“Destiny has many faces. Mine is beautiful on the outside and hideous on the inside. She has stretched her bloody talons toward me—”
You can probably guess why I finally picked this book up. I’m stupid excited for the Netflix series of The Witcher. And since I’m a good student, I wanted to at least have read the first book of the series before watching the show. I’m very glad I did. The Last Wish is a wonderful introduction to Geralt of Rivia, the eponymous Witcher of the series. Set up as short stories with a framework, we get to see some of Geralt’s greatest hits of his career, as well as gaining a bit of insight into his character.
“People,” Geralt turned his head, “like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves. When they get blind-drunk, cheat, steal, beat their wives, starve an old woman, when they kill a trapped fox with an axe or riddle the last existing unicorn with arrows, they like to think that the Bane entering cottages at daybreak is more monstrous than they are. They feel better then. They find it easier to live.”
While I’m not a gamer, my brother is, and the Witcher games are among his favorites. So I had heard a good deal about the series before I read the first page. What I didn’t realize was that the stories in this first book are essentially fractured fairy tales. We see new, darker spins on Beauty and the Beast and Snow White, as well as references to Cinderella, the Princess and the Pea, the Princess and the Frog, Sleeping Beauty, and even the Town Musicians of Bremen. There’s even a reference to the myth of Cupid and Psyche. And a genie. I might be overblowing these references or finding some where there are none, but it made me incredibly happy so I’m choosing to believe they’re there. Whatever the case may be, the stories were in no way derivative. Instead, they used the fairytales as a foundation upon which to build something completely original.
“There’s a grain of truth in every fairy tale.”
Geralt is an intriguing if enigmatic protagonist. He’s the epitome of a badass, but can be both calculating and grudgingly compassionate at the same time. Which I found to be an interesting balance. I feel like we managed to maintain most of his secrets in this first volume, and I’m hoping that more is revealed in the novels themselves than was brought to light in this particular collection of short stories. While they were very entertaining, they didn’t delve much past the surface of things. I know it can be difficult to plumb the depths of a personality over the span of a short story, so it’s perfectly understandable on the author’s part. I’m definitely intrigued enough to continue with the series. I want to see how differently Geralt is portrayed over the course of a novel.
“Evil is evil…Lesser, greater, middling, it’s all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I’m not a pious hermit, I haven’t done only good in my life. But if I’m to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”
These stories were compelling and bloodthirsty and packed with a surprising amount of sexual tension. I highly recommend this collection to any fantasy fan, especially those who love unique retellings that manage to still be completely original in and of themselves. I’m excited to see what else this world has to offer, and to experience more of life through the eyes of a Witcher.
You can purchase a copy of the book here, with free shipping worldwide!