Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars.
Series: The Witcher (Book 2 of 7)
Genre: Fantasy, high fantasy
First English translation published: May 2015 (Gollancz), Dec 2015 (Orbit)
The compelling characterisation of Geralt and imaginative world of Slavic lore and fairy-tale retellings continue in Sword of Destiny, the second collection of prequel short stories in The Witcher series.
Sword of Destiny was published after the first three full-length novels of The Witcher series. As a new reader to the series, however, I was able to read the books in chronological order which is quite essential as this instalment served as the bridge between The Last Wish and Blood of Elves.
I find that The Last Wish is overall a better book than Sword of Destiny with the connectivity of having a frame story wrapped around the short stories. This latter book feels more disjointed for me, and I did not enjoy Geralt’s development as much, especially when it comes to his overwhelming obsession with Yennefer, whom I do not like much. It pains me to see how Geralt seemed to lose a bit of himself and his badassery whenever he is around the sorceress. It didn’t help that she can be quite a bitch at times.
There are also less ‘killing monsters’ and more romance in this collection of Geralt’s adventures. Truth be told, I don’t typically favour a lot of romance in my stories. Nonetheless, the tale which borrowed from The Little Mermaid was one of the best in this book, and the love story herein is quite touching. Dandelion, the bard, can aggravate me as much as make me laugh, but the ending of ‘A Little Sacrifice’ brought tears to my eyes.
Fascinating creatures continue to pop up, and my favourite in this book was the mimic or the doppler – a creature which not only can mimic one’s physiognomy but also one’s psychology – from the tale ‘Eternal Flame’. The story on its own did not seem to contribute much to the overarching story of Geralt except to again solidify the inaccurate general perception of witchers being cold-blooded killers.
However, the arc that I was most looking forward to was the titular story, ‘Sword of Destiny’. Ever since I’ve read the short story ‘A Question of Price’ in The Last Wish, I was waiting for this crucial moment; the introduction of Princess Ciri and her first meeting with Geralt. And it was a darn good one, which was made all the more interesting with the appearance of the mysterious dryads and their protected land of Brokilon where all humans cannot trespass on pain of death.
The final piece ‘Something More’ was the clincher to this theme of destiny. As much as the White Wolf did not appear to believe in destiny (or perhaps refused to), it will not let him go. And war is coming with the invasion of the Nilfgaardians.
All I can say is that if you are a fan of The Witcher, do not pass up on this novel. While I find a few of the stories here less than impressive, the last two are essential to the storyline, and the overall book is still enjoyable.
Review originally written in May 2018.