This is a review of the epic boxed set “the Witcher” by Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski. It contains three self-contained, but related books: “the Time of Contempt”, “Blood of Elves,” and “Baptism of Fire.” Like many American gamers, my first exposure to the...
This is a review of the epic boxed set “the Witcher” by Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski. It contains three self-contained, but related books: “the Time of Contempt”, “Blood of Elves,” and “Baptism of Fire.”
Like many American gamers, my first exposure to the Witcher series and the title character, Geralt, was via the extraordinary video games by Projekt Red, a Polish Game Design company.
Little did I know that there was a huge franchise based on the Witcher novels that made Sapkowski a household name in Eastern Europe even before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
If we’re honest, games and movies generally fall short of the emotional impact of the books they are based on. In this case though, the game matches the books almost perfectly. This is not an indictment of the books, rather it is extremely high praise for both the books and the games.
This was a incredible job by both the game team, by the author, and by the English translators of both the game and the book. Truly phenomenal!
The three book series takes us across the story arc of Geralt (the Witcher), the Child of Chance (AKA the Child of Elder Blood, Ciri), Tres (love interest of Geralt and powerful sorceress), and Yennefer (ancient sorceress with a hidden agenda, first love interest of Geralt, and foster mother of Ciri).
I could go into great detail about the plots in each of the books, but as the title of the review suggests, the story arc is epic and involves millennia of time and the machinations of gods and all the intelligent races as well as some surprisingly specific prophecies.
Learning about the history of Sapkowski’s world building masterpiece first hand as we strolled through the novels with the characters was my favorite part of the books. Sapkowski has a wicked sense of irony and humor in general, and it comes through in deadpan delivery throughout the books.
This is not going to be a weekend read for most folks. It took me two months to work through the novels; you are not going to want to rush the experience.
One caveat, being wholly honest, the several chapters in the second and third books devoted to genealogy and court intrigue were not the highlights of the series for me, but I know that some folks will treasure every moment of the exposition of the bloodlines and skullduggery.
Most of my reviews have a “spoilers section,” but this would be inappropriate with this boxed set. If you are a fan of gritty, low fantasy worlds then you owe it to yourself to read this set of novels.
As a parent, be aware that there is extensive use of adult/”salty” language (this seems to increase from book one to two to three), and there are some adult situations. You might want to read the books first (they are a fun read in any event), and be ready to talk with your ward about some of the events in the books.
In the interest of complete disclosure, I have to believe that some of (at least the English translation of) the books has been “updated” based on current social values and social justice. It would be hard to imagine that the originals had the same very “progressive” feel to them, and to be honest it jars the “suspension of disbelief” more than a little as the values conflict directly with the rest of the gothic/medieval world and social structure that Sapkowski carefully crafted. (In other words, rather than reinforce the intrinsic value of such beliefs, the manifestations of the beliefs in the books appear to be anachronistic and poorly constructed – likely the opposite of the desired effect.) As a reader, be mentally prepared for the “bolt-tons,” and as a parent, be ready to talk about the differences between the gritty harsh world of the Witcher and our current cosmopolitan existence.
All in all, an excellent series for the Young Adult and Adult fantasy markets, and could provide engaging reading for the younger fantasy fans if the parents feel the less experience readers are ready for the material.