Next up will be Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski sometime next week and then I’m going to change style totally and read Heroes by Stephen Fry.
Welcome to my first proper review on this page, as promised earlier in the week it’s The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. I’ll try to be as spoiler free as possible, but I guess if you’re that bothered then perhaps just gloss over this.
As stated in the previous post, I’ll be looking at the five main saga books: Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of the Swallow and The Lady of the Lake. Once I’m done with Season of Storms, a stand alone book, I’ll look at the short stories as well. I’m not going to look at the books individually in detail, because in honesty it’s been about six months since I read Blood of Elves and I probably wont do it a lot of justice if I try look at them in detail individually. So, let’s begin!
I’ll begin with a little introduction to the franchise and series for those of you that may not know. The five books in the series (eight related to the The Witcher world in total) are by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the very first books being published only in Polish in the early 90’s and the most recent, Season of Storms in 2013 (English translation in 2018). In brief, the stories follow Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher (a person taken at a young age, trained and mutated to fight monsters) as he fights for his ‘child of destiny’ Ciri, who was promised to him and bound to him by destiny. Ciri, however, is a character wanted by pretty much every character in the series as she has ‘the blood of Lara Dorren/the Elder blood’ flowing in her veins, giving her power over space and time. This plot is set during a pretty bloody and at times confusing war over territories.
The books form the base of The Witcher games which are set after The Lady of the Lake (book five). I’ve only played the third game, so cannot comment on the first two (although I broadly know the plots of both) however; if you’ve ever played the games then I would recommend reading the books because it just helps you to understand and apppreciate certain events in the game more, same with if you’ve just read then books, playing the games also enhances the stories. Netflix have recently dropped the trailer for their adaptation of the books, I believe the first series looks at the events of The Last Wish/Blood of Elves so the series is a pretty hot topic right now.
I’ll start with negatives, because I don’t have a lot to say in this department. The series has so many characters, some of which you’ll only meet for a couple of pages and then they’ll vanish never to be heard from again. The amount of characters is also excellent because it gives the books a lot of depth, but it can be difficult to keep track of who’s who. Further, I struggled with some of the political elements of stories. The backdrop of war is fantastic and has significance for the main characters who have to respond, adapt and engage with the political situation; however, there are blocks of the story that are very slow paced and packed with detail surronding the political situation. I’m sure there are people who adore that kind of thing and for them these parts will be great, but for me it just dragged a little. Lastly, I had some issues with time jumps, now Cirilla has power over time and space so it’s pretty expected that there will be some jumping about (and it is great…I’ll get to that later) but it does get complicated at times trying to keep track of where you are in time.
Those were literally the only negative things I have to say…now positives!
The character depth and development is stunning and one of my favourite aspects of the books, I think this is especially prominent if you’ve played any of the games in which some of these characters feature. Take the character of Triss Merigold for example, there is an emotional depth to her in the books and a real understanding of the trauma and pain she has undergone (The Battle at Sodden Hill etc) in the past that I don’t think comes across as well in the games and it really makes you feel for the character. All of the characters are very ‘human’ (they’re obviously not all human), even characters we only briefly meet are very ‘fleshed out’.
From a quick google search, one of the things readers and fans seem to like about the franchise overall is the use of Slavic mythology. This is another highlight for me, but more than that, is the use of other myths and legends. This is most prominent in The Lady of the Lake which is dripping with Celtic and English myth and legend (hence the title). The latter doesn’t have a massive part to play in the overall story; however, it’s a fairly big deal regarding the books jumping about a little in time and space; at one point Ciri actually is in what appears to be the readers world in what seems to be medieval Wales. This leads me nicely into the whole theme of time and space…
I’ve already noted that the jumping can be a little bit confusing, but it is also excellent. You could quite easily write a decent academic article (nobody tempt me) surronding the concept of time and space in these novels because it is such an important factor in the whole constuction of the world Sapkowski has created. The jumping around of time and space is more present in the latter books but still features in the others. I think the main appeal of time and space in the saga is that it adds another level of complexity to the overall ‘world’ of The Witcher.
The next main positive I’ll refer to is the use of mixed point of views. The majority of the story is actually being narrated by the Bard Dandelion, who is writing his manuscript throughout (another aspect I love); however, you get a lot characters points of view, for example, you get Jarre’s account on his involvements in the war, Triss and the Lodge of Sorceresses and many others (including of course Geralt and Ciri).
Overall, there is not a single ‘weak’ book in this saga, all five are filled with depth, complexity, memorable characters and events (my personal favourite is probably Baptism of Fire though). As previously mentioned, there is a mix of pace throughout, with some very slow passages rammed with political detail and some incredibly quick, in which before you know it three characters have died in the space of about 3 pages, but it all serves a purpose. Although I found the politics difficult, it is an important part of the overall story. I would wholeheartedly recommend the series to any fantasy or sci-fi fan, especially if you have played or are interested in playing the games. In honesty I would recommend the series to just about any reader.
Thanks for reading 🙂
I’m currently reading The Lady of the Lake by Andrezej Sapkowski, which is the final book in The Witcher series of books.
I’m about half way through, so it shouldn’t take me very long to finish and then I’ll do an overall review of the entire series.
For those of you not familiar with these books, they are the books that inspired The Witcher games and soon to be Netflix adaptation. There are eight books in total; however, three of these aren’t part of ‘the series’ they’re either stand alone or short stories. When I do my review I’ll look at The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny and Season of Storms in a different post, these are the short stories and stand alones, with Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of the Swallow and The Lady of the Lake making up the main series following Geralt of Rivia and his hunt for Cirilla.
I adore the whole franchise, so I am ridiciously happy to review these.
Hello, I’m Bethany and welcome to my review page.
I adore reading and have done since being quite young; I also very much enjoy writing and being opinionated, so what better use than writing book reviews for what I read?
I’ve created several book reviews in an academic context (I’m sure i’ll post some links at some point) but I also read a ridiculous amount of fiction and love talking about what I’m reading, and inspiring other to read great books (or putting them off terrible ones!)
I guess how this will work is when I finish whatever I’m reading I’ll spend a little bit of time consolidating my thoughts and then I’ll pop up a post. There’s some excellent works that I’ve read in the not to distant past that I will also review too.
I largely read fantasy and historical fiction, but I have been known to experiment with other genres!