- File Size: 2085 KB
- Print Length: 375 pages
- Publisher: Orbit (May 19, 2015)
- Publication Date: May 19, 2015
- Sold by: Hachette Book Group
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00W22J07S
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,104 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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- Part of: The Witcher Saga (8 Books)
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"One of the best and most interesting fantasy series I've ever read. Though it functions well as adventure fiction, it has added depth and value as satire and commentary on fantasy literature ... Sapkowski is a genuine stylist."―Nerds of a Feather
"Like a complicated magic spell, a Sapkowski novel is a hodgepodge of fantasy, intellectual discourse, and dry humor. Recommended."―Time
"Like Mieville and Gaiman, [Sapkowski] takes the old and makes it new ... fresh take on genre fantasy."―Foundation on The Last Wish
"A breath of fresh air in a well-worn genre. Don't miss it!"―Fantasy Book Review
"Sapkowski has a phenomenal gift for narrative, inventing sensational events, creating a suggestive mood, and building up the suspense along with a dazzling, slightly cynical sense of humor."―Jacek Sieradzki, Polityka on The Last Wish
"Sapkowski's The Last Wish is a great collection of short stories centered around a witcher, Geralt - a rare sorcerous breed who hunts down the monstrous but is feared by the innocent. With a wondrous mix of Eastern European folklore and myth, beautiful princesses, mischievous demons and where all is not as it seems, The Last Wish is a great read - perfect for dipping into or just reading cover to cover, as I did."―Waterstones
"It is [his] world-weariness combined with his battle-honed powers that make Geralt such an interesting character. Here's hoping The Last Wish is merely the opening chapter in his English language adventures."―Edge
"I really, really enjoyed this book ... None of the characters in Sapkowski's world are black or white; they are all shades of grey, including Geralt and the monsters."―The Deckled Edge
"Sapkowski is very good at creating interesting, imaginative characters with unusual levels of depth to them ... The Last Wish is an enjoyable book full of stories both melancholy and comic."―The Wertzone --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
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The first thing I noted is that Sword of Destiny has a different translator than The Last Wish. David French in this case, rather than Danusia Stok. I noticed a little stiltedness and awkwardness in some of the writing in the beginning stories, and I wanted to attribute this to the new translator, however I am wondering if this was not more of a placebo effect. Because the first time I read The Last Wish I had similar 'issues' with the translation, but the second time I didn't have any at all. Nor did I have any issues with, say, the back half of this book. So I think it may just be a mood thing, or a matter of getting used to the writing/translation. In any case, I have never really felt my enjoyment of Sapkowski's stories lessened by the fact that they are not in the original language.
So, then. Sword of Destiny. If you enjoyed The Last Wish and want to learn more about our man Geralt (much more) then you'd be doing yourself a disservice not picking up this book. It expands on the world, on the characters, and on just about everything that Sapkowski introduces in The Last Wish. It even introduces Ciri, who fans of the games will recognize instantly. She appears in two of the stories in this collection, and it's no coincidence that those two are the ones I'd have easily given five stars. In fact, Ciri's story bits--and the way they affect Geralt--have me more excited to eventually dive in to the main Witcher series than I ever was before.
As I mentioned there are six stories in Sword of Destiny, just as there were six stories in The Last Wish. Sapkowski's talent for storytelling shines through once more. In his clever resolutions to what could otherwise be run of the mill fantasy; in complicated characters who engage in meaningful, smart dialogue and are consistently challenged emotionally (even when those characters aren't human). The feel of his world is one that I enjoy. It feels very lived in which is a compliment that I throw around at times, but not lightly. It's rough around the edges, but with the capacity to be beautiful. I'm actually reminded of the movie Willow at times, for whatever reason. Not in tone, or in content. Just the feeling of the world. It's a good feeling though. Spakowski is not without his faults. Women outside his main characters can sometimes feel like fodder for Geralt; whether sexually or to challenge him in some way (emotionally, intellectually, etc). You can make the, "It's the times!" argument here, probably even successfully, but still it's a noticeable piece of these stories. Even so, I enjoy them greatly. Now, here's a bit about each story in the collection.
THE BOUNDS OF REASON: In which Geralt embarks with strange company on a dragon hunt, finding himself face to face with a living legend. This story explores the limits of possibility.
A SHARD OF ICE: In which Geralt finds himself in a lover's spat with a sorcerer named Istredd as they fight over who should be with Yennefer. This story was noteworthy for how it challenges the idea that Geralt, as a Witcher, is without emotion.
ETERNAL FLAME: A story surrounding a series of chaotic trade deals after a mimic (doppler) assumes the form of a merchant friend of Geralt's. Fans of the game will recognize the city of Novigrad, the dwarf banker Vivaldi, and the doppler Dudu. This one has an excellent scene during which the reader's view of 'monsters' or non-humans is deeply challenged. Some good Dandelion bits in this one.
A LITTLE SACRIFICE: In which Geralt and Dandelion--down on their luck--are invited to a wedding where Dandelion has been commissioned to sing alonside Essi Daven, known as Little Eye. Soon enough Geralt is entangled in a Duke's advances on a mermaid and a case of some murdered pearl divers. This is another one that dives a bit deeper into Geralt's supposed lack of emotions.
THE SWORD OF DESTINY: This and the next story were my favorite of the bunch, and may even be the two best stories of both collections. They serve as the introduction of Ciri, and begin to build toward what I can only imagine will be a large part of the series moving forward. In this one, Geralt is on a diplomatic mission to Brokilon, home of the dryads.
SOMETHING MORE: Wounded after defending the life of a merchant stranded in monster territory, Geralt experiences several hallucinogenic visions while he recovers using his own alchemical agents. These.. visions, are very interesting. Namely because the reader is unsure whether they are visions. Or whether they are simply hallucinations. Additionally, we have no idea if they are happening now, have happened, or will happen; though some guesses can be made. Each is worthwhile though. This story also contains major information about The Law of Surprise, Geralt's parentage, and the Niflgaard war that will likely consume a large portion of our story moving forward. Excellent story.
Well, there it is. Next up is Blood of Elves, the beginning of the main series.
The Sword of Destiny is similar to its prequel collection, The Last Wish. It's a series of short stories about Geralt, one of the last Witchers (a guild of monster hunters), and his many adventures. Unlike the The Last Wish, all the stories are in a fairly linear order and deal mostly with the topic of destiny. They also build on Geralt's relationships and what it means to be human.
Whereas The Last Wish dealt more with philosophy that is grounded in real life, The Sword of Destiny concerns itself it the philosophy of destiny and is more rooted in a traditional fantasy story. For a while, I thought the story would take a clichéd approach to destiny, but was pleasantly surprised by how the author chose to tackle it.
This book is an excellent read if you enjoy medieval fantasy and a must-read if you're a fan of the Witcher series.
The Sword of Destiny is the sequel to the Witcher's first collection, The Last Wish, picking up where the previous book left off. The continuity is surprisingly fluid with the stories being surprisingly interlinked and best read in the order that they are published. The Sword of Destiny is also absolutely essential to understanding the later novels in the series, which is unusual when dealing with short stories.
The Sword of Destiny is also surprising in that it contains some of the lightest and darkest of the Witcher universe slammed together in one volume. There's stories which include silly stories about Medieval stock market manipulation and a retelling of The Little Mermaid alongside tales of genocide as well as forced relocation of native peoples. This is a really impressive display of the variety of Andrzej Sapkowski's work.
I'm particularly fascinated by the character development of Geralt, new character Ciri of Cintra, and the Nilfgaardian Empire. Geralt gets expanded from The Man With No Name with swords, basically, to a man who is deeply suffering for his inability to find love. Ciri of Cintra is one of the rare non-annoying children in fiction, rivaling Newt from Aliens for how much I like her. The Nilfgaardian Empire? Well, they are an embodiment of evil who don't get much screen-time but manage to be both believable and terrifying at once. I started the review with the quote about them because, truly, it gave me chills.
The supporting cast in the book is particularly strong this time around as well. The tragic but wonderful character of Essi Daven, the snobbish but enjoyable Istredd, the self-confident but heartbroken Yennefer, the imperious Calanthe, and (of course) Dandelion are all characters who fly off the page despite their little screen-time. I'll go into more detail but, really, I should address each of the stories individually.
"Limit of Possibility"
This is a deconstruction of the dragon-slaying epics which we all know, even if we've never seen them outside of The Hobbit. Geralt of Rivia is the one professional monster slayer in the surrounding kingdoms who isn't interested in killing a dragon when a prince puts up a fabulous reward for slaying one. This attracts a holy knight, a wizard more interested in saving one than killing one, a would-be peasant hero, and some cold-blooded mercenaries. The fact the dragon is an intelligent individual who may be the last of its kind on the Continent doesn't effect their motivations one bit.
This story picks up on Geralt and Yennefer's relationship immediately after The Last Wish.
Geralt, apparently, abandoned her soon after the story which did not sit well with Yennefer in the slightest. This is one of her best appearances as she gives some truly staggering justifications to convince herself that it's alright to kill the dragons for her very personal selfish reasons. It's a humorous, silly, and yet surprisingly well-written and observant story.
"Splinter of Ice"
This is not really a typical Witcher story in that while it has a few nods to being an deconstruction of The Snow Queen, it's actually a romance about Geralt and Yennefer. Well, actually it's only a romance in it's an analysis of how the two (actually three as Geralt finds out) are deeply dysfunctional people who have difficulty loving or being loved. Both Yennefer and Geralt have terrible self-esteem as it turns out, which effects their ability to say how much they care for one another.
I like this story's surprisingly unglamorous portrayal of Geralt and Yennefer's romance, which is how these things sometimes go. Yennefer is constantly cheating on Geralt while he isn't all that much better, not the least bit because he won't really identify what it is they have. The introduction of Istredd is excellent as he is a character who really would be better off seeking anyone else than Yennefer but wants her anyway. Despite some truly nasty things he says to Geralt, you also get the impression he's not that different from our hero.
A comedy about economics, identity theft, and assimilation in a Medieval city. Geralt and Dandelion find themselves bankrupt (again) in the city of Novigrad. Going to visit a halfling friend of theirs, they find that he's been replaced with a mischievous doppler who has stolen all of the man's wealth. Joining with their friend, who has escaped imprisonment, they proceed to chase the doppler around the city only to find out he's built a veritable economic empire in just a few short weeks. Much discussion is had about the definition of monster and what kind of opportunities we allow the disadvantaged.
I got a lot of fun out of this story since I read it while playing the Novigrad section of the Witcher 3. The doppler character, Dudu, really impresses me with his statement about how arbitrary the rules of society can be. Dudu would very much love a chance to live amongst "normal" people but he's forbidden it because of an accident of birth. This is perhaps the lightest story in the whole of the Witcher series and is quite enjoyable as a comedic romp.
"A Little Sacrifice"
The final "humorous" story in this collection, A Little Sacrifice is a re-telling of The Little Mermaid with a Lovecraftian twist. Geralt and Dandelion find themselves bankrupt (notice a theme?) and the latter is forced to be the backup entertainment at a wedding. This is after as disastrous attempt by Geralt to try and serve as a go-betweener for a Duke with his mermaid sweetheart. Once there, they meet a young rival of Dandelion's who Geralt swiftly develops feelings for.
A Little Sacrifice is much like Splinter of Ice in that it's more a story about love and relationships than the supernatural. While the Little Mermaid parody is hilarious, it's really mostly about Geralt's relationship with Essi Daven and how he could find love with a woman other than Yennefer (but doesn't want to). The ending is touching, even if it's a bit hard on the mermaid. I also like the random inclusion of Deep Ones in the setting.
"Sword of Destiny"
The Sword of Destiny is the first story to really have a heavy focus on the myth arc of the Witcher as well as set up the events of Something Greater. Geralt goes into a Dryad-filled forest in order to carry a treaty offer from a nearby king. The Dryad race is dying out but they would prefer to go down fighting than watch their lands turned into lumber except for a tiny section. Meanwhile, Geralt stumbles across the lost Princess of Cintra, Ciri, who has the potential to change his destiny forever.
There's a lot of heavy subtext about native displacement, extinction, racism, and the problem of cohabitation looking a lot like surrender. There's no good answers here and the ending is ambiguous. Ciri's presence is, however, adorable and I loved her deconstruction of arranged marriages as well as the runaway princess trope. We also get a lot of foreshadowing for where their story will go next.
Something Greater is, hands down, the best of Sapkowski's short stories. It's powerful, emotional, dramatic, and tension-filled. The fact it's mostly about Geralt recovering from a horrible injury sustained fighting run-of-the-mill bandits belabors the point that it is a well-written story about loss as well as the horrors of war. Geralt struggles with the idea that his mother may be dead without ever having met her or that Yennefer might die on some battlefield somewhere. He also struggles with the fact he has no legacy since he rejected the possibility of taking Ciri as his child/apprentice.
The introduction of Nilfgaard is truly horrific and done extremely well. In a world as horrible and filled with suffering as the Northern kingdoms, they are something worse and come to bring an end to the old way of life (as well as possibly its people). The destruction of Cintra is one of the most harrowing short bits of fiction I've read.
I recommend this book strongly. It's got humor, drama, action, character insight, tragedy, and wonder. Is it the best fantasy I've ever read? No. However, it's up there. For the short story format, the author manages to really crank out some wonders.
Top international reviews
The Last Wish featured mostly isolated stories with the Witcher tackling a certain monstrosity for a set payment. He travels around the world to where his peculiar killing and magic techniques are needed to tackle a problem and individuals will hire him. In the first book, apart from a couple of brief interludes, there were no recurring characters. It was solely about a certain adventure at one end of the world and then another a thousand miles away. Sword of Destiny features a handful of main characters from the series who become more fleshed out as there presence recurs. Geralt's friend and lady loving bard Dandelion, his mysterious sorceress love interest Yennefer and a potential child of destiny called Ciri. If you've played The Witcher computer games I imagine you a familiar with these characters, the sort of missions set and the monsters the Witcher is assigned to eradicate, and how beautiful and vast this created world is.
I found the stories in The Last Wish more consistent but two or three of my favourites are from this entry. If you decide to read the short story collections first I'd truly recommend starting with The Last Wish and not Sword of Destiny. Two stories in The Witcher #1, one including Yennefer and one including a Queen and a Princess, add huge depth to the action and events that occur in this collection, especially with certain relationship complexities.
The Witcher tales are exciting and addictive to say that a story can be finished within about half an hour. Sapkowski doesn't dumb down the world and there are a plethora of complex characters and demons throughout these pages. My favourite story is here is The Bounds of Reason and it features about twenty-five different well-crafted characters who set off on a mission to kill a wounded dragon. I found this narrative exceptional, unpredictable, thrilling with a hell of a twist at the end. This sets Sword of Destiny up brilliantly. This constructed world does feature typical fantasy tropes but nothing feels forced. It all feels enticing and original. I'm not looking forward to seeing more of the Elves in the next book!
I won't go into the details of the stories too much as it might approach spoiler territory. I will confirm that these tales feature many fantasy races as well as mermaids and underwater warriors, showdowns with sorcerers, a group trying to trace a doppleganger, and also meeting Ciri. It features monster hunting of course but not as much and as frequent as The Last Wish. Each The Last Wish story played like a level on the Witcher games. These are less standalone and cleverly building up for the full narrative which will start with Blood of Elves.
I adored The Bounds of Reason, A Little Sacrifice and Sword of Destiny. Eternal Flame and A Share of Ice were very average. The final story Something More I really struggled with initially. It follows two timelines as Geralt in a fevered state and I sometimes got confused where and when we were. If it was a full-length story I wouldn't have finished it but I did and I'm glad I fought through as the ending is highly satisfying with setting up what can possible happen in the next outings.
I decided to read all of the Witcher books before the TV series is released and I am glad that I have taken on this venture. I've read the first two books within four days and I can't wait to move on further. I often struggle with short stories but I can recommend these highly. The Bound of Reason is one of the top two finest short stories I've ever read alongside Sebastian De Castell - The Fox and the Bowman.
Some phrases are clunky, some difficult to understand the original meaning of, some are clear copies of certain Polish expressions without looking for better alternatives in English, some due to sloppy editing are a bit illogical or grammatically incorrect.
Also there should be reference section/ sections- for stuff (cultural or language related) clear as day to Polish person, but alien to non-Poles reading. As this time I was reading the book, at roughly the same pace as my British friend, I found myself explaining a lot of context, which should have been made clear, to those willing to understand.
Surely this could be fixed for next editions, right lovely publishers/translators?
All in all, still an amazing book, all of the above notwithstanding, but some editing/ additional information would make it even better.
While this time there is no over-arching story linking them together this is to the book's credit. I got annoyed with the Last Wish/Season of Storms's clumsy attempt to sew together a number of different stories - like those old episodes of a sitcom that was just a hashing together of different flashbacks. Though it does mean you could struggle with the chronology, but I think assuming the stories are after the Season of Storms is a safe bet.
All of the stories are reasonably exciting, but Sapkowski does have a tendency to start these stories with the Witcher's triumph over another creature, and focus on the aftermath - sometimes you long for the thrill of the preceding hunt.
The final story, which I feel is the main link into the first book, includes a number of sections where the Witcher is hallucinating. The segue between these isn't always clear, and while this adds to the atmosphere and feel of the Witcher being drugged, it does leave you a little confused at times (though this passes briefly).
A good set of stories and a decent translation with few clunky parts.
I would recommend these are read after the main books (i.e. in published order) - while I haven't read those, I have probably taken some characters/stories for granted and not appreciated how they feed in to the overall canon of Witcher works (without googling for spoilers).
As a fan of the video game series, this sets up the events of Witcher 3. I'll say nothing more. Starting the book series even after having played the games was far from a mistake. All I can say is I wholeheartedly thoroughly enjoyed this. Can't wait to read the next book.
Anyway, on to the actual book.
Read this Witcher book before the others. I read book 1 to 3, then this one. Only to find this one is set before the events of the main series - books 1 to 5(?) - I wish I'd known that before starting reading.
Books 1 to 3 (and maybe 4 and 5 too, I haven't read them yet) are all one epic story, split over several books, and flow one into to the next almost seamlessly.
This book is a collection of short stories, all set prior to 'Book 1'. The stories themselves are a mixed bunch - varied length and quality - but several provide some very important background for the Book 1 - 5(?) epic. Because there are several short stories here there is a lot less of the lengthy geopolitical exposition you get in the multi book epic - the stories are far 'more personal' by necessity. That said, you still get the philosophising and moralising.
Of the stories in this book: one is quite predictable, one is very sad (brought a tear to my eye anyway), one is very clever (unexpectedly thought provoking), one is very confusing (maybe deliberately so because of the nature of the story it is telling) ..... and so on ...... but all are well worth reading. Read it before 'Book 1', and don't skip any of the stories. You won't regret it.
If you liked the first book, you'll love this. If you like the games, you'll love this. If you like fantasy books, you'll love this!
The book can be read as a standalone collection of short stories.
If you have played The Witcher: Wild Hunt you will see where certain literary echoes have influenced the game.
My only issue with all of the Witcher books is they are so enjoyable that they never seem to last long enough.
Definitely start with The Last Wish if you haven't read that, as there are references to events that transpired in it.
This translation is also very good quality, I've read translations in the past that sometimes confuse the occasional bit, but this is flawless.