The Witcher - Geralt of Rivia - came into my life, like for many others, with the great Netflix TV Series. Usually I'm the type who first reads then watches, but as I haven't even heard of this series and didn't have time to delve into it I just watched and immediately got addicted. After the 2nd season (which was even MORE superb) I knew I have to find the time to read the whole thing before the next season arrives but the place I'm in currently simply wouldn't allow that so I "settled" on Audible and I SO happy I did! It was as wonderful as I hoped it would be!
If you haven't heard about this series, you must be living on a rock somewhere so very far away even I (who live on a rock myself) can't see you.. This series focuses on 3 main characters - Geralt of Rivia - a Witcher - a mutated human who hunt monsters (some created by men, some appear through parallel dimensions), Yennefer of Vengerberg a VERY powerful sorceress and the young Princess Cirilla of Cintra ("Ciri") with a heritage that promises unimaginable power. Yet she needs to learn how to harness that power, which is exactly why she needs the guidance of both Geralt and Yenefer.
The plot, from the TV series, is quite complicated politically with people in power (nobles, mages) having their own idea of how things should progress and who will yield the ultimate magical power through Ciri. But Ciri's story is for another day as she hasn't been born when the stories in this one takes place.
In this prelude we get 7 separate stories. Most of these stories focus on Geralt, who he is, what he deals with "regularly". We meet a few of the people who are close to him -
Nenneke, the priestess of Melitele, who is a sort of mother figure to him, or at least a very meaningful mentor. While she doesn't play any role in any of the stories themselves, theirs is told in between ("The Voice of Reason") wrapping them all together. It shows a bit of the mental struggles Geralt deals with though unlike the other short stories, it doesn't have a clear resolve.
Two other important characters are - Dandelion (Jaskier from the TV Series) who starts to play a role in the last two stories. He is basically Geralt's best friend though in the series it's not that clear how much he actually means to Geralt (only the other way around).
Last but not least - Yenefer - and more specifically, their first meeting and how it ended and why everything between these two is FAR too complicated and very confusing.
One thing I HAVE to add before I continue to the stories themselves. Henry Cavill as Geralt in the TV Series is one the same as book Geralt. Henry (and the whole production) did a wonderful job in bringing to life this character. In each interview Henry keeps saying how much it's important to him to stick to the books and it shows in every facial expression, every draw of the sword and every time he delves into a speech that shows exactly who he is inside. Geralt is a true Hero material. He isn't perfect and yet in a way he is exactly for the struggles he deals with even when it doesn't end as he hoped and is scolded for his actions.
"The Witcher" - The first story in this one is the same one opening the 1st episode of the TV series. Geralt is offered to be paid handsomely for lifting a curse from a "Striga". A young girl who was cursed in her womb for the actions of her parents. While others tried to kill her, there is one person who would do everything to TRY and save her and he found just the right guy for the job. With power, determination and mercy Geralt saves the girl and gets the favor of King Foltest of Temeria. There is one person missing in this one (compared to the TV Series), someone I wanted to meet on page, but strangely she wasn't there. I wonder when we'll get to meet her.
"A Grain of Truth" - A Beauty and the Beast adaptation. One of the best ones actually. It's portrayed in the 1st episode of the 2nd season in the TV series with a very significant difference - no Ciri. Geralt stumbles upon Nivellen's mansion seeing people killed mercilessly near it. While Nivellen shows true hospitality towards him, and even shares the tale of how and why he was turned into a beast, he "neglects" to mention Vereena the "Bruxa" or more specifically the fact he knows exactly what she has been doing. While I think I liked the resolve Nivellen got in this one more than in the show, the performance of Kristofer Hivju (the actor who plays Nivellen) is well deserves of a prize.
"The Lesser Evil" - This is one of the more significant stories in the TV Series and though it still has a huge impact there is still quite a big of a difference there (I expected to get more of Renfri than we did). It's impossible to forget Renfri who used to be a princess but was cut from her life by the mage Stregobor who has a very disturbing obsession with women with magical powers. He might call them cursed for being born on an eclipse but to everyone BUT him, he reads as just another misogynistic man. Putting that aside, the whole debate of the "Lesser Evil" with Geralt's refusal to favor either Renfri or Stregobor depicts who Geralt is precisely. It also shows that no matter what Geralt chooses, he still doesn't manage to express his point which is why the name he gets from the whole ordeal - "The Butcher of Blaviken" - is so ironic (and mainly just sad).
"A Question of Price" - Another extremely important story - the feast in Cintra when both Queen Calanthe and her daughter Pavetta find their match but also destiny calls upon Geralt. The ball is different in a few aspects which I'm actually glad for. I don't envy the narrator for the silly characters he had to enact. Yet the most important aspect - Pavetta's display of power and it's results - was done so beautifully I don't think anyone needed the TV series to imagine the whole scene. This one also shows Geralt's character in a very vivid way and how he sticks to his own morals and codes.
"The Edge of the World" - Our first glimpse into the race who inhabited this world before the humans came and took it for themselves. While the story itself is around Geralt being asked to "get rid" (but not kill) a "Devil" with Dandelion by his side (and not exactly with a helping hand) they both find out there is far more to a little menace who likes to play around in the fields. Geralt gives quite the speech to the King of the Elves Filavandrel, I had to stop and listen to the whole thing again. It was about the elves, but it was a lot about Geralt himself, who he is and how he choses to live his life. The ending of this one is also different than the TV Series. I think I like it better.
"The Last Wish" - Finally. Geralt's first meeting of Yenefer. It's NOT the same as the TV Series, but it's SO entertaining. I think Yenefer is colder and meaner in the books than on the show. Yet she was relatable at the very end. I could maybe understand Geralt's actions better than I did on the show. Geralt and Dandelion stumbles upon a Gin in a bottle but instead of getting their 3 wishes and going away, he cripples Dandelion before disappearing. Geralt so very worried about his friend goes to the closest, if not the most trustworthy, mage he can find - Yenefer. She accepts the task of healing Dandelion only because she has her own ulterior motives... as well as a few vengeful acts upon people who wronged her in town. It WAS funny, even though poor Geralt didn't deserve what she made him went through.
This was a WONDERFUL start to the series even if it's not really the start and even though there is still one more installment of short stories before we meet Ciri and the adventure begins. I really enjoyed listening to this one. While I haven't been able to read lately, sitting back and being read to gave me the piece of mind I was lacking for the past few months.
I think I'll take my time with the rest of the series. I just discovered a whole new world on Audible and I intend to enjoy it! :)
Note: I've debated when to read the book "Season of Storms" as chronologically it takes place near the ending of the story "The Last Wish". The story focus is mostly on Geralt (and Dandelion). There's a little bit of Yennefer but these two are still "worlds apart". There is no mention of Ciri.
For me, the "correct" order will be to read "Season of Storms" by its timeline, meaning right after this one. BUT and it's a HUGE but - DO NOT READ THE EPILOGUE WHEN YOU FINISH. The epilogue takes place AFTER the ending of the last book in the series "The Lady of the Lake" and will be a HUGE spoiler but also a great comfort after finishing that book (and by that, the whole series). So leave the epilogue as a bonus immediately (!) after finishing "The Lady of the Lake".
4-7 January 2022