There are few characters in the series that can be definitively classed as ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Geralt himself, while outwardly fitting the character type of ‘fantasy hero’, does take actions that can be classed as morally dubious at best. However, he’s not outright evil, since he does his best to stick to his code, and he cares about others, despite his tough exterior. More than anything else he’s out to survive and earn a living. Grimdark – the subgenre of fantasy that emphasises the darkness of the world, often featuring violence and amoral characters – isn’t normally my cup of tea, but The Witcher holds my attention due to its originality and strong characterisation.
The translation (from Polish) is well-written and atmospheric. I wouldn’t say this collection was perfect; it’s rough around the edges, and the gender politics leave a lot to be desired. However, I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt for now, since there’s a whole series ahead that has room to improve its issues. My favourite story was the eponymous ‘The Last Wish’, which has a clever and enjoyable plot involving a genie and three wishes, and introduces the brilliant character of Yennefer, the sorceress whose fate is intertwined with Geralt’s. My least favourite was ‘The Lesser Evil’, which I found to be a cruel story even by this series’ standards.
I’m looking forward to reading Sword of Destiny, the next collection of Witcher stories. I love fantasy, and it’s always good to find a new series to get into. There are 8 Witcher books in total: the two short story collections, five novels, and a prequel, Season of Storms. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in dark fantasy, historical settings, or adventure stories.
Review by Charlie Alcock