Friday, September 13, 2019

Fiction Friday: THE LAST WISH: Introducing the Witcher

If you follow video gaming at all, you've likely heard of The Witcher series of open-world RPG video games. They feature the monster-hunting Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, wandering the world and killing that which goes bump in the night. The world of the Witcher is based around Slavic folklore, a flavor of Western monster mythology that is a little removed from what most of us are used to unless you are really into the subject of bestiary folklore.

But fewer people realize that the Witcher and his world started out as a series of short stories and novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Most of the stories were written in the 1990s, but it wasn't until the mid-oughts and later that they were given English translations. Coming at the end of this year, Netflix is releasing a television series based around the stories, and of course both fans of the books and the video games are howling over how the details shown in the trailer don't do the series justice.

Curious about both such a popular video game character and what might drive Netflix to pick up the IP, I grabbed the first (chronologically) anthology of short stories, THE LAST WISH. I was immediately hooked. For a book translated from a different language, the prose is evocative and pulls you right into the world, a very dark, late medieval-era feeling fantasy realm, very similar to the Ravenloft setting of Dungeons & Dragons. If you aren't familiar with Slavic folklore, some of the creatures might seem unusual to you, but that slightly alien nature just adds to the creepiness of the setting - this isn't some adventurer going after your usual orcs and goblins, this is a true monster hunter, for whom a blend of swords, sorcery, and dark knowledge is needed to take on the evils lurking in the deep forests and crumbling towers.

So if you like dark fairy-tale fantasy with an Eastern European bent to it, do yourself a favor and check out Sapkowski's fiction. I'll definitely find time this fall to work my way through more of Geralt's adventures.

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