The Last Wish (Original title Ostatnie życzenie) by Andrzej Sapkowski is a collection of short stories used to introduce Geralt of Rivia, the main character in the Witcher Saga that attempts to narrate several of Geralt’s adventures, all framed within a main narrative arc, while also opening the world of The Witcher to the readers by describing some of the details of it and, most important, Geralt’s life and personality.
Being a collection of short stories framed by what could be considered another short story, The Last Wish sadly never really shows a lot of depth, since the changes between characters and situations happen a little too fast for the reader to get acquainted to anyone but Geralt and, perhaps, Dandillion. Even then, however, it isn’t all that easy to understand those characters, since a good part of the book and its narrative is spent just telling things that happen without any trace of an inner monologue or a narrative explanation of the reasons why the characters act the way they do – They just do. In some points it works well – A Grain of Truth, for example, works beautifully without much explanation, but some other stories (Particularly The Last Wish, the titular story) leaves a few threads hanging because of its lack of explanations to the motives the characters have and the rules under which the world or creatures operate.
Actually, the lack of information on exactly why things happen as they do is probably the main flaw in this book: I myself felt lost at times while reading it, even when I played through the whole of The Witcher, which explains many things about Geralt and where he comes from and the ways in which the world and many of its creatures work. In this book, however, such explanations are often relegated to very short/shallow ones or simply absent from its narrative, leaving the reader to try and figure out why the narrative is so fragmented and why exactly the characters are behaving in the way they do. It also doesn’t help that the framing story, The Voice of Reason seems to go nowhere at all and it works just as an excuse for the rest of the short stories – The narrative for it is strange, since it drifts a little too much and throws the reader in the middle of what seems to be a story that’s already in development of which no previous information is given other than a bit of data the reader can gather from the other stories. The fact that said story is spread over the whole of the book in very small portions hinders it even more, since the short length of its pieces and the confusing narrative they hold makes it all too easy for the reader to completely forget about it while reading the other stories and having him totally lost whenever a story ends and they’re sent back to what’s meant to be the main story.
Putting those flaws aside, The Last Wish does offer several interesting stories that, though often kind of shallow, can give the reader a few hours of entertainment. My personal favorite was A Grain of Truth, which has Geralt engage in conversation with an apparent monster that then proceeds to tell him his story, detailing how he once was a human who became a horrible monster-like creature due to a curse. The interesting part of that story is that the character development given to Nivellen (The monster) is what makes the story interesting and compelling, since rather than getting a story about how Geralt defeated a monster (Though he does slay one in the story), the main story is instead about how a monster came to be one. Other good stories, besides The Witcher, the first story in the book and which is partly shown in CGI form in the intro to the videogame include A Question of Price which, though still lacking some character development and explanations as to why Geralt takes some of the actions he takes, has a nice flow and interesting plot twists that make it compelling.
Another interesting point of the stories here is the parallels the writer draws with common fairy tales or folk mythos, giving us stories that more than slightly resemble classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or The Beauty and the Beast as sub-stories within the main storylines of each tale. They work pretty well, making the world come alive in an interesting way due to the immediate connection we make to already known fantasy tales.
As a closing comment, The Last Wish is kind of a mixed bag. It delivers several interesting stories, but they’re given within an atmosphere so dense and in a world we have so little information of that it can get confusing or simply odd way too easily, since what could’ve seemed logical for the author who happens to know all there is to know about the world and its stories isn’t as obvious for the reader, thus leaving several loose threads in stories that shouldn’t be there. Nevertheless, if you can ignore that issue, The Last Wish is a nice collection of short stories and a pretty entertaining book overall.
PS: I understand what Geralt’s Last Wish was meant to be. However, I can’t for the life of me figure out why exactly it saved Yennefer.
Final review rating: 3/5
Availability: Currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com and Gamersgate.com
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