Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Last Wish (The Witcher #0.5) by Andrzej Sapkowski

I'm hopping on the fandom bandwagon a bit with this, but hey, YOLO. I've meant to read The Witcher books by Andrzej Sapkowski for a while now, and while my reading speed is seriously slow, I felt it would be an interesting exercise to tackle the books the series and the games are based on, and see where they differ. The Last Wish, which is where one needs to start, chronologically speaking, is more a selection of short stories from Geralt of Rivia's world, that are are more a nod towards our perennially popular fairy tales than a cohesive saga. Backstory, if you will. My favourite out of the whole bunch was the retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Nivellen will be adapted for screen.

While the fandom is not quite as toxic as that of other IPs (like Star Wars, for instance), it will forever be divided between the gamer fanbois, book-thumpers and thirsty Henry-gasping females. Okay, that was possibly a bit disingenuous for me to describe it as such, but I've dabbled in the games and only really came on board after watching the series, and I can well imagine the scorn heaped upon me by the One True Fans who see me as a Jenny-comes-lately. Whatever. I don't care. And in any case, my opinion doesn't count for much in the bigger scheme of things. I believe there is room in a fandom for the source material and its adaptions to exist cheek by jowl, with the adaptions allowed to be exactly what the word 'adaption' means: a riff on the original, so expect there to be differences. And no, I don't give a flying fig whether you think game Triss or Yen are better than the series versions. 

I'm here to discuss the book, and it's clear that the show plays fast and loose with the source material, but in a way that I do feel stays true to the spirit of what I've read so far. It took me a few chapters to get used to Sapkowski's writing, as I'm sure much of the nuance was lost in a clunky translation from the original Polish. Little quirks with the dialogue tags bugged the hell out of me at first – smiling, nodding, grimacing etc of words – but I decided to shut my eyes and just go along with the ride. Highbrow literature this is not.

What is clear to me is the slyness of Sapkowski's humour. And Geralt is dry – very dry. In a way that makes me smile. This dude, he's seen pretty much everything, and yet here he is. Still putting up with people's nonsense. So in that sense, he makes a great narrator, and there's a fair deal of social commentary that flows in the undercurrent to make this more than just a bunch of action-riddled, monster-bashing quest.

What matters is that I'm invested. Thanks to the series and the games, I'm invested enough to go pick up the rest of the books. They have a charm all of their own. The Witcher is fun, surprisingly quirky, and should satisfy fans of the genre. Oh, and I'm here for the elves. Because I'm unashamedly shallow like that.

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