edge of the World – One of Geralt’s oldest and closest friends is a poet/troubadour by the name of Dandelion, who loves wine, women, and song, is very bawdy, and prone to act first and think later. Sometimes he travels with Geralt to find material he can write about. Between the two of them, adventures just seem to happen.

Geralt and Dandelion are invited to the home of Nettly, in Lower Posada, that he may discuss witcher business with Geralt. His home is in the Valley of Flowers, a lovely place where everything seeds mightly… and grows as to make the heart sing. Elves live in the nearby mountains, but the two groups do not mix with each other.  Geralt and Dandelion meet with Nettly and Dhun, the elder of Lower Posada, who tells them that the problem is they have a deovel, or devil. Oddly, Dhun doesn’t wish the devil to be killed as he has shown himself helpful in the past. But when he is up to mischief, he is hard to bear. Dandelion doesn’t believe in devils, but Geralt has a more open mind. Geralt finds he will have to work to uncover the truth of what is afoot in the Valley of Flowers.

The Last Wish – When Geralt and Dandelion go fishing for breakfast, Geralt gets more than he bargained for when he meets Yennefer, a sorceress. Instead of a fish, Dandeliion catches a large jar, which he believes to contain a djinn. The delighted troubadour is determined to get his three wishes, but trouble ensues and he is injured, necessitating Geralt to take him to a healer. Unfortunately, at the nearest village, they cannot gain egress at night. Geralt finds himself in the same company as other travelers who cannot get in, and one of them tells him of Yennefer and where she is staying. As first light, Geralt goes to gain her assistance, but isn’t prepared for what he is about to receive.

The Last Wish is a collection of short stories chronicling some of the exploits of Geralt the Witcher. Always traveling in search of the next job, Geralt has never put down roots, or entered into a stable relationship. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t have ladies he has loved, or friends with whom he has shared adventures.

Each chapter begins with The Voice of Reason, which takes place in the present, and leads in to each tale.

I first discovered Geralt through the first Witcher game, which I am still playing and greatly enjoying. When I learned there were books, I had to read them, of course.

Geralt is a great character, and he’s fun to read about as well as to play. The stories are well told and fascinating, drawing on recognizable tales as well as original tales. If you’re a Witcher layer, this is a must-read book. But you don’t have to play the game to appreciate these stories. Mythical creatures abound, but it’s important to remember that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. Not all beautiful creatures are good, and not all ugly ones are bad.

There will soon be a Witcher series on Netflix, starring Henry Cavill. The previews look good, so I’m looking forward to watching, and I am waiting for the next volume of Witcher tales to come to my library. I highly recommend this series, especially if you are into fantasy and video games.

 

 

 

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