The Last Wish published in 1993, is the first Witcher book by the Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski. It is one of two origin stories preceding the canonical saga, that begins with Blood Of Elves. The series has been received with much acclaim, going on to be adapted into the widely successful video game ‘The Witcher’ in 2008 and is set to become a Netflix series in 2019.
The story is set in a magical medieval world and follows the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia who slays the mythical creatures and fearsome monsters that plague the lives of superstitious villagers and famed noblemen. Geralt is not quite human though; he is a Witcher and this makes him a skilled assassin and wielder of spells, which he uses to defend the innocent against such creatures as strigas, kikimoras and djinns after which he claims the payment of each monstrous bounty.
The Last Wish is episodic in nature, giving the plot a more fast paced dynamic, which I found appealing as it kept me engaged in the story. I love the story-telling which was vibrant, accessible and not weighed down by excessive prose. The writing style seemed reminiscent of both fairy tale and biblical stories however it maintained its own originality despite the inspiration it drew from such well-known sources.
I was somewhat disenchanted by the ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ endings of some stories, which were initially built up really well only to realise such a weak and anti-climatic outcome. In this respect, the story of Queen Calanthe and others didn’t stand out from a common fairy tale ending.
In terms of characterisation, Geralt is a strong protagonist. His characterisation is very distinctive and imaginative from his striking appearance to his unique profession. In between episodes, Sapkowski develops this character really well revealing insights into his past whilst he recovers from the last battle at Nnekke’s temple and stocks up on his vials of Witcher potions.
Each new character that we are introduced to, human or otherwise, is striking in some way and possesses some quirk that draws the reader to their character; my favourite example of this being Nivellen who on the surface appears to be a monster but is revealed to have many layers, at times amusing and even relatable. And Yennefer of Vergerberg, Geralt’s obligatory love interest, is a powerful witch who exudes mystery and seduction. Her character is appealing because of her strong femininity yet vulnerability.
Sapkowski creates an original magical world in The Last Wish. I loved the fairy tale element, at times dark and alluring. I loved the references to mythical beings and I loved the fact that Rinde home insurance policies cover supernatural events! I just wish that this fantasy world was fleshed out a bit more as I believe it was too underdeveloped and lacked the finer detail that would have transcended it from being just a fantasy novel to an epic fantasy novel and thus deserving of a higher rating. Inasmuch as I’m looking forward to continuing this series I rate The Last Wish..
Thank you so much as always for reading this review! Despite my rating, I did enjoy this read and will be purchasing myself a copy of the sequel book ‘Blood Of Elves’ soon! Do you have a favourite fantasy series? Or is fantasy not really your thing? Let’s share recommendations in the comments! And if you liked this review and you would like to read more, then please visit my Book Reviews page here!