Thursday, January 2, 2020

Review: The Witcher Book Series

In preparation for the release of the Witcher series on Netflix I thought it would be a great idea to read the books first. Many people would have you believe that the Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski is one of the best fantasy series out there, but to me it turned out to be a decidedly average reading experience. After finishing the final book of the main story, The Lady of the Lake, I was left with a sense of seething disappointment. A week later I’m still annoyed at how it ended. Was this really what all the hype and glowing praise was for? Really?!

The narrative style throughout the series felt clunky, even jarring at times. Having a narrative that is being told as a story within a story deprives it of both immediacy and slows the pacing down considerably. There are times where Sapkowski goes off on a tangent, going into the minute detail of politics and warfare (and lists of names, so many names), leaving the plight of the main characters as a mere afterthought.

Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of brilliance. The world and premise is fascinating. You can’t help but fall in love with the Geralt, Ciri, Dandilion (Jaskier for fans of the show), Yennefer and the other party members who join up later. Ciri in particular steals the show and deservedly so, I think she might even be a more interesting character than the even Geralt himself.

The ending is where everything just falls apart. It almost feels as if Sapkowski got bored and decided to end things as quickly as possible. I won’t go into the particulars, but by the end the main driving force behind the entire story suddenly decides to change their mind. Just like that Ciri is no longer deemed important. This renders all the conflict and all the people that sacrificed their lives to protect her completely and utterly pointless. Even Ciri’s powers (powers that could alter everything!) are only used as a last ditch effort to provide the semblance of a happy ending.

The series had such great potential, but it just doesn't live up to the promise. The ending is lacklustre and unrewarding. Slogging through all the digressions and strange narrative structure to get to such an unsatisfying conclusion just wasn't worth it. My greatest disappointment is that the series could have been so much more.

In comparison The Witcher series on Netflix is truly amazing. Great acting, stunning visuals and far more action orientated. It's a far superior way to experience this fascinating world. And I almost always prefer the books. Seriously, just check out the trailer below and you'll understand what I mean.

If you are a fan of the show and want to read the books you might want to stick to just the two short story collections The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. The novels might just break your heart with frustration.

The book series consists of a total of seven books: two short story collections, five novels containing the main story and a prequel novel. The suggested reading order for the series would be as follows:
  • The Last Wish (2007) [Short stories]
  • Sword of Destiny (2015) [Short stories]
  • Blood of Elves (2008)
  • The Time of Contempt (2012)
  • Baptism of Fire (2012)
  • The Tower of the Swallows (2016)
  • Lady of the Lake (2016)
  • Season of Storms (2018) [Prequel]

Once my disappointment subsides I might try to read Season of Storms and Sword of Destiny, but for now I've decided to put them aside.

The rating: 5.5/10 (Average)


Have you read the Witcher series? What did you think?


  1. I hadn't realized there were 7 books! I have no idea why i thought there were only 3 or 4. I don't mind stories that are told within other stories or weird framing devices, so I should be OK with that part. From other reviews I've read, I think i'll like the volume that is mostly episodic short stories the best.

    Lol, have loved the show, I've turned into that obnoxious GOT show fan who is like "wait, there are books?"

    1. If you want to stick to the main story arc then there are only 5 novels. The show is based on the short story collections as far as I can tell.

      I grew used to the narration style after a couple of books. It slowed the pacing down though, but I could live with that. What really enraged me was that ending of Lady of the Lake. It dropped the series from a 7/10 to 5.5.

      It's equivalent to G.R.R. Martin killing almost everyone, then having the remaining haracters suddenly decide that the Iron throne is no longer worth having and walking away into the sunset.