For the better part of this year, I ate, slept, and breathed The Witcher series. It’s easy to do on Audible- you finish one book and hey look! You’ve got another credit, want to buy the next book? To which I said, “YES PLEASE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT” thanks to Andrzej Sapkowski’s affinity for cliffhangers.
While I really enjoyed several of the individual books, my favorite being The Last Wish, I wanted to take a look at the series as a whole.
There are a lot of things to love about The Witcher series. Sapkowski builds an amazing and imaginative world, full of monsters, magic, and mystery. He wraps this around an intriguing, complex plot that spans the entire Continent, weaving politics, war, and espionage into the narrative. I also found the main characters to be well-developed and compelling, starting with Geralt, the Witcher himself. Still, as much as I loved the world, characters, and lore, I found some issues that made it harder for me to enjoy the story as it continued. As much as it pains me to write this post, I think it’s only fair to share my objections.
My first issue with the series is Sapkowski’s incredibly liberal and unnecessary use of flashback to tell the story. I didn’t mind it in The Last Wish, because it got us to where we were going and didn’t ruin the suspense, but by the time we get to Lady in the Lake, it was ENTIRE chapters of flashback. He does manage to tie some of this together in the end with his references to Arthurian legends and Ciri’s world/time hopping, but I’m not sure it was successful as a story-telling technique. He also interposes flashback in the middle of exciting narrative turning points that reveal the future result of said exciting plot-point and totally turn down the excitement. This stylistic choice seems to be influenced by the recurring themes of time, legend/fairy tale, and fate (there are constant allusions to all of these), but I think he could have done this better without interrupting and halting the narrative.
Actually, I can easily dismiss this one more than the others, but it bears mentioning since I saw many other readers so bothered by them. Nothing is new under the sun, of course, and every book will have tropes somewhere. But here are my favorites to pick on in The Witcher:
-Geralt is BROODING and MISERABLE and takes it out on the people trying to help him
-Every sorceress ever wants to bed Geralt
-Ciri is STRONG and DEFIANT and DON’T NEED NO MAN, but all the boys looooooove her
-Why did thing happen? FATE
To be fair, these weren’t that bad, but I think the main problem was weak or lack of character development in the continuing series (and seemingly, in favor of connecting over-arching themes to the massive war/battle narrative.)
Finally (and this comes with a big ol’ SPOILER ALERT!) that ending. Not only was it a bit confusing– did Geralt and Yennefer die even though the unicorn…healed him? — it was so unsatisfying. I get some of it– it’s a commentary on how pointless death can be despite noble intentions and intentionally ambiguous to really hammer home the legends/fairy tale motif– but it still seemed trite despite trying to be so real. In my opinion, Lady in the Lake would have been much more successful AND would have better tied up the series if it ended in Vilgefortz’s castle. (Also, I think one of the absolute best twists in the series occurs here.) Instead, we get the following meandering chapters in which some of the bad guys wax philosophical around a campfire and there is extended commentary on senseless war atrocities and racism. And I understand Sapkowski’s reasoning behind adding that, but it seemed like it should have been another book, or at the very least, sprinkled with subtlety throughout instead of hyper-blasting the reader with it at the end.
Overall, I would still give a recommendation for the series, even though there are some issues throughout and especially in the concluding story. I have a lot more thoughts, but I’d love to hear your opinions. What did you think of The Witcher books?