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Much like The Last Wish before, Sword of Destiny is a collection of short stories following a talented witcher called Geralt of Rivia. Although you can start the series with Blood of Elves which is where the full-length novels commence, I can't recommend enough that even though a handful of these short stories are hit-and-miss, that they will add considerable depth to the future narrative arcs.
The Last Wish featured mostly isolated stories with the Witcher tackling a certain monstrosity for a set payment. He travels around the world to where his peculiar killing and magic techniques are needed to tackle a problem and individuals will hire him. In the first book, apart from a couple of brief interludes, there were no recurring characters. It was solely about a certain adventure at one end of the world and then another a thousand miles away. Sword of Destiny features a handful of main characters from the series who become more fleshed out as there presence recurs. Geralt's friend and lady loving bard Dandelion, his mysterious sorceress love interest Yennefer and a potential child of destiny called Ciri. If you've played The Witcher computer games I imagine you a familiar with these characters, the sort of missions set and the monsters the Witcher is assigned to eradicate, and how beautiful and vast this created world is.
I found the stories in The Last Wish more consistent but two or three of my favourites are from this entry. If you decide to read the short story collections first I'd truly recommend starting with The Last Wish and not Sword of Destiny. Two stories in The Witcher #1, one including Yennefer and one including a Queen and a Princess, add huge depth to the action and events that occur in this collection, especially with certain relationship complexities.
The Witcher tales are exciting and addictive to say that a story can be finished within about half an hour. Sapkowski doesn't dumb down the world and there are a plethora of complex characters and demons throughout these pages. My favourite story is here is The Bounds of Reason and it features about twenty-five different well-crafted characters who set off on a mission to kill a wounded dragon. I found this narrative exceptional, unpredictable, thrilling with a hell of a twist at the end. This sets Sword of Destiny up brilliantly. This constructed world does feature typical fantasy tropes but nothing feels forced. It all feels enticing and original. I'm not looking forward to seeing more of the Elves in the next book!
I won't go into the details of the stories too much as it might approach spoiler territory. I will confirm that these tales feature many fantasy races as well as mermaids and underwater warriors, showdowns with sorcerers, a group trying to trace a doppleganger, and also meeting Ciri. It features monster hunting of course but not as much and as frequent as The Last Wish. Each The Last Wish story played like a level on the Witcher games. These are less standalone and cleverly building up for the full narrative which will start with Blood of Elves.
I adored The Bounds of Reason, A Little Sacrifice and Sword of Destiny. Eternal Flame and A Share of Ice were very average. The final story Something More I really struggled with initially. It follows two timelines as Geralt in a fevered state and I sometimes got confused where and when we were. If it was a full-length story I wouldn't have finished it but I did and I'm glad I fought through as the ending is highly satisfying with setting up what can possible happen in the next outings.
I decided to read all of the Witcher books before the TV series is released and I am glad that I have taken on this venture. I've read the first two books within four days and I can't wait to move on further. I often struggle with short stories but I can recommend these highly. The Bound of Reason is one of the top two finest short stories I've ever read alongside Sebastian De Castell - The Fox and the Bowman.
My enjoyment of this book which I originally read in Polish in the 90s, is only marred by sometimes clunky translation. I must say that 'The Last Wish' was done much better.
Some phrases are clunky, some difficult to understand the original meaning of, some are clear copies of certain Polish expressions without looking for better alternatives in English, some due to sloppy editing are a bit illogical or grammatically incorrect.
Also there should be reference section/ sections- for stuff (cultural or language related) clear as day to Polish person, but alien to non-Poles reading. As this time I was reading the book, at roughly the same pace as my British friend, I found myself explaining a lot of context, which should have been made clear, to those willing to understand.
Surely this could be fixed for next editions, right lovely publishers/translators?
All in all, still an amazing book, all of the above notwithstanding, but some editing/ additional information would make it even better.
This is a largely well-written set of Witcher short stories, which start to piece together some of the stories in the Last Wish with the main books (which I have yet to read!). While this time there is no over-arching story linking them together this is to the book's credit. I got annoyed with the Last Wish/Season of Storms's clumsy attempt to sew together a number of different stories - like those old episodes of a sitcom that was just a hashing together of different flashbacks. Though it does mean you could struggle with the chronology, but I think assuming the stories are after the Season of Storms is a safe bet. All of the stories are reasonably exciting, but Sapkowski does have a tendency to start these stories with the Witcher's triumph over another creature, and focus on the aftermath - sometimes you long for the thrill of the preceding hunt. The final story, which I feel is the main link into the first book, includes a number of sections where the Witcher is hallucinating. The segue between these isn't always clear, and while this adds to the atmosphere and feel of the Witcher being drugged, it does leave you a little confused at times (though this passes briefly). A good set of stories and a decent translation with few clunky parts. I would recommend these are read after the main books (i.e. in published order) - while I haven't read those, I have probably taken some characters/stories for granted and not appreciated how they feed in to the overall canon of Witcher works (without googling for spoilers).
' a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer' advertises the description of the book. I don't know who wrote that sad sales pitch, but 'The Witcher' is neither an assassin, nor a murderer, so ignore it. Ignore the Mills & Boon book cover as well, because 'The Witcher' has white hair. Seriously, this book deserves better.
Anyway, on to the actual book.
Read this Witcher book before the others. I read book 1 to 3, then this one. Only to find this one is set before the events of the main series - books 1 to 5(?) - I wish I'd known that before starting reading.
Books 1 to 3 (and maybe 4 and 5 too, I haven't read them yet) are all one epic story, split over several books, and flow one into to the next almost seamlessly.
This book is a collection of short stories, all set prior to 'Book 1'. The stories themselves are a mixed bunch - varied length and quality - but several provide some very important background for the Book 1 - 5(?) epic. Because there are several short stories here there is a lot less of the lengthy geopolitical exposition you get in the multi book epic - the stories are far 'more personal' by necessity. That said, you still get the philosophising and moralising.
Of the stories in this book: one is quite predictable, one is very sad (brought a tear to my eye anyway), one is very clever (unexpectedly thought provoking), one is very confusing (maybe deliberately so because of the nature of the story it is telling) ..... and so on ...... but all are well worth reading. Read it before 'Book 1', and don't skip any of the stories. You won't regret it.
The stories weren't as thrilling as in The Last Wish, but it is a great book albeit a little hard to read at times, due to the poetic rants characters go on when they're talking about love. I really enjoyed it and it sets the stage for the coming larger story quite nicely. Each short story in this book has its own message/meaning/moral and really delivers. There was a single one I just didn't understand though.
Definitely start with The Last Wish if you haven't read that, as there are references to events that transpired in it.
Overall it's a good book but the English translation is of a rather poor quality: - The book is full of literal translations from the Polish language which often makes you guess the intended meaning. - Lack of consistency: same words are translated differently in different parts of the book. - Some translations are simply incorrect and include very fundamental phrases which are warned against at schools. - Typos are quite common too.
I really enjoyed these stories. It’s a good collection. Most of the stories here were adapted in series one of the show but it’s interesting to learn things that were left out or have been changed. The roles of some characters are different even thought the broad strokes remain the same.
A fantastic introduction to the world of the Witcher, I would recommend starting with the last wish followed by this short story collection rather than the first book in the series as they lay the foundations for characters and places in the books