Note: Fans of the fantasy genre (and especially Game of Thrones) should surely check this out.
After playing The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (along with the expansions) and falling in love with the game, I found myself aching for more and wanted to get my hands on the books that started it all. Fortunately, I found The Last Wish in a bookstore in Karachi and was over the moon to finally have gotten my hands on it. The Last Wish is a short-story collection and is the first published book in The Witcher series centering around Geralt of Rivia, a witcher (monster hunters with supernatural abilities that hunt beasts for coin). This collection consists of one story The Voice of Reason that is connected to the other six via flashbacks that Geralt experiences. In this article, I will express my thoughts about the collection although, be warned, it might be the fanboy in me that is talking.
The Good: For the most part, the stories are well-balanced between action and dialogue. There is a great sense of mystery added throughout each story but which is always explained very well at the end of each story. They are written in a fairy-talesque way often making reference to popular fairytales and twisting them which is something I really enjoyed being a fan of those kinds of literature. I felt there was always a moral at the end of each tale although the writer lets you judge that for yourself. The stories also paint the world quite well and made me realize its depth and how large and unique it was through its background stories. I had initially not expected much dialogue in the stories but I was quite pleasantly surprised by it.
The action—as Geralt battles both man and beast throughout the story—is well-described and I have to commend the writer for the way he describes the witcher’s movements during combat that really makes you understand why Geralt is so unique to other warriors. Additionally, the dialogue present in the narrative really made me immersed in the story which did wonders for the already great characterization in the story. It really made me at times long to be in the story so that I could also chat with the characters that I already grew a liking for in the game.
The characterization in the stories is brilliant with each character, whether monster or human, feeling unique with dialogue that suited them. Often times, characters in stories are shown to be stupid for the sake of the plot but I did not feel that in these stories and I liked how the story fairly acknowledged each character.
Another aspect, which is probably my favourite, is that the story does not contain any black and white characters. The story shows that beasts can be more human than humans who in turn can be monsters at heart. The writer does not show bias towards characters in the story and lets us judge them for ourselves.
My favorite story in the collection was The Last Wish—which after reading I realized why had been chosen as the title of the collection and deservedly so. Others that I enjoyed were The Witcher and A Grain of Truth.
The Bad: As I have already mentioned above, the stories are for the most-part were well-written but at times there are certain words or altogether sentences that feel quite awkward and ruin the narrative of the story. Since this collection is a translated work, I feel that some choice of words fit poorly into the story which either makes it hard to read or altogether confused me. Although this does not completely ruin the story, it does add bumps to the flow of the story and can be infuriating—especially considering how enjoyable the stories are. I found this, in small amounts, throughout the story and in particular in A Question of Price (which I enjoyed the least).
This brings me to A Question of Price, which has a lot of good build-up but ends in a disappointing manner with an ending that I felt was quite clichéd. Another minor issue I had in A Question of Price was that sometimes the first name of a character was used and sometimes the second, and with so many characters already in the story it became a headache to turn back the pages and check—which again hampered the flow.
In conclusion, I have to say, I’m glad that I finally got to read the first book in The Witcher series and was pleased to see the characters from the game, such as Vennefer and Dandelion, as well as new characters that I had not met before. The stories have great and unique plots written kind-of like fairytales that occur throughout the huge and interesting world filled with its unique background stories and interesting characters. The dialogue in the story has to be one of the best I have read. However, lack of proper translation is something that does put kind of a damper on the enjoyment at times along with other minor issues. I really look forward to reading the rest of the books and am now hyped for the series that will be coming on television. I recommend this book to fans of the fantasy or fairytale genre and, with the stories being short and simple, I’m quite certain you will enjoy reading The Last Wish (hopefully this is not the fanboy in me talking 😉 ).