I, like most burned Game of Thrones fans, was thrilled when Netflix announced they would be releasing a new High Fantasy show The Witcher. I didn’t play the video games, nor had I read the books at that time, so I had no idea what to expect. Nevertheless, I was encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive reactions of the audience.
After much of the hype had died down, I curled up with my fiancé one Friday night and we gave the first episode a try.
I was not impressed.
The costumes were boring, the world wasn’t distinctive or interesting, the characters made stupid decisions (seriously, why would you put both of your rulers on the front lines in battle against a formidable enemy?) and the “message” was about as subtle as a brick to the face.
Wow. You mean humans are the real monsters? What an inspiring and unique concept.
I honestly considered writing a review of it for this blog, but I found it too annoying to give a second watch in order to take notes.
Perhaps I invested too much hope into it, but compared to the complex and intricate nature of GoT, this fantasy world was hopelessly one-dimensional.
I wasn’t planning on reading the first book as I was convinced it couldn’t be that great, but out of boredom, I decided I had nothing to lose. I have a free trial on Audible so I thought I would give it a go.
What a good decision that was.
I wish I had listened to this months ago when I was going through my reading slump because this is exactly what the doctor ordered.
I don’t know how the rest of the show panned out as I stopped watching after episode one, but the book is superior right from the start.
Geralt is far more interesting in the books than in the show. I don’t blame Henry Cavill for this as it seems as though his take on the character comes from the video games, and–as I understand it– his dialogue mostly consists of grunting noises and the word “fuck.”
The Geralt in the novel, conversely, has a much more complex range of emotions. He is still a loner with a sarcastic nature, but he has friends and seems more open to forming relationships. In the books he is more loquacious and witty, verbally sparring with everyone he comes into contact with. While he’s nobody’s fool, he’s unerringly polite and is able to navigate most social situations with grace and dignity, getting precisely what he needs out of people without being overly aggressive or taciturn.
There’s also more of a vulnerability to his character. In the book he battles with feelings of loneliness and irrelevancy. While he doesn’t wallow in his sorrows like a YA boyfriend, it’s obvious to the reader his internal struggles are starting to get to him. I also appreciate the fact that he isn’t completely overpowered in the books. There are several times when the antagonist gets the better of him before the day is won.
One of the gripes I had with Witcher when I first watched it is there didn’t seem to be much distinguishing one kingdom from another. The clothes ranged from boring to…freaking scrotum armor.
No, seriously, not a rhetorical question, what in the actual hell is this?
What function does looking like a ballsack serve?
In Thrones you could always tell where you were based on the fashions or the accents but in Witcher the show you couldn’t do that. In the book, however, there is at least a half-hearted attempt at giving each kingdom their own cultural identity. It’s even better if you listen to the audiobook as I did. Peter Kenny does a phenomenal job narrating, giving each character different cadences so they are easily identifiable. I loved that he gave Cintra’s queen, Calanthe, a Scottish accent since she came from a Highland-inspired country.
Some people have complained how The Last Wish tends to incorporate a lot of elements from familiar fairy-tales (Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, etc), but I personally found it charming. In fact, I liked the return to a more magical fantasy landscape. Frankly, I needed a vacation from all the edgy-Nihilistic slant a lot of action stories are taking these days.
While there are obvious allegories in these stories, I was pleased that they don’t beat you over the head with the concept of humans being “the real monsters.” I know why this trope exists, but logistically it doesn’t make much sense when you take into consideration most of these monsters can (and would) tear humans apart before they had the opportunity to be subjugated by them.
There are a couple of stories where the message is too “on-the-nose,” such as The Lesser Evil (the story the first episode is based on), but the book does a better job of explaining Geralt’s moral dilemma and the intricacies of the situation.
In fact, most of the stories aren’t even about the horridness of man. They focus more on the mercurial nature of the world and Geralt’s growing irrelevance in it. There isn’t much need for Witchers anymore since there either aren’t as many monsters anymore, or they are become more of an attraction rather than a nuisance to the common folk. It’s existentialist fiction, but without the nihilism.
That isn’t to say it doesn’t have its dark moments, but it doesn’t dwell on them or make you want to throw yourself out a window because of how hopeless and depressing it is.
The only complaint I have is I thought the relationship he has with a certain character is a bit rushed. I saw some chemistry between them, but I think it would have made more sense to space it out a bit more. Fortunately, this didn’t hurt my ability to enjoy the story or it’s characters.
Simply put, this book was a fun, exciting, binge-worthy romp into an intriguing fantastical world full of humor and adventure; a balm for the nerves in these troubled times.
This might sound corny, but I truly wish I could wipe my memory so I could experience it all for the first time all over again.