The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish book cover review The Witcher


Goodreads: The Last Wish
Series: The Witcher 0.5
Age Category: Adult
Source: Library
Published: 1993

Official Summary

Geralt the Witcher—revered and hated—is a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent.

But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

Star Divider


The Last Wish is a collection of connected short stories that alternate between the present and flashbacks to Geralt’s past. Overall, it’s an evocative collection that feels familiar in its use of fantasy tropes and allusions but also somehow new. I enjoyed learning about Geralt’s world and his feats as a particularly well-known witcher, while the allusions to things changing in the world added an air of bittersweetness.

My primary concern is the treatment of women in the book, and I believe this needs to be addressed first because the opening scene is just Geralt opening his eyes from sleep to see some random woman coming nymph-like to straddle and seduce him. It’s an odd prologue since it doesn’t seem to have a point besides “ooh sexy woman throwing herself at Geralt because men deserve that” or something, and I wasn’t impressed. I saw a review on Goodreads where someone just quit reading the book entirely after this scene, and I can’t even blame her because I was tempted to DNF, too. As for the rest of the book . . . it waffles a bit on women. Geralt seems to respect women generally and has a firm anti-rape stance that he repeats (a low, low bar), but the book does rather objectify them, and there’s a distinct male gaze. Women’s dresses ripping during fight scenes to expose their breasts. That sort of thing. If you can get over this aspect of the book (and I’m on the fence about whether I did get over it myself), the book has a lot of other merits.

The stories themselves are interesting, and many of them took little twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I loved that Geralt appears to be legendary in his occupation, but often solves the problems he encounters in ways one wouldn’t expect. So while there are certainly fight scenes where Geralt gets to display his skills, there are also times he uses cleverness; he sees some things are riddles where others cannot. He’s also no infallible or even necessarily impressive-looking while at work. The book is open about the fact he gets injuries and he gets things wrong and he gets things done, but he doesn’t always look cool and dignified while getting results. So there’s a human aspect (which is also interesting considering the emphasis on the fact Geralt is not, in fact, human).

There’s also a very layered feel to the book. There’s clearly a history to the world that isn’t on full display here, but the reader can see there are stories and legends and realms and all sorts of things waiting to be discovered. And there’s also a sense of change that brings to mind epics stories like Beowulf. Geralt senses an end of a era, a diminishing of the number of monsters and the need for witchers to deal with them. The world he knows is not going to last, and who’s to say whether that’s good or bad?

The writing is sometimes clunky, and while I suspect some of that might be because of the translation, some of it also seems to just be how the book is structured. A story will be going along and suddenly there will be an inserted explanation of some world building or other background information, and then the story carries on. This happened often enough I definitely noticed it, but it didn’t ruin my general enjoyment of the book.

In terms of plot and world building, this is a top-tier fantasy read. The misogyny, however, put me off and kept me from becoming fully connected to the world. While there are women with influence and impressive skills here, it’s really one of those instances where they’re like weird outliers with mystical powers to be vaguely feared and respected or sex objects. The women in the book rarely felt like people to me in the way that a lot of the male characters did, and this is really disappointing to me. I liked the book, but I don’t know if I care enough to read more of the series, which is a shame.

Note: I have not seen the show. This is my introduction to the Witcher.

4 stars

12 thoughts on “The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

  1. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    I might get this book in future and will see I will continue the series or not. I watched Netflix series and I liked characters in it but yes, in general it looks more male focused series and women are not that important even though they have power. But maybe that’s because of era.


  2. Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies says:

    I’ve gotten through about four books in the series, but I’m not sure that I care enough to keep going. I agree about the portrayal of women, and I don’t always love the writing — but I do really like how fairy tale elements are incorporated and I like a lot about Geralt himself. (I started reading the books after watching the first season of the Netflix show, so there were fewer surprises for me about overall tone and approach).


  3. Janette says:

    I definitely agree about the attitudes to women in the book. I think it’s the one aspect where the book really show its age as those attitudes were a lot more prevalent in fantasy writing twenty years ago. The TV series manages it much better I think.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, I don’t think it’s unusual, but I guess I’ve been reading so much fantasy where this doesn’t happen that I got used to women actually being people lol. I see why people like the series though. Without this major flaw, I think it would rank really highly for me too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Celeste | A Literary Escape says:

    Love your review! This is definitely a series I want to start, and I have the first two books (of the recommended reading order) on my shelf. I was vaguely aware that it can be misogynistic, so it’s good to know more from your review before I finally get started with this series. Do you think you’ll continue reading the books?


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I hadn’t heard anything about misogyny until I was reading the Goodreads reviews before I started the book, and the person who DNF’ed over the prologue quoted it and I just started wondering what I was getting myself into! On one hand, I get the book is a bit of a product of its time. On the other hand, I think it really would have pushed the book from good to great for me if the women had been written better. As it is, I can go either way on reading more of the series. I might get to it eventually, but I’m not in a rush.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Alex Page says:

    I’ve read the series and while there are a lot of interesting things about it (the influences it draws on, the world, etc) the male gaze is quite cloying. The show so far has done a better job with female characters.


  6. Kim @ Traveling in Books says:

    I agree with your points here. The Witcher books’ treatment of women always bugged me, though it didn’t stop me from reading the short stories. Once I got to the novels, though, I couldn’t get through the first one and gave up on the series. All the worldbuilding stuff felt so clunky and dull, so that mixed with the male gaze stuff put me off the series.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, I am on the fence as to whether or not it annoyed me enough to keep me from reading more of the books, which is a shame since there were certainly parts I found interesting. Though I also did like the short story format and am not sure if I would live a full novel as much.

      Liked by 1 person

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