Yeah, yeah, I saw the Netflix series. Oddly enough, that (as well as a friend of mine) drove me to pick up the books. I promised myself not to entangle with yet another fantasy series, and especially not with a series that goes on for six or seven books… but here we are. I guess I’ll just stay a fantasy lover until I die, and that’s it. But enough of that. Let me talk about the book a while.
I picked up a paperback version at first, a dear gift I had received for New Years’ Eve at a present exchange with friends, then switched to an e-book version, and, at the end, got to listen to it. This is one of my first times enjoying an audio book, and listening to the story instead of reading it helped me immerse in it even deeper.
“The Last Wish” tells us about Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher – a hunter of monsters with supernatural strength and abilities. There are seven stories, six of which told as flashbacks as Geralt rests in a temple after fighting a battle.
In the first story, The Witcher, Geralt makes a deal with the King of Temeria, Foltest, to break his daughter Adda’s curse and turn her back from a striga, a vampire-like demon, into a human. Foltest insists that Adda doesn’t get harmed, though in the end allows him to kill her if she cannot be turned back, so as to end her suffering. Ostrit, a nobleman, tries to pay Geralt off and make him leave instead of facing the striga, but Geralt knocks him out and uses him as bait for her instead. He fights the striga and overcomes her, shutting himself inside the crypt and leaving her spend the night outside, breaking the curse. In the morning, she attacks him and draws blood, at which Geralt faints, awakening to find out Adda is human again and being cared of, and he has earned his reward.
In the second story, Grain of Truth, Geralt stumbles upon the corpses of a man and a woman dead from strange wounds. Following their path, he discovers the wall of a mansion. Inside it lives a beast-like creature called Nivellen. He lets Geralt in after finding out that the Witcher isn’t afraid of him, inside the mansion which follows his orders. Nivellen reveals that the reason for his looks is a curse, put on him by a priestess he rapes as he and his friends rob a temple. He only remembers the curse has to do with a kiss from a woman.
When he returned home to the mansion, he invited the daughters of local villages to stay with him and sent their families gold and precious stones. The girls staying with Nivellen however did not break his curse, and he settled down for simply enjoying their company instead. Before Geralt leaves, he mentions to Nivellen that his new flame Vereena might be a mermaid, a monster, like him. He is determined that he and Vereena are truly in love and doubts himself whether or not she would love him if he broke the curse and became human.
On his way back, Geralt’s horse acts strangely again, and he retraces his steps back to the mansion. At the gate, he hears Vereena sing and realises she is a bruxa, a creature similar to a vampire with telepathic powers. They fight, and the bruxa overpowers Geralt before Nivellen impales her on a pole. Just before she dies, she confesses her love for Nivellen through telepathy. This breaks his curse, and he becomes human again. The Witcher explains to him that all the stories about a maiden’s kiss lifting a curse are myths, but the grain of truth is there has to be love for the power to work.
In the third story, The Lesser Evil, Geralt rides into the town of Blaviken and seeks out the mayor Caldemeyn for a reward for slaying a kikimora. Caldemeyn refuses, but suggests that the wizard in town might show interest.
Then they meet, the wizard ends up being interested in the Witcher himself instead. It turns out Geralt and the mage, Stregobor, have met before. Stregobor explains he is seeking out Geralt to protect him from a cursed young woman who wants to kill him. The Witcher does not believe him and leaves.
Just then, Geralt tries to get a handful of men in the prettiest Inn in town to tell him where said woman, Renfri, is. She strides in just when the men want to fight him. Caldemeyn orders her to leave in the morning, but she hands him a letter from a king stating she is under his protection. She threatens to kill Stregobor. When returning to his room at Caldemeyn’s, Renfri is sitting on his bed. She tells him Stregobor only tried to kill her because of a superstition, and encourages the Witcher to kill Stregobor instead. Geralt begs her to forgive the mage and stop the superstition, and although Renfri refuses, she hints she will leave town.
In the morning, while talking with Caldemeyn, Geralt realises Renfri has tricked him and will massacre the people to Stregobor out of his tower. He races to the market, finds Renfri’s men and kills them, finally defeating and killing Renfri as well. Stregobor approaches the Witcher, asking him to take her to his tower for an autopsy, but Geralt refuses to let him touch her. The townsfolk throw stones at Geralt, believing he has just murdered innocent men. The mayor stops them but insists Geralt leave Blaviken and never return.
In the fourth story, A Question of Price, Geralt is at the castle of Cintra, invited to the marriage of the princess Pavetta by her mother Queen Calanthe. An uninvited knight with a hidden face, Urcheon of Erlenwald, appears and claims Pavetta’s hand. Calanthe orders him to remove the helmet, and everyone is shocked to discover he looks like a furry monster.
To the outrage of the rest of the suitors, Pavetta agrees to marry Urcheon. They attack him, and Geralt and the King of Skellige who loves Calanthe defend him. Pavetta, worried for Urcheon, releases her latent magical powers. Geralt and Eist manage to stop her. She reaches out to Urcheon, and he transformed into his human self, a man named Duny. The queen agrees that he marries Pavetta, as well as that Eist marries her. Duny offers Geralt a prize, and Geralt reveals Pavetta is pregnant and asks to have the child raised as a Witcher.
In The Edge of the World, Geralt and his friend, the bard Dandelion, pass through Upper Posada, looking for work, but find none, and move onto Lower Posada. The village elder Dhun tells them of a mischievous devil who has become trouble. The duo confronts the devil, who looks like a satyr, and he tosses iron balls at them and makes them leave.
They read an ancient book and discover the devil is a sylvan. They approach him again and get into a fight, then someone knocks them out. It turns out that has been elves, with which the sylvan Torque has hidden away. The leader of the elves wants Geralt and Dandelion executed, but is distracted by the Queen of the Fields, and Torque sets the friends free.
In The Last Wish, Geralt finds an ancient amphora while fishing with Dandelion. Dandelion opens it despite Geralt’s warnings and releases what he thinks is a genie. It attacks him. Geralt banishes it with a spell and takes Dandelion to the closest city. The guards however refuse to allow visitors in during the night, and the two have to stay in the guardhouse. Three other men, also detained, tell Geralt there are strict rules on spellcasting, and there’s but one Spellcaster in the city, Yennefer of Vengerberg, who is staying at Novigrad.
At dawn, Geralt finds his way in the house where Yennefer is staying, and she agrees to hell Dandelion. One of the three detainees, an elf, warns Geralt not to trust her despite her beauty. Yennefer asks Geralt to come upstairs, where Dandelion is healed and asleep, and insists on payment. Geralt passes out before responding to her and awakens in a cell with the elf.
When Geralt and the elf are brought to be judged by the mayor, Dandelion pops up through a magic portal and announces Geralt innocent. At the same time, Yennefer is trying to capture the genie and its magic, and causes a chaos. Geralt tries to save her, and finds out the genie has obeyed his wishes, as he last held the seal to its urn. His first wish was to “go to hell”, for the second it murdered one of the guards beating him in prison, and has a last wish left. After that it tears free and leaves Yennefer and Geralt in a destroyed inn. She finds herself in his arms, and they begin to make love.
And in The Voice of Reason, the Witcher and the bard leave the temple but are stopped by the two knights from the Order of the White Rose that Geralt meets in the foreword to The Lesser Evil. They have been ordered to chase “the butcher of Blaviken” out of town, and Geralt promised to leave in three days, to which one knight responded with a duel challenge… and now the time for the duel has come. The knights tell Geralt he has to accept the challenge but not harm his duellist, or else he loses. Geralt fights with such force that his opponent hurts himself, and he is free to leave. The other knight is furious and Geralt offers him a duel as well. When he does not accept, Geralt congratulates him on listening to the voice of reason.
Whew! That was quite the long review, don’t you think? And don’t worry. I haven’t actually spoiled too much. In the end, the only way to truly immerse yourself into the story is by reading it, right? And if all of this has sounded interesting enough to make you read it… then my job is done.