Wednesday 30 January 2013

The Last Wish (The Witcher Saga Book 1) - Andrzej Sapkowski

Title: The Last Wish (The Witcher Saga Book 1)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1993
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

When I first signed up to join the 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge I wasn’t really sure what novel I would read under the “translated novel” topic. I usually stick to authors who write in English, in fact I can’t remember if I have ever read a novel originally written in another language. In the end though a Polish friend highlighted “The Last Wish” by Andrzej Sapkowski’s to me, or more importantly he informed me that a video game I loved playing was based upon Sapkowski’s series of novels which were originally written in Polish.

“The Last Wish” is basically a set of short fantasy stories featuring the antics of Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher who is paid to hunt down various monsters. These stories are all connected together via a framing story which follows Geralt as he spends time resting at a temple as the wounds he received on a previous job are healed.

If the above synopsis seems rather brief then this is because this novel is at its heart just a collection of encounters and exploits that Sapkowski is using to introduce Geralt to the reader. The sub-title of the version I read even states “Introducing The Witcher” which emphasises that overall aim of the novel. In this task, I think Sapkowski has done a good job; his dry wit is both highly prevalent and entertaining throughout the novel. In addition, Geralt himself was an enjoyable and interesting character to follow. I found that his focus, cynicism and world-weariness really helped to ensure he is a memorable character.

What I really appreciated about this book was how it showcased some of the myths and legends of another culture. It was pleasant to see something different from the more Western European centric fantasy novels I normally read. Don’t get me wrong, the plots themselves are fairly standard for any dark fantasy with an adult focus but I loved how instead of reading about standard goblins and orcs, I got to read about exotic creatures such as strigas and kikimoras.

However, there was one prominent weakness with novel in relation to the format that Sapkowski has utilised. The use of short stories ensures that the world building at times is fairly limited which is a shame as the world is enjoyably varied and the magical use of signs, potions and mutations is an interesting concept. As someone that has played the video game I had some grasp of the lore, geography and political landscape but I think someone new to the world would have preferred to see a little bit more depth and exploration of these points within the book itself.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read that does a good job in introduced Geralt and the world he inhabits to the reader. If you are a fantasy reader who would like to explore a world based on different myths to the norm then there is much contained in this book that you should enjoy. Personally, I would probably have preferred to see a bit more development of the world itself in this novel there is no denying that it should wet the taste buds of anyone who reads it. Either way I am now looking forward to reading the next novel in the series which does appear to be a full length story.


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