The Last Wish is an older book, written in 1993 and translated from Polish by Danusia Stok in 2007. It is the first book in the world-wide franchise surrounding The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia. Before the video games, animations, and Netflix TV series, there were several story collections and five novels. Andrej Sapkowski is said to be the second most popular Polish fantasy writer (after Stanislaw Lem) and won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2016.
The Last Wish is a collection of short stories or, rather, a collection of fractured retellings of fairy tales. They’re extremely fractured, actually, with their essentially violent and misogynistic cores laid open. The violence is graphic but understated. The sexism is a matter-of-fact part of this fantasy world, but the protagonist is gently feminist. Ordinarily this would not be terribly interesting to me, but people keep recommending The Witcher. I don’t have Netflix. But I have books!
The casual cruelty and violence of the gritty magical world is offset almost completely by the character of Geralt of Rivia. He is an intriguing mix of quiet power and immense restraint. He is no longer quite human, and is bound only by his own moral code, built during an angsty backstory which is revealed in fragments and seems to be waiting to destroy him. The book also introduces Geralt’s friend Dandelion the bard and his powerful love interest Yennifer. These two also promise to become very interesting, and I intend to keep reading the series. Really, it’s sort of hard to put down.