Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski book review

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I used to read pretty much nothing but High Fantasy, with a dash of Dickens here and there, and the occasional other classic, but High Fantasy was where I mostly lived. Deciding that there was more to reading than High Fantasy (which I absolutely and truly believe) I moved away and left it alone for a little while. Magician was really the first book I read that broke the High Fantasy drought, but it wasn't very good and I was disappointed. But it did make me hunger for some fantasy again...

And so we come to The Last Wish. It being one of the 1100+ books on my kindle, I didn't go out of my way to read a blurb or find out what it was about. All I did was find out which book in The Witcher series was the first book and started on it.

It was confusing at first, as very well it should be. The Last Wish is a collection of short stories that are set in the world of the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia and they follow his trials, from battling monsters to falling in love. I went in thinking it was the first book of a series-a general High Fantasy Trilogy that are so prevalent in that genre. That was wrong and it knocked me off my stride. But once you figure that out, you find yourself reading something pretty special.

The writing was pretty good, though how much of that is original author and how much is translation is something I don't wish to get in to. The action was fast, the pacing was good even for short stories. I dislike short stories as a rule but still read them if I don't have a solid reason not to. These short stories are different in that there is one story that runs throughout and the rest act as flashbacks.

The mingling effect of having re-written well-known fairy tales from our own world was really effective and very enjoyable. It was fun to see these stories almost set in a time and place where they actually belong-a world that has actual magic and monster, as opposed to our world where these things are only metaphors. It was fun to see how these tales were mingled, twisted and done and they were done really well, but they weren't really changed in to anything that very different and that let it down a little.

The humour was often times lacking and felt forced most of the time. I enjoy humour in what would be considered as serious books, but it wasn't particularly great here. I'd describe it as generic fantasy humour. I also thought the dialogue was fairly pathetic in most cases and let the stories as a whole down. Whilst I like people to speak normally instead of "thee" and "thou", this went too far and each character was a potty-mouthed arsehole most of the time.

And finally, to keep this short (it's getting longer than I intended it to be) I'd like to re-iterate some things. These stories are probably more of a 4-5 star read for what they are. High Fantasy, sword slashing, myths, magic and Mordor. They're fun and just what Fantasy is perceived to be. But for me, and why they're only 3 star, is that they only conform to the standards of High Fantasy and aren't breaking the mould. There's a minimal effort to create really good female characters. Having one female character who is in charge of her own destiny isn't good enough, particularly considering she's used magic to make herself "beautiful" and ends up being just a Vagina in the end anyway. The other women are mostly naked, whores, or victims, or mysteriously beautiful beings with magic powers but little else. Or old wise women who just sit and be wise. Magic powers and wisdom alone does not make a strong, interesting character. Strong, interesting characters do not need only be the protagonists.

And, similarly, male characters who are solely obsessed with tits and big swords is getting a little old, too.

For me, I need to see more progress made in this area. Sure, that might not be why you read High Fantasy and for you this book will probably be 4, no, 5 stars. But I realised how much I loved High Fantasy, and how much I still love it, and I want to see it change for the better and the only way to do that is by expressing my own opinion only and not letting populism get in the way.





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