231 of 239 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2008
First off, the Product Description does this book a great disservice when it says:
"Geralt de Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin.
And a cold-blooded killer."
Well...he's not a sorcerer...at least not in the sense they mean in the book. He's not an assassin - they actually go through great lengths in the book describing how witchers are not hired killers. And he is by no means a cold-blooded killer. I don't think it's too much a spoiler if I say I can count the number of things Geralt kills in the book on one hand. A witcher, as described in the book, is supposed to save lives rather than take them.
I don't know why the publishers chose this description, but I guess the description "A philosophically-minded warrior confronted with moral ambiguities" would not sell many copies.
Now the review:
This book chronicles the adventures of Geralt of Rivia in a series of loosely tied adventures. A convoluted way to describe his job would be to say he slay monsters, but a better way would be to say he helps people with monster troubles, resorting to violence as a last resort.
The book is written in short story form with a overarching mini-story which acts as a segway between each story.
The book itself, honestly, falls flat for about the first half of the book. I felt quite a bit was either lost in translation or the author was trying too hard to define his character.
The book becomes much, much better once Geralt's foil, named Dandilion, is introduced. I would also say that the very last of the six short stories, named "The Last Wish," is superb and more than enough to warrant a purchase of this book.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to fans of the computer game, The Witcher,
As for those look for a grittier take on fantasy, I would say this is a good read, but there are better books out there.
75 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2008
Wow. I got this book for my hubby for Father's Day, since he enjoys the PC game based on this book. I was literally in the middle of quite a large fictional novel when I picked up his book, this book, and read a few pages. I was hooked on the main character, Geralt, immediately. I took a wonderful liason from my current book, and the streets of NYC, and went directly into a medieval, magickal world full of monsters and sorcerers. The author is great with his adjectives and after a few sentences you really can imagine for yourself what the author is describing. Also, Sapkowski gives us humor and that humor doesn't encroach into the seriousness of the tone in the entire story. I absolutely LOVE that the author mixed in some of the older faerie tales, old wives tales and even some general well-known stories into the story. This is a quick and amusing read with some ancient 'history' intertwined. I loved this book! I want more! You will too!
124 of 148 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2008
I came by The Last Wish via The Witcher video game, and I am quite satisfied with both. As a European, Sapkowski seems not to have been tainted by the triteness and commercialism that has afflicted so much speculative fiction in the U.S. His writing is gritty and dark, like the original fairy tales on which it seems to be based. The protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, is a classic anti-hero--a warrior who has made himself into a monster in order to combat still greater monsters. His task is necessary yet thankless, and he approaches it with the attitude of a hardened mercenary--as just another job. I cannot express how refreshing that is in an era of Tolkien-clones and shallow D&D novelizations, in which every character has some Grand Destiny(TM) and good and evil regularly clash in Titanic Battles for the Fate of the World(TM).
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2008
In short, a great read and a welcome break from cookie-cutter fantasy.
I feared that the stories may fall flat in translation, but this is not the case. These short stories compiled into novel form leave no doubt about why this world was adapted into one of the most popular role playing games in recent memory. The world portrayed in the book is deep and layered with blood and shades of gray. There are rarely any real heroes or villains. Everyone has secondary motives. Even the "monsters" have sympathetic qualities, and a recurring theme is that people are far more dangerous than anything mystical.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2009
This book has more emotional depth, and maturity than most in this genre. It ties in a lot of children's stories, Snow White, etc, and provides an adult perspective on them. Stimulating and engrossing. Like Lord of the Rings, it has a dark edge, set in a time where the old world is fast disappearing. One of the best books I have read in a long time.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2008
You probably know by now that Geralt is a Witcher, a monster slayer, and is a typical fantasy fiction hero. If you like fantasy fiction or the PC game The Witcher, the odds are good that you will enjoy this book.
What surprised me upon reading "The Last Wish" were the references to classic fairy tales and their somewhat twisted incorporation into Geralt's world. Stories about Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Rumplestiltiskin, and others are woven into the tales in a dark and untraditional way. I found this added to the fun and elevated this book above your typical hack and slash fanatasy novel.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2012
I am lucky because as Polish I know all Sapkowski books. Now just tried it in english. The translation is very good and we can feel the maestry of the author same as in the original version. In my opinion Sapkowski is currently the best fantasy author. In polish there are eight books about the Geralt altogether and every and each of them is not just a simple fantasy story but they are talking about the modern problems about moral dilemmas everyone is facing. Nothing is black and white like in the real life. I adore Sapkowski sense of humour and inteligence. However I blame him for one thing. He should write more. I wish all english readers could enjoy more of his writing soon. It is really worth it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2010
WOW is about all that's needed to cover this.
This is a collection of short stories that center around the main character. All the short stories however are tied together in a linear fashion by essentially using them as flashbacks in an all-encompasing story. Each one moves the main story forward in terms of background and plot until a complete whole is formed. I cannot fully express how impressed I am with the integration, excellent work.
Moreover, the characters are really great in framing the story sufficently while also allowing for the main character Geralt to be less concrete ans therefore more mysterious. I don't know, it you know too much about something you seem to lose interest or awe of it and geralt never seems to have that problem.
The basic premise is that he is a being called a Witcher. This is someone who is like a cross between Dog the Bounty Hunter and Blade. He has special powers that allow him to be far more of a badass than the average human, but he's not so powerful that he is invulnerable to everything but the fantasy analog of Kryptonite. He shows up and says, "Hey need any monsters killed? I'll do it for a buck." This allows him to have great action scenes and still need to depend on others. Furthermore, the seeming emotional turmoil roiling under his surface is so brilliantly understated in this writing that it makes me wonder why the author's other writngs haven't been translated yet? I was afterall, under the impression that businessess enjoyed making money(I know shareholders do).
Through this collection of sometimes fast-paced fighting and well expressed germanic/scandanavian-styled fantasy, the stories carry an irreverent spin on many childhood fairy-tales (although I am certain Tolkien would take issue with the source material for these stories being called that). One such example is where Geralt is having a problem getting work. The only potential work around is a town with a troll living under its bridge, but the townspeople want him left alone because he does a really good job of maintaining it -- like some fantasy handy-man -- great stuff.
In short, if you're looking for something that has the feel of Tolkien/Norse Mythos then this is really a great modern twist on the genre. It's sword and sorcery meets Dog the Bounty Hunter meets give me more. BTW, if you read it and become a fan, the videogame industry HAS managed to capitalize on this series and there are some associated games that are none too shabby.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2015
I ordered this book last Saturday, it arrived on Monday and I just finished it last night. At first, the story moved a bit slow, but once I got about halfway through the first story I couldn't put it down.
This is easily one of the best fantasy books I've ever read. I enjoyed the short story format, which I found kept the story moving with greater ease, and wanting to know so much more about the world of The Witcher, from the religious beliefs, history, the monsters, in short, I'm hooked, and it made me all the more excited to play Wild Hunt, and all the other games.
I'm chomping at the bit to read Blood of Elves, and I'm sure I'll speedily blow through that one too.
In short, if you're looking for a good fantasy read, you should definitely give this book a read. I'm sure you'll be very satisfied.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2015
The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski is a fantasy novel series which inspired a very popular series of video games which I'm quite fond of. I never read the books, however, and have decided to do so as part of my continuing exploration of the fantasy genre (begun at age 4). The Last Wish is the first book which has been translated into English and is responsible for introducing the world to the series' titular Witcher.
Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, an alchemically mutated human being who hunts monsters for coin. Witchers are feared and despised across the North but also vitally necessary, due to the prevalence of monsters in the land. The world is becoming more civilized, however, and the Witchers are becoming less and less relevant. Geralt, thus, finds himself drawn into politics and struggles which have very little to do with his trade overall.
The Last Wish is a series of short stories starring Geralt as he deals with these various plots and counterparts. Each story is interspersed with tidbits from a present day linking tale that chronicles Geralt recovering from a grevious injury. The books have a surprising link to fairy tales, as well, with things like Snow White and Beauty and the Beast sent up in a delightfully adult way.
Geralt is a delightfully engaging character, reminding me of "The Man with No Name" from Spaghetti Westerns. He's a good man but not a particularly nice one. Geralt just wants to be paid for doing his honest days work of monster-slaying but everyone confuses him for a hired killer and the bodies he leaves behind do little to dissuade people from that opinion. The fact those individuals he manages to find a decent human connection with often conflict with his morality makes things even more trouble. It's melodrama at its finest.
And sometimes that's what you want from your books.
I also love the supporting cast of this book. Dandelion, Yennefer, and even Nenneke are all engaging characters who show off different aspect of Geralt's personality. Yennefer is a great love interest, coquettish and arrogant but also funny. Dandelion is idealistic and romantic but also a complete ass--but in a charmingly endearing way.
"The Voice of Reason"
The Voice of Reason is the overarching story mentioned above. Geralt is recovering from wounds sustained during The Witcher story and becomes lovers with a young priestess at an abbey. We follow him as he explains his past amongst the Witchers, how they're treated in the world, and what Geralt's peculiar form of morality is. It's full of a insight into his character even if it's more like seven super-short stories than a single actual story.
My favorite part of this story is its finale where Geralt finds himself trying to figure out a way out of an "honor" duel where the other parties have none whatsoever (but plenty of military strength as well as powerful friends).
The story which started it all. The Witcher chronicles Geralt investigating a notice put up for a Striga (a hellish cannibalistic beast). It turns out this Striga is the daughter of the King he had with his own sister, cursed by parties unknown after her birth. Geralt must choose between taking the impressive reward of 1000 coins for slaying the hellish monster or the much riskier 3000 coins for curing her--which may not be possible.
Our introduction of Geralt is that of a hardened mercenary who is not interested in doing the right thing. The fact everyone here is unsympathetic makes his purely greed-based decision understandable, though. It is a story on quality with the original Robert E. Howard Conan short stories.
"A Grain of Truth"
A retelling of Beauty and the Beast with confusion over which is which. Geralt of Rivia chances upon a cursed human prince who has the features of a monster. A hilarious conversation occurs when the Beast, initially, thinks that he'll be terrifying to Geralt only to become terrified once he realizes he's dealing with a professional monster slayer. Of course, Geralt doesn't kill humans and is not interested in harming the man. But that doesn't mean there isn't a Beast in his house.
This is a very-very funny story despite the fact the Beast stand-in is less sympathetic than the author perhaps assumes. Despite this, the ending is tragic and enjoyable at once. I also like the way the Fairy Tale is warped for the narrative.
"The Lesser Evil"
A great story about the merits of 'the lesser evil' as a concept. Geralt is stuck between two likable but horrible people who are bent on killing each other. The story is a kind of perverse re-telling of Snow White and the myth of Oedipus. A girl is sent out into the woods to be raped and murdered by a Huntsman due to a prophecy, survives, and then sets upon the individual who shared the prophecy. Renfi, the Snow White analogue, is a delightful character who Geralt swiftly bonds with but not so much he's unwilling to ignore she's willing to kill anyone standing in the way of her vengeance.
The ending of the story is powerful, unexpected, and works perfectly for explaining what sort of world this setting is.
"A Question of Price"
Geralt of Rivia is an unusual situation: he's being wined and dined by royalty who are showing him every courtesy instead of disdain. So, of course, it comes crashing down when he's told his mission is to thwart destiny itself.
This is a significantly more light-hearted tale than the previous ones with an ending more in line with traditional fairy tales than normal. I do love the Queen of Cintra, though, as she's quite an impressive character. Her and Geralt's banter is hilarious then dramatic then back to hilarious.
"The Edge of the World"
A story about a mischievous "Devil" (closer to a satyr), a village community on the borderlands, and a dying group of elves who prefer death to losing their sense of identity. Geralt struggles with the increasing irrelevance of the Witcher profession in a world which has forgotten monsters exist. He, likewise, sees that change is inevitable even as he fears it.
The story does a great job of showing those who cling to the past will often find themselves destroyed by the future. Dandelion co-stars in this one and is gut-bustingly funny throughout.
"The Last Wish"
A story which reconstructs that classic fantasy trope of the three wishes. Dandelion finds, of all things, a bottle containing a genie and discovers that it is not terribly subservient. Hideously wounded, Geralt seeks out the closest sorcerer who can heal him and finds Yennefer instead. The sexual chemistry and interaction between the two is electric and I loved her "revenge" on Geralt for his disrespect. The ending was romantic, troubling, and fascinating at once.
In conclusion, this is a really fantastic book which is enjoyable as escapist fantasy fun. The world of the Witcher is dark, adult, and mature fantasy but which doesn't take itself so seriously that it can't make fun of itself.
Who could say no to that?