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04-27-2009, 08:48 AM #1
Andrzej Sapkowski The Witcher Saga - #1 and #2 (RS Link)
1 - The Last Wish
2 - Blood of Elves
Andrzej Sapkowski, born June 21, 1948 in Lódz, is a Polish fantasy writer. His first short story, The Witcher (Wiedzmin), was published in Fantastyka, Poland's leading fantasy literary magazine, in 1986 and was enormously successful both with readers and critics. Sapkowski has created a cycle of tales based on the world of The Witcher, comprising three collections of short stories and five novels. This cycle and his many other works have made him one of the best-known fantasy authors in Poland in the 1990s.
The main character of The Witcher (alternative translation: The Hexer) is Geralt, a mutant assassin who has been trained since childhood to hunt down and destroy monsters. Geralt exists in an ambiguous moral universe, yet manages to maintain his own coherent code of ethics. At the same time cynical and noble, Geralt has been compared to Raymond Chandler's signature character Philip Marlowe. The world in which these adventures take place is heavily influenced by Slavic mythology.
The Last Wish - it's one of the two anthologies of short stories (the other being Sword of Destiny), preceding the main Witcher Saga
Geralt de Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer.
His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good. . . and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.
The Last Wish is a slender, 280 page collection of six loosely-connected stories and intervals starring Geralt. The Last Wish contains some of the oldest of the Geralt tales, although it was not the first Geralt book released in Poland. It is, however, an excellent introduction to the character and to the type of story that Sapkowski apparently wants to tell.
Geralt is a Witcher, an altered human being who has enhanced eyesight, a quicker healing/recovery mechanism for his body, and supposedly immune to most of the normal human emotions (although some of his interactions with various characters belies this to some extent). As a Witcher, Geralt's task is to roam the countyside and towns, looking for and destroying true monsters. While this might sound like a perfect D&D-style adventure series, Sapkowski quickly shows a combination of a sly wit and a tendency to not just subvert these adventure tropes, but to twist them and spin them upon their head until they collapse, too dizzy to assert themselves in the story themes.
The Last Wish is a mosaic novel consisting of several short stories linked by a framing sequence that recount the adventures of a Witcher named Geralt. Told in third-person omniscient PoV, these tales take traditional fantasy adventure motifs and play with them in a parodical fashion on occasion. Highly recommended for those who like a mixture of humor and depth to their stories, especially to those who like Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett.
Perhaps I let myself be influenced by all the positive hype surrounding this book, but Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish fell decidedly short of my expectations. With the buzz this novel generated in 2007, I was expecting something along the lines, quality-wise, of Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself or Brian Ruckley's Winterbirth.
Unfortunaterly, The Last Wish is more akin to a YA sword and sorcery title. Nothing wrong with that, of course, provided that's what you are looking for. Clearly, this was not what I signed up to read. . .
The Last Wish is not a novel per se. It's a collection of short stories. I was aware of that particular fact, yet I believed that there would nevertheless be an overall story arc linking those stories. To my dismay, there wasn't. Relying on short fiction means that Sapkowski can keep a good pace throughout the book. Still, it does feel like the author is all over the place and cannot impose a coherent structure to these various storylines.
Sapkowski created a blend of traditional fairytales and miscellaneous RPG elements. The results are a YA-flavored fantasy "lite" book which should appeal to the R. A. Salvatore crowd.
Andrzej Sapkowski came up with an intriguing character in the Witcher, Geralt de Rivia. The problem is that the author only offers us a few quick glimpses at the depth of this character. There's a lot more to the Witcher than meets the eye, but Sapkowski chooses not to reveal a whole lot. Trouble is, the supporting cast is more or less on the lame side. Hence, a majority of the secondary characters leave much to be desired. Allowing the reader to discover more about the Witcher would have made for a much better reading experience.
Another weird facet regarding The Last Wish is the fact that the author relies mostly on the dialogues in order to tell his tale. At times, the book almost reads like a movie script. That wouldn't be much of a problem, if not for the fact that the dialogues, for the most part, could have been taken out of a Xena: Warrior Princess episode.
All in all, Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish showed a lot of potential. I for one wishes to learn more about Geralt de Rivia. I will read the forthcoming sequel, The Blood of Elves, hoping that the author will up his game a few notches. Otherwise, there's no way I can go through more of this, just to, hopefully, one day learn more about the Witcher.
In the end, The Last Wish is a light read which will likely appeal to a younger crowd. A couple of crude jokes, juvenile humor, and a panoply of one-liners; don't expect a thought-provoking novel. Don't believe the hype and expect a simple, entertaining read, and you'll probably enjoy this book more than I did. . .
Although the main protagonist is interesting, as a whole The Last Wish doesn't rise above most media tie-in fiction out there.
The final verdict: 6.75/10
Blood of Elves - First novel of the Saga
Geralt, the witcher of Riva, is back - and this time he holds the fate of the whole land in his hands . .
Blood of Elves is the first novel in the Witcher Saga. It's a sequel to the Witcher short stories collected in the books The Last Wish and Miecz przeznaczenia (A Sword of Fate). Prior to Blood of Elves, Sapkowski had published only short stories about Geralt, which create a solid background for the saga, but are not required reading to fully enjoy the storyline.
In Blood of Elves, Sapkowski manages successfully to move from dynamic short stories into a full time epic fantasy saga with a complex plot, political intrigue and the violence of war. The moral ambiguity and dark, cynical humor make this book a unique catch that can be only compared to George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire.
Geralt, a mutant assassin who has been trained since childhood to hunt down and destroy monsters, doesn't believe in fate. Yet it is fate that puts Cirilla, a child-princess from the conquered kingdom of Cintra, under his protection.
Geralt is holding Ciri in the ancient witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen, hiding from the war brought to the world by the Nilfgaard Empire. The girl is being trained by witchers, but Geralt knows that she can not become one of them. During the time spent in Kaer Morhen, Ciri displays some troubling and frightening abilities; and it becomes apparent that she has strong magical powers.
Geralt's former girl-friend and mage, Triss Merigold, comes to their aid and teaches Ciri how to control her abilities. At the same time, strange new forces are starting to search for the lost child.
Geralt follows Triss' advice to take the girl on the road in hopes of finding her a better place to learn how to control her magical abilities, and starts his own search for the mysterious mage who tortured his friend Dandilion for information regarding Ciri's whereabouts. The plot thickens when four assassins are hired to kill Geralt, and one of the Witcher's friends prevents him from capturing the sorcerer he was hunting.
It seems that everyone has their own agenda and only one thing is certain, or Gerald can't trust anyone...
I would recommend this book to anyone who has played The Witcher computer game, as it brings much background and depth to the gaming experience. As for readers who haven't read anything by Andrzej Sapkowski yet, my advice is: read The Last Wish first and then decide if you like witcher Geralt.
Here are the two books in PDF and DOC formats, all version 1 (2721 KB):
05-15-2009, 05:25 PM #2
05-29-2009, 09:54 PM #3
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05-31-2009, 02:20 AM #4