The Last Wish Review (2014 High Fantasy Challenge 3/10)

The Last Wish
The Last Wish

(The Witcher #1)
By: Andrzej Sapkowski
First published in 1993
Book 3/10 of my 2014 High Fantasy Challenge

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.

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4 thoughts on “The Last Wish Review (2014 High Fantasy Challenge 3/10)

  1. Well so you probably know that The Last Wish is only first tome of short stories? The second one (though of course if to keep to the details all short stories have their own in-universe chronology) is Sword of Destiny, then it starts with full novels (5 book saga): as follows: Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Swallow’s Tower (or Tower of the Swallow depending on translation) and The Lady of the Lake, they are more complex than short stories that are basically adventures of Geralt, the plot of novels is rather elaborate with many side characters. Personally I liked the short stories very much especially those in Sword of Destiny.

    • Yep, I know it’s the first one! I noticed that The Sword of Destiny was never officially translated in English, but thankfully it is released in Finnish (which is my native language), so I do get to read it. :)

      • Well there are also english fan translations though I can’t vouch for the quality of them (I’ve seen only some, out of curiosity though I read all books since i’m from Poland :) ) I also read the short story that is a form of non-canon author’s own fanfiction/alternate ending :) Something Ends, Something Begins and sort of a prequel story set in the same universe with different characters A Road with No Return well it could be also called differently in translation (though connected with main characters in certain way ;) but that would be spoiler hehe). The books sometimes have certain language jokes or otherwise elements that are known in polish language and culture so I think they might be sometimes lost in translation but defintiely with proper care they might reflect well the wittiness of the dialougues :). Also while Sapkowski wrote his books in the 90′ and haven’t written anything in witcher world for years recently he released new book Storm Season a prequel contained within one novel (last year it was officially published I found so far only first chapter in fan translation hehe).

        The main witcher saga (it’s good to read one or two short stories from Sword of Destiny before starting it, we can say it gives proper introduction to Blood of Elves, so to speak) is starting to give wider scope of the world and it’s troubles, political intrigues and personal life of Geralt intertwines.

        Out of curiosity, I’ve seen you read many fantasy books (I too read Wizard of Earthsea and following two books though I have yet to read the Other Wind and Tales of Earthsea), have you ever read anything by Tolkien; The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, or getting hardcore :) Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, poems from Adventures of Tom Bombadil, or even gathered notes of Tolkien in History of Middle Earth? :) Or any other works like Farmer Giles of Ham and others?

      • Yeah, I’ll definitely be reading Sword of Destiny first when I continue with the series.

        I’ve only read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit from Tolkien. My sister is the bigger Tolkien fan, she has read Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales as well.

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