Audiobook Review:The Witcher: Book 1 – The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

audiobookBy Nephrite

Hello again to my readers! After my incident with one of the other reviewers on this site I have returned to my usual haunt of audiobooks. It’s been quite a while since I did anything truly fantasy based. Or at least it feels like it. So today I will discuss Geralt Of Rivia, the famous White Wolf, a Witcher of great renown.

The Witcher series is a famous Polish fantasy series of novels and short stories written by Andrzej Sapkowski. The novels became better known outside of Poland and certain parts of Europe when CD Projekt Red – A Polish game company – obtained a licence to make games based on the books. These games (especially The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt) gained the series greater notoriety to the extent that Netflix is currently filming a large budget live action adaptation of the book series.

The Last Wish is actually a very good introduction for a first time listener to this universe as the book makes a point to simply explain the basics of this setting. A Witcher is basically a monster killer for hire but one with a pronounced moral code. There’s a dangerous vampiric creature in a small sleepy rural town? He’ll kill it if he has to, but if he can persuade the creature to leave of its own free will without harming anyone? All the better. You want Geralt of Rivia to hunt and kill unicorns that aren’t harming anyone just outside the town? He’ll refuse you outright. Not to mention that Witchers are quite notably frowned upon by the ‘high and mighty’ of society.

The book is a prequel of sorts to the main Witcher novels as it is a series of short stories set prior to the beginning of the first Witcher novel. The short stories included are varied ranging from Geralt attempting to lift the curse on a striga (a werewolfesque beastly curse given to women), Geralt being forced to make an impossible choice that lead to one of his most unsavoury titles, Geralt and a rather amusing travelling companion named Dandelion (pronounced exactly how you think.) being hired to aid a town at the edge of the world from a so-called devil and many others. The collection also contains a framing story between each story in the collection which flows together quite well. If you aren’t a fan of short story collections than I recommend skipping to the first full length novel in the series Blood Of Elves if you are interested.

Geralt himself is a rather entertaining character. He has quite a sharp and witty tongue on him along with his special blades and spells. Despite being a prequel he also seems to be quite world weary even if he can be foolish in some regards. He is well written as is the actual book. Geralt, the various other major characters and the book itself are all written in such a way that you want to find out more. Just what is this world like? Where is Kaer Morhen and just what is…was it like at the home of the Witchers? Most questions are indeed answered, but always while leaving a few more in your mind.

The narration of this English translation is performed by Peter Kenny who is a rather prolific narrator. I know him best for being the most frequent narrator of the works of Iain Banks/Iain M Banks. His accents work rather well for differentiating characters and giving them all distinct personalities and flavour. It doesn’t matter if he’s voicing a rather crass troubadour, a self righteous knight with no honour or a truly honourable priestess of an ancient religion. It is exceptionally done. He’s also rather skilled at matching the rhythm of the writing as well as its tone. His delivery of some of the barbs in verbal duels made me burst out laughing. The only complaint I have about the audio version is really rather minor. I’ve been rather reliably informed that Dandelion is pronounced as you’d think but Mr Kenny pronounces it Dan-Dill-ion. Another gripe is that the voice he used for the so-called devil is one that did personally grate on my nerves but that is entirely a personal thing to me. Otherwise I love not only the book itself but Peter Kenny’s narration throughout.

The series itself as I think you may be able to guess from my description isn’t exactly child friendly and does not contain the sanitised versions of fairytale creatures. The versions in the Witcher are much closer to the classical versions – think Hans Christian Anderson, not Disney and Alan Menken. I’d love to see this series’s take on a selkie or a kelpie!

NephriteIn conclusion if you are a fan of more traditional depictions of various fairy tale creatures or just a fan of a well written fantasy series in a compelling setting I recommend this series. It might not be to everyone’s tastes but Geralt of Rivia certainly has ways of taking you with him on his long wanderings!



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