Geralt was always going to stand out, with his white hair and piercing eyes, his cynicism and lack of respect for authority… but he is far more than just a striking-looking man. He’s a witcher; his sorcerous powers, enhanced by elixirs and long training, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the vile friends that ravage the land. But first appearances are often deceptive. Not everything monstrous-looking is evil, and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale, there is a grain of truth.
The Witcher is a Polish fantasy book series that has had two successful computer games based off of it, with a third one on the way. I haven’t played the games myself, but I do have some basic knowledge about them. So when I started reading The Last Wish I knew that the main character was a white-haired Witcher (basically, a monster hunter) called Geralt of Rivia. This first book is a collection of interwoven short stories based on fairy tales.
I went in expecting monster-hunting adventures in the sword & sorcery vein, and that is pretty much what I got. I was surprised, though, because I enjoyed them a lot more than I thought I would! The book was a page-turner for me: the writing was just very easy to read, and I breezed through every short story. They were all in all pretty straightforward stories, but the added fairy tale elements definitely upped the interest level for me. I recognized Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast, with some interesting plot twists. The rest incorporated some well known fairy tale elements, but I couldn’t pin down any particular one.
While there wasn’t a particular story that really stood out to me as a favorite, I had fun reading all of them but one. My least favorite was the title story, The Last Wish. The plot advancement wasn’t as good as in the other stories, and I didn’t find the relationship between Geralt and Yennefer to be written that well. It was a bit too melodramatic at times for my taste, and some turns of phrase made me roll my eyes.
The biggest problem I had with the book was its problematic depiction of women. It pretty much played straight the old sword & sorcery tropes of women as either monsters or priestesses. I except to find that short of stuff in older sword & sorcery books, but it was a bit jarring in a newer book.
Overall, I found The Last Wish an easy read, and Geralt is an interesting character to follow. I’d recommend the book if you feel like reading old-schoolish sword & sorcery with a bit of a modern twist. I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.
Next up in the challenge
I’ve already finished Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb, so a review of that will follow.