The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

[Image ID: The cover of The Last Wish. A dragon is breathing fire in the background while Geralt of Rivia, a white haired man in leather armor, in the foreground, prepares to swing his sword at the dragon. Below in a red bar is the title The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher and the author's name Andrzej Sapkowski. The snapchat caption reads: Witcher time. End ID]

So, you’ve watched “The Witcher” on Netflix and are wondering if it’s worth getting into the books. In my humble opinion, yes, yes it is. Now, you shouldn’t go in expecting to read exactly what you watched. That sort of thinking makes no one happy. My recommendation, having only read “The Last Wish” thus far, would be to treat them as two separate, yet complimentary canons. 

“The Last Wish” is a short story collection that bounces between Geralt resting and healing at Melitele’s temple with Nenneke and a series of adventures that took place in the past. A framing you will recognize in how the first season of the Netflix show bounced back and forth in time. This first book also covers many of the stories used for the first season: Renfri’s story, Pavetta’s betrothal, meeting Filavandrel, the djinn. Each story is expanded considerably from what we see in the show, which makes sense give the constraints of a TV production, but I think they were very nicely adapted. The djinn storyline in particular I thought was condensed for the Netflix show particularly well without losing too much of the feeling of the original story. 

I am also glad that the show added Jaskier/Dandelion to the Pavetta betrothal/child surprise storyline, where he wasn’t in the original story. This change makes sense both in a “giving Jaskier more screen time because he’s an important character” sense, but also because of how they brought together the storyline of the show. In the book, Jaskier/Dandelion appears in several of the stories where Geralt is at the temple of Melitele with Nenneke, stories that aren’t reflected in the show, adding him somewhere else was a good call. All in all, a good change made for a good reason. 

[Image ID: A snapchat of text, the highlighted section reads, "'You've got a guest.' 'Again? Who's it this time? Duke Hereward himself?' 'No it's Dandelion this time, your fellow...'" The snapchat caption reads "My boy" drawn out and in all caps. End ID]

On the flip side, I think one of the most interesting things that got lost in translation from book to show was the consistent riffing on classic fairy tales. Renfri is Snow White, her stepmother conspires to get rid of her and then she spends time living with seven gnomes; the Law of Surprise is the miller’s daughter’s promise to Rumplestiltskin made a formal pact with Destiny; Stregobor notes that when he locked girls up in towers, princes would try to rescue them, a la Rapunzel; etc. etc. They’re just wonderful little details that didn’t quite make it into the show, though you can certainly see hints of them, and I greatly enjoyed them every time I came across one. 

[Image ID: Snapchat of a section of the text, which reads: "...who began the Queen of Metinna with the help of the gnome Rumplestelt, and in return promised her firstborn? Zivelenna didn't keep her promise when Rumplestelt came for his reward and, by using spells, she forced him to run away. Not long after that, both she and the child died of the plague. You do not dice with Destiny with impunity!" The caption reads: "Fuck how did I miss this connection to the Law of Surprise" "Fuck" is in all caps. End ID]

Not everyone is going to be happy with every change, but to me, “The Last Wish” feels like a particularly excellent example of how a TV/film adaptation of a book/series can make major deviations from the text, while remaining faithful to the story as a whole. Additionally, even without the show, the books are just good. If you’re looking for more of the world of the Witcher, because you liked what the show presented good news! The books are jam packed with all the great world building in the shows and more. They’re serious, they’re funny, Geralt says “What the heck” at one point and I lost it. I cannot emphasize how much you will like the books if you already enjoyed the show. 

[Image ID: A Snapchat of the text, the highlighted section reads: "Very well, Caldemeyn. What the heck, we'll risk a meeting with Master Irion. Shall we go?" The caption reads: "Coming from the show, the idea of Henry Cavill's Geralt saying 'what the heck' is obscenely funny." End ID]

Some notes:
Since the books are a combination of short story collections and novels, there has been some wondering about what order to read them in. This article, was my go to for sorting out my reading order.

The books are also selling rather fast at the moment due to the show’s popularity and are backordered in a number of places. I got mine used through independent sellers on Amazon, but I would recommend checking your preferred bookseller first, since these are widely available books.