A Captivating Fantasy Series from Start to Finish
There hasn’t been a fantasy series that has captivated me in recent years quite like The Witcher series has. From the exceptional 2015 game The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt to the Netflix series, it’s been extremely influential on me. I’ve come to love the series so much that I’ve name one of my cats after one of the characters (Yennefer), and contemplated of cosplaying Geralt of Rivea at pop culture conventions. And all of these experiences and inspirations have come from the book series by Polish author Andrezj Sapkowski.
Breathing Life into a Tired Genre
Originally released in Poland, The Witcher series consists of six novels (five in the Witcher saga, one standalone) and two short story collections. These were all released in Poland between 1992 and 2013 in Poland, with English translations coming from 2007 to 2018. These releases all coincided with the rising popularity of the series, thanks in part due to the video game series by CD Projket Red.
Like a large number of people in English speaking countries would’ve been, I was introduced to The Witcher series by the games, especially 2015’s The Wild Hunt. I’d fallen in love with the game and quickly went out to buy some of the books in the series. I started out with the short story collection The Last Wish, quickly jumping onto Blood Of Elves (Book 1) not long after. Despite my love and enjoyment for those books, it wouldn’t be until 2020 when I eventually finished reading the main saga. As of now in 2021, I’m still yet to read Season of Storms (standalone novel) and the last short story in Sword of Destiny (the other short story series). Saying this, the last three in the saga, Baptism of Fire (Book 3), The Tower of the Swallow (Book 4), and The Lady of the Lake (Book 5), I read all at once in 2020.
To say that I enjoyed this book series would be an understatement. The saga series of books in particular I found were amazing from start to finish. Yeah, there was a couple of missteps in the series, namely Time of Contempt (Book 2) and some of the elements of Lady of the Lake, but there were some magnificent highlights. The side character Zoltan is highly memorable and was part of some of my favourite scenes, namely regarding a cat in Baptism of Fire. And then there’s all the interactions between Geralt and Dandelion, as well as Dandelion in general. Like Zoltan, Dandelion helped make certain scenes in the saga so much more memorable and engaging. The Last Wish collection gave the impression of it being somewhat like a fantasy take on the hardboiled detective motif, which I really enjoyed as well.
The Problem With Covers
Before giving my summary on the series, I would also like to talk about the covers of the different editions I own. My personal favourite are the ones based off the game art. This art style is so beautiful and is one of the reasons why I fell in love with the series. Yet, they were inconsistent in Australia. Buying them separately had the issue of different sizes, particularly with newer releases. They were also more expensive than newer editions, sometimes over $10AUD more compared to the darker (and my least favourite) covers. The 2020 paperback editions are the ones though that work best. They are consistent in size, covers and the use of colour is effective. It also is clearly numbered, unlike the darker covers, making it far more accessible.
The Witcher series is a breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre. It takes some of the familiar tropes of the genre and gives it a fresh look and feel. Although it shares the same motif of medieval inspired fantasy that’s so popular in the genre, it stills fresh and is engaging to read. If you enjoyed the games or the Netflix series, certainly give this series a read. If you’re new to fantasy and want something engaging that is easy to read, give this series a go. You won’t regret it.