“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.”-Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish
Summary: Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.
Original Rating: 5/10
Short Explanation: This is a wonderful retelling of some really prominent fairy tales starring a character that doesn’t quite have an orthodox place but keeping track of the characters and plot lines proved more of a detriment to the overall introduction of the character rather than supply a helpful background like it was meant to do.
Long Explanation: When I first heard that The Witcher was coming to Netflix, I wanted to watch it mostly because I love Henry Cavill and wanted to check out his show. But, I do have a habit of reading the books before watching the adaptation because I find that it makes the show more enjoyable. That being said, I didn’t really enjoy that book enough to to compare it with the adaptation.
Geralt of Rivia is a white haired mutant whose sole purpose in life is to kill monsters and make the world a safer place. He’s a man of very few words and an interesting moral compass, which did make him a character that I was intrigued to read about. This is shown by one of my favorite retellings in this book: Beauty and the Beast. Geralt stumbles upon a castle in the woods that’s supposedly owned by a terrifying monster. Part of the story includes Geralt’s medallion which warns him when a monster is near him so that he can protect himself. When approaching this monster, Geralt’s medallion doesn’t warn him that he’s in any danger. So, Geralt sits down with this monster and eats with him in order to learn more about him.
What I liked about Geralt’s characterization was that he was a strong listener and he let the speaker tell their entire story before making his judgement. In this case, he learns that the owner of the castle is not the true monster, he is just someone who is looking for love. In a really awesome plot twist, the female love interest is the one who is the true monster and who prevents the man’s curse from being broken. Geralt, unable to let the owner be stuck in a monstrous state, finds a way to break the curse and turn him back into a man.
Geralt also makes a fascinating hero because he makes mistakes. There are several times when his emotions get the better of him and he is called a monster and forced out of a town. He isn’t a flawless hero which makes him a more entertaining character. He also makes it clear that he has his weaknesses that prevent him from being an impartial judge which is something that he struggles with. As I mentioned earlier that he was a man of few words, he also struggles with opening up or asking for help and I think that was a very interesting commentary on how in order to seem strong, men often keep their opinions to themselves and can’t open up. There is a scene where he does try and that part is probably my favorite because we get a closer look inside his head and understand his motivations a bit more.
In terms of the whole novel, I wasn’t engaged the whole time. There were stories that caught my attention but overall, I couldn’t find the connections between all the characters and some would reappear at the most random times and I couldn’t keep up with who they were. The book isn’t long and definitely reads like it’s meant to, but I would recommend reading this one after reading the whole series. I think this is meant to be a backstory for people who are more familiar with the characters as a whole. But, I did start the TV show and there are overlapping parts, so I’m a bit confused on if I read the first book or a prequel?
I might read the first official book in this series and have a different opinion on this one later, but for now, it definitely wasn’t my favorite read. I do wonder if the fact that this is a translated work has anything to do with the readability. I do find that books are better in the original language and that often, important parts can be lost in translation (i.e The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) I am curious to see what the other ones are about, especially when it’s written by an author with such a vivid imagination.
Afterthought Rating: 5/10
Overall Conclusion: Perfect for fantasy lovers but I do question the placement in the series. I think some innate knowledge of the characters is necessary to enjoy this because I think we’re meant to be seeing the development of relationships rather than an overall plot-driven story.