It’s time for another book review!
Recently I finished reading The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski. I don’t play many video games, but The Witcher books keeps coming up on lists of fantasy to read that is not in the vein of Tolkien and/or is from other cultures. (And if you didn’t know, there is a popular video game series based after these books.)
So I decided to give it a try. This first book is a collection of short stories surrounded with a clever framing story. Each story helps to establish Geralt’s (main character) as a monster hunter of sorts. What makes it fun is that each of the stories carries inspiration from pre-Christian European folklore and tales. There are many Brother’s Grimm references (like Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, etc.) and there are also many interesting creatures from regional folkore, such as the Strigoi (which is a sort of eastern European vampire).
I had one big issue with the writing though. Women are not portrayed particularly well. Geralt doesn’t sleep with only a handful of the female characters introduced, and I don’t think this book passes the Bechdel Test. I can sort of give this a pass due to the fact that, much like George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, the story is set in a medieval based setting when women of low class did have hard lives. But, Martin’s female characters are very complex and play major roles in the story. Here, in The Witcher, women, so far, seem one sided.
I do look forward to reading the next collection sometime in the future, but it will be awhile before I get to it. So, do give it a try if you want to read fantasy that is a bit more gritty than Tolkien but not quite as Grimdark as Martin.