The Witcher: The Lady of the Lake

The conclusion to the epic of Geralt, Ciri, Yennefer and all the rest of it comes in the longest novel of the series, as we see pretty much all of the plot threads going right back to the short story anthologies being tied up. Here be spoilers!

Similar to the last book, in fact more so than the last book, the timeline is pretty much all over the place, as Sapkowski appears to delight in using all manner of framing stories-within framing stories, so we start off with Ciri arriving in the time of King Arthur and telling her story to Sir Galahad, but then we go off on tangents with the sorceress Nimue and her protégé Condwiramurs (more Arthurian nods) trying to work out the end of the Ciri legend, based on the wealth of material that had sprung up since.

We jump to see what Geralt and co are up to, as they spend the winter in the Duchy of Toussaint, and we actually get Geralt being a witcher once more in these portions, which is nice because he hasn’t done his actual job since the very first anthology, as far as I recall. We also get to see what happened when Ciri went through the portal in the Tower of the Swallow at the end of the last book – in short, it wasn’t good. She was effectively held by a race of elves who wanted her to produce a child, who was prophesied to become the most powerful magic user of all time, and who would prevent the end of the world. Or something. Ciri eventually escapes, but is forced to rove through time and space as she attempts to undo the magical barrier holding her beyond the Tower, and is only able to make it back to her own time thanks to the intervention of Nimue and Condwiramurs.

Everything comes to a head when Ciri willingly goes to confront Vilgefortz, and attempts to sell herself in place of Yennefer. However, Vilgefortz’s magic is too strong, and he then attempts to impregnate her to get the prophesied child. Geralt and co are able to rescue her, however, with Regis, Cahir and Angouleme all perishing in the task. Geralt frees Yennefer, and together they are able to defeat Vilgefortz while Ciri is finally able to reach the calm centre within herself to best Leo Bonhart. With the arrival of the Emperor Emhyr, all of the rogue elements under Vilgefortz are defeated, and Geralt is finally able to put all the pieces together. Emhyr is none other than Duny, Ciri’s father, and we learn the torrid backstory of how he came to be cursed, and why he wants to marry his own daughter. When Geralt and Yennefer are asked to commit suicide to keep the secret, however, Ciri is able to intervene and Emhyr renounces his plans, marching back to Nilfgaard with his troops.

We then have an epilogue, of sorts, as we learn of the Peace of Cintra, where the northern kings gather to celebrate the end of the war. A lot of loose ends begin to get tied up, including one where Ciri was said to have brought about the end of the world back in book two. During her jumping around space and time, she brought with her a flea from a plague-infested port, which jumps from her and lands on a rat, which in turn arrives on a boat in the Cintran harbour and is eaten by a cat, and so it goes. The Sorceress’ Lodge basically forces Ciri to agree to their plan for her future, where she will bear a child with one of the northern princes, but before going through with it she goes to meet with Geralt in Rivia. In the wake of the war, Rivia is a bit of a powder-keg, and while Geralt and Dandelion wait for Ciri to arrive, they meet up with Yarpen Zigrin shortly before all hell breaks loose, and the town erupts in a huge riot. Geralt, in a final effort to stand up for good against evil, is mortally wounded and dies just as Ciri and Yennefer arrive. Yennefer expends all of her strength trying to save Geralt, but in vain.

In a quasi-mystical ending, a boat appears on the nearby lake, and Ciri rows the bodies of Geralt and Yennefer out into the mist. We then return to Ciri and Sir Galahad, where she finishes her story with a fabricated happy ending, and the two ride off into the sunset.

This is one hell of a ride, and I have to say, I’m glad to have been part of a buddy read doing this, because I don’t think I would have stuck with it otherwise. Jenn gave up after Time of Contempt, and I think I would probably have done so at that point, as well. I think, overall, there is a fairly decent story in here. Having only the most basic of ideas of what it was all about thanks to my buddy Tony telling me all about him years ago (and we played the board game that one time, as well), I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for. However, I didn’t necessarily have the high hopes that Dave had, from playing the video games. I was very impressed with the first anthology, I thought there was some very interesting ideas that I was excited to explore as we got into the full novels.

However, in the end it seemed that the novels’ main premise was to abuse Ciri as much as possible, and have Geralt and his party spend three full books wandering around trying to find her. We seemed to have a random international war thrown into the mix as well, and a very confusing coup within the sorcerers’ community that I think it has taken the full five-novel series to make sense of. Bad writing? Maybe. I sometimes wonder if I had read these books back to back, maybe they’d make more sense? I often wonder as well whether it would make more sense to re-read them, knowing how everything now works out, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet. As it stands, it felt like a pretty jumbled mess, and I’ve made the point before about the war seeming to come out of nowhere, with little to no explanation given other than to have it provide the backdrop.

I think that’s because of the pacing of the narrative. I think the story could have been told in at most a trilogy, if there had been a tighter focus and without the padding. There’s a lot that happens, politically, in book two, but book three just seems to be the tale of how Geralt hooked up with Milva, Cahir and Regis, but it’s long. Book four is almost a study in the art of the novel, and I think the narrative suffers for it, as Sapkowski almost seems to be showing off with his multiple layers of framing stories. If it was told as a simple linear story, albeit with all of the threads still present, it could perhaps have been a lot shorter. Book five has a real issue with the timeline, and which frame we’re currently looking through, and so on. I’ve read reviews from people who really enjoyed it, but it felt to me too much like it was trying to be difficult to have sense made of it.

As I have read my previous blogs on the earlier books to gain some sort of perspective for this, I’m quite surprised that I seemed to enjoy them individually, even if I wasn’t entirely sure about what was going on, particularly because of the broad-strokes politics and geography. 

While I was able to enjoy the individual books for what they were at the time, I think when you look at this as a series, it does suffer, particularly because there are so many ways in which I think it could have been better. Even the inclusion of a map would have been helpful, to see where all these places are that are being talked about. I think it was particularly disappointing for book three, which is so much a travelogue but without any idea of where all these places are, it becomes less an epic journey through the war-torn landscape, and just a mass of confusing place-names.

I’m flip-flopping a lot here with whether I actually enjoyed this series or not, aren’t I? I think I’m just confused by the whole thing. While I had no preconceptions for the series, I think the short stories led me to think the main novels would go in a certain way, but then things turned out wildly different. I am glad to have read them, of course, as it’s one of the oft-talked-about book series within the general geek-type circles, but I have definitely struggled through the whole thing, if I’m honest. 

I’m glad that I’ve read it, but I’m glad that it’s over. I guess there’s not a lot more that I can say.

Reading Round-Up

Hey everybody,
I’ve really fallen behind in terms of the book blogs, and rather than trying to get my garbled thoughts down for all of them, I’ve opted for what a number of you fine wordpressers go for, and have prepared this multi-part missive with some thoughts spread across each. Well, it’s only three books, so it’s not like it’s going to be a huge epistle (I say that now…)

Rogue Star
The first book in this bunch is Rogue Star, the first book in the Rogue Trader anthology by Andy Hoare. There’s a name from Warhammer royalty, right there. The story involves the rogue trader Lucian Gerrit and his son and daughter, as they travel to the world of Mundus Chasmata to negotiate a deal with the Imperial governor there. Turns out the deal is gun-running – in fact, it’s xenos gun-running. Things aren’t entirely what they seem, and the isolation of Mundus Chasmata has led to something of a rot setting into the governor and his court. When the nearby governor of Arris Epsilon decides to launch an attack, with Tau mercenaries in attendance, Lucian is able to use his small fleet to manoeuvre so that the governors destroy each other in the process.

I really wanted to like this book. In fact, part of me kinda still does. But I think it suffers a little from that sort of early Warhammer weirdness. It’s not that early, of course, being published in 2006, but it doesn’t seem to have a lot to recommend it beyond a sort of nostalgia, I suppose. We don’t get to learn a tremendous amount about what rogue traders are, or what they do. Their retinue is barely touched upon, possibly due to the fact that Gerrit’s family fortune is at a low ebb, hence them taking the work at Mundus Chasmata, but I think there was a definite missed opportunity to go deep into the lore of rogue traders, and what that all means. Maybe we will get it with a future book – there are still two more novels and two short stories in the omnibus, after all! 

That all said, when the Tau showed up, I did get a bit excited. The story is set somewhere around the edge of the Damocles Gulf, so I suppose it was inevitable really, but it was interesting to see the way in which they showed up, duping the governor of Arris Epsilon into believing they’re helping him when really, they’re kinda taking over.

All in all, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but it was by no means one that I would be rushing to recommend everybody pick up.

The Tower of the Swallow
The fourth Witcher book has been and gone, and I have to say, I quite liked this one. It wasn’t the story per se, but the manner in which the story unfolds, that really impressed me. It’s always dicey talking about things like literary texture when you’re discussing a book you’ve read in translation, but there was something about the flow of the words in this one, and the patterns and, well, textures used to tell the story, that really created a strong impression.

We start slap bang in media res here, and I had no idea where this book took place, in relation to the previous one, for a very long time. It begins with a hermit discovering a badly wounded and mutilated Ciri in the middle of the swamp, when the autumn is getting unseasonably chilly. He tends her wounds, and while she convalesces with him, we begin to pick up on the story of how she came to be in that state. Interspersed with this is the story of what is going on with Yennefer, after she fled from the sorceresses conclave. That’s also told somewhat after the fact, and the story skips and jumps around with barely a thought for a linear timeline that it can actually be tough to keep track of exactly what is going on.

However, I kinda loved it, all the same! I especially liked the device of using the same (or near-same) paragraph at the end of chapters, “if anybody looked in through the window, they’d see an old man and a young girl…” etc. It gave me such a sense of foreboding for something about to happen, especially when we learn that Ciri is being sought by men in the nearby village. I was just waiting for the enforced familiarity to come and bite me. It really did put me on edge just as the chapter was coming to an end! 

So what do we learn? Ciri and her fellow Rats were apprehended by some massive bounty hunter, who killed all the Rats and captured Ciri, forcing her to fight in gladiatorial battles, but she was able to escape before being handed over to Rience and, ultimately, Vilgefortz, prompting a massive chase sequence that ultimately leads her to discover the Tower of the Swallow, the magical pair of the Tower of the Gull, whose magical portal she went through to escape during the coup on Thanedd. Somewhere along the way, we also have Geralt and co, but they are unfortunately relegated to bit-players in this book, despite the cover having The Witcher emblazoned across the top!

I can see why many people don’t really like this one, and think of it as filler or whatever, but I was really impressed with the narrative choices, more so once I had worked out just what was going on and all the rest of it. Looks like there’s just one more novel left to read, then one more anthology, and we’re done. We’ve almost made it, guys!

Flesh and Steel
We’re back to the 41st millennium for the last book in this series of mini-reviews! Flesh and Steel was the second novel released under the Warhammer Crime imprint, after Chris Wraight’s inaugural Bloodlines, and is written by fellow Black Library alum Guy Haley. The novel features Probator Symeon Noctis and his investigation into several gruesome murders linked heavily to servitors manufactured on-world in an enclave of the Adeptus Mechanicus, so he is joined in this by Procurator Rho Lux-1, a bit like an AdMech version of the Adeptus Arbites. Noctis and Lux look into what is going on with these servitors, which are high-end multifunctional creations whose creator is then killed under suspicious circumstances, also.

There are so many twists and turns along the way, including a tie-in to Noctis’ ongoing investigation into the disappearance of a wealthy industrialist’s daughter, that it’s hard to believe the story is packed into just over 300 pages. Along the way, we also have many more glimpses into the internal politics of Alecto and the hive city of Varangantua, as we look at the wealthy denizens who are able to live among the surviving real trees of the planet, and the background Noctis himself left behind when he joined the enforcers. We also get a look at the byzantine workings of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and the paranoia they embody while working alongside the Imperium as they try to guard their secrets while also not overstepping their authority.

Indeed, I think it’s the AdMech parts that I found consummately fascinating while reading this book, and I credit this with the reason why I started to build Karaphron Breachers, and then in turn start to look once again at my AdMech army for 40k! I don’t think I’ve read anything by Haley that covers this before, so it was interesting to see how well he can write the Martian priesthood. I find myself wanting to know more, and more, but I suppose that’s just the sign of a good author!

I really enjoyed this book, at any rate, and I think it’s possibly because it was along the lines of a police procedural once again. The Wraithbone Phoenix had that element missing, I think, which made it feel a little less like a Warhammer Crime story. There are still quite a few books in the Warhammer Crime series, although most are short story anthologies which can often be hit and miss. But I do hope that there will be many more of this standard, because this book was excellent.

So there we are, a bit of a whistlestop tour of the books that have come under my nose recently. According to my goodreads profile, I am one book ahead of schedule for reading 30 books this year, so I think that’s nice! At least they’ve all been actual novels as well, so my wife can’t complain too much that I’m bumping my total up with “pamphlets” and “magazines” (one day, she’ll realise graphic novels count as reading…) Still not decided yet on whether I’m going to start reading the New Jedi Order again this year, though I am feeling in the mood for some Star Wars as we get closer to Easter!

The Witcher: Baptism of Fire

The war is still raging between the Nilfgaard Empire and the Northern Kingdoms, as the forces of the North begin to consolidate their defense and retaliation. Geralt has been recovering in Brokilon forest, but is intent on searching for Ciri. The dryads introduce him to the archer Milva, who accompanies Geralt and Dandelion on the first part of their journey. Along the way, they team up with a band of refugees led by a contingent of dwarves, headed up by Zoltan Chivay. The band is shadowed by Cahir, the Black Rider who had been haunting the dreams of Ciri in the aftermath of the fall of Cintra. Geralt is initially reluctant to allow him to join them, but Cahir befriends Milva and eventually joints the party. During their journey, they also befriend Regis, who is a vampire with medical talent.

While they are initially headed for the capital of Nilfgaard, due to the belief that the Emperor Emhyr is holding Ciri there pending a marriage alliance, Cahir and Geralt both have the same prophetic dreams about Ciri, clearly indicating that she is elsewhere in the world. As it happens, Ciri is happily a part of the Rats group of bandits, although as time goes on she begins to question her life choices.

Geralt and his party are continually trying to avoid the warring factions as they make their way along the river Yaruga, but eventually are caught up in the thick of things at a battle where they inadvertently save Queen Maeve, who knights the witcher, thereby making his claim to be from Rivia an official title. 

Meanwhile, Phillipa Eilhart works with Francesca Findabair to found a new organisation, a Lodge of Sorceresses, pledging their allegiance to magic rather than to kings. The Lodge includes Nilfgaardian sorceresses, and we finally discover that Yennefer was indeed saved from Thanedd. The Lodge comes to the agreement that they are best served by unifying the northern kingdoms under Ciri, who possesses magical ability and the royal pedigree. Yennefer escapes from her sorceress companions to search for Ciri herself, although she believes by finding Vilgefortz she will find the girl.


There’s a lot going on in this book. While I still feel a bit like the narrative choice of telling the story through Geralt leaves a lot of the political aspect a mystery, this book was a great improvement on the second novel. I really enjoyed it, not least because we even get Geralt being a witcher once again! The dwarf party was a lot of fun, and both Milva and Cahir were interesting characters, and I enjoyed their inclusion. The Lodge of Sorceresses was a good way to try to catch up with what’s going on in the wider world, but somehow it does still feel like there is something missing from the overarching narrative here.

The war with Nilfgaard is treated a bit like a backdrop for the story, but it has such a huge impact that I think it needs to have some more attention given to it. It really felt like it came out of nowhere towards the end of the first book, then the second book was such a muddle because of it, and again it forms a large part of the setting of the book without really any big explanation. It’s a bit like reading a story about a group of people on a journey from Lyon to Prague at the height of World War II, but with no concept of why the Allies and the Axis are fighting, just knowing that they are.

I am quite a fan of Yennefer, so I was glad to find out what has happened to her following the events on the Isle of Thanedd. She’s absent for almost a book, really, between the second half of the second novel, and the first half of the third. Now that she’s on a quest to track down Ciri as well, and she’s out for revenge against Vilgefortz, I think book four is being set up as being pretty good! Ciri herself is almost an afterthought for the most part, although we do see how she doesn’t seem to be entirely happy with her lot. Given that she started out with such promise, magically-speaking, and is still seen as a real key to power in the world, I’m really intrigued to see where her story is going.

All in all, book three felt like a step-up from the last one, and I’m looking forward to seeing where we go in book four! As you may recall, I’m reading this with Jenn, Dave and Milou, and we’re pushing book four into January, so I’m back to the Horus Heresy for now…

The Witcher: Time of Contempt

Earlier this week, I managed to finish the second novel in the Witcher series (the fourth book, confusingly!), Time of Contempt! And confusion is definitely the main order of the day, I think.

The book pretty much picks up directly from the first, and expands massively on one of the plot threads that emerged towards the end of Blood of Elves, as we have an element of politics coming into the fore with this one. The invasion by Nilfgaard has prompted many of the kings of the north to stop using their sorcerers and shift alliances, prompting a sorcerers convention on the isle of Thanedd to discuss the future. However, the convention ends in a bloodbath, as factional in-fighting takes over, during which Geralt is seriously wounded. He recovers in Brokilon, and misses out on the majority of the action, relying on Dandelion to fill him in. Yennefer appears to be missing, while Ciri escaped Thanedd through a magical portal that dumped her in the desert to the east, the so-called “frying pan”. Nilfgaard is desperate to find her and forge an alliance to legitimise their invasion of Cintra, and they almost get her, but she escapes and joins a band of highway robbers called the Rats.

It took me almost a fortnight to wade through this one, because a lot of the time I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to want to read it. Now, the story is actually really compelling, and I’m finding myself really intrigued by what is going on, etc, but I just struggled to follow it from around the second-third of the book onwards. I mentioned last time how I felt a bit lost by the references to political alliances and so forth, feeling the need for a map almost, and this feeling is expanded tenfold here. I think it doesn’t help that we’re introduced to what feels like 30 new characters who suddenly splinter into factions, and during the magical coup portion I was just really lost, trying to remember who is who, and who they’re allied to, etc. After a while, I just had to sit back and, to some extent, let it wash over me!

I have since googled a map of the Witcher world, which has been very helpful in working out where everything is in relation to other things.

I also had to google a synopsis of the book after I had finished, and it turns out that Philippa Eilhart, who we met in the last book as a powerful sorceress with questionable motives for helping then seemingly hindering Geralt’s pursuit of Rience, has instigated a coup against members of the Council of Mages for conspiring with Nilfgaard. Following the Battle of Sodden, where the kingdoms of the north were able to defeat the forces of Nilfgaard thanks to the devastating intervention of the mages, the Emperor Emhyr wants to neutralise the sorcerers. One of the senior enchantresses, Tissaia, causes further havoc, thinking Philippa to be a warmonger, and removes the magical protection of the conclave chamber, causing all hell to break loose. One of the mages, Vilgefortz, is indeed in the employ of Nilfgaard, and is responsible for wounding Geralt while Ciri escapes.

The final two chapters, which deal with the fate of Ciri, were almost traumatic, and I think the character of Ciri is firmly cemented in the firmament here. Up until now, she’s almost been relegated to a Macguffin, without any major purpose beyond how important it is to have her safe. Now, though, she becomes her own person, and I have definitely found myself caring more about her because of it. Over the course of the book, we learn that she is actually a descendant of the legendary witch Falka, and is prophesied to bring about the end of the old world, and the birth of the new. We see a bit of this, when Ciri awakens her magical ability in the desert through channelling the Power through fire, with disastrous consequences. Has she really now lost all magical ability? Surely if she is such a child of prophecy, she’ll get it back? Hm.

The chapters are still very long, and the book kinda suffers for this at times, because we’ve left the story almost in tatters, with no idea whether Yennefer in particular has survived, or what’s going on. It’s almost like people are being forgotten about while the spotlight is on someone else. But I’m sure the next book will help with this, so I suppose it’s not a massive problem.

I ended up giving this story 4 out of 5 on Goodreads, even though I don’t think I really enjoyed it at the time! I think it’s definitely a compelling tale, and I think I would like to re-read the main body of the novels again when I’ve finished them, to kinda gain a better understanding of what’s going on. After reading this book, for instance, I definitely think I need to re-read those passages from book one that were talking about the kings and the politics, etc.

So yeah, weird in that I felt like I was wading through treacle at the time, but now that I’ve finished, I think there’s a good story in there!

The Witcher: Blood of Elves

I finished reading book one in The Witcher series on Friday, Blood of Elves, and I have to say, I’m very impressed. It’s a series of books that has been around in the original Polish since the 90s of course (Blood of Elves dates from 1994), but has really only hit the mainstream with the video game from 2007, I believe. The games merely use the characters from the series, but I understand that they don’t otherwise adapt the book material. Could be wrong, though, as I’m not a video gamer!

Book One in the series takes all of the stuff we learnt across the two anthology books, particularly from Sword of Destiny, and begins the story in earnest. I’d say that it also begins to pull all of the fairly disparate stories into a more cohesive whole, but honestly, this novel still has an element of the short story anthology to it. There are just seven chapters in the book, but they’re long, and almost disjointed enough to feel like separate stories.

We begin with Dandelion being tortured by a man named Rience, for details of the real people upon whom one of his popular ballads is based – notably, Geralt and Ciri. Rience is very interested in where the child is, but fortunately Dandelion is saved by Yennefer before any serious damage is done.

Roughly the first half then sees us at the Witchers’ keep of Kaer Morhen, where the sorceress Triss Merigold has been asked to help them deal with Ciri, who is having some strange episodes. The witchers haven’t tried to give her any of their elixirs, in part because it seems their infrastructure is collapsing, but they also have next to no understanding of female biology. It’s clear that she possesses some form of magical potency, and during one of these she tries to delve into the girl’s mind, with fairly disastrous results. Triss informs Geralt that Ciri needs a stronger mentor, and to see more of the world.

With the spring, Geralt, Triss and Ciri set off for the Temple of Melitele in order for Ciri to gain some more mainstream education. On the road, however, Triss becomes ill, and Geralt is able to seek aid from his old friend, the dwarf Yarpen Zigrin, who is leading a caravan on the business of King Henselt of Kaedwen, one of the Four Kingdoms. We get to learn something about the political situation, and the caravan is attacked by eleven marauders. It turns out that the caravan was only a ruse, to work out if Henselt could trust Yarpen.

The story then fractures, as we get to see Geralt on the hunt for Rience, whom he tracks down with the help of Dandelion, but whom escapes from him. We end with Ciri receiving a magical education from Yennefer, before the two head off from the Temple, amid rumours of a new war.

I enjoyed this one, although the chapters sometimes ran a bit too long for my liking. The way the story is paced did take some getting used to, as well, but overall I think it didn’t take too long to get into.

While it perhaps isn’t compulsory to read the anthologies first, I think I got so much more out of the story for having done so. There are references both huge and trivial throughout the book, and while it would feel just like any kind of fantasy story that begins with the fallout from a historical war, having read all of the preamble in the earlier books, I think the setting does become all the richer for it.

I also really liked the way the story was buttressed by the two educational styles. To begin with, Ciri is learning almost entirely how to handle a sword, and she seems to be pretty good at that, to boot. We later see her come into her own magically, and it seems likely she will be a force to be reckoned with in that arena, as well. She’s a really well-developed character over the course of the novel, becoming beautifully rounded out, and I found myself really invested in her story by the end. Interesting that the book should be sold under the tagline of The Witcher, when this really seems to be Ciri’s story.

As we know, Geralt is a Witcher, meaning he has undergone training and mutations to kill the many monsters that plague the land. However, only once do we see him in his professional capacity, and that is a sideline to his hunt for Rience. There is an excellent battle sequence at the caravan, though, which I enjoyed tremendously, and he does get to kick some serious ass during his fight with Rience. I hate to think of the shape that guy will be in if and when he shows up for book two!

We also get to spend a lot of time with Yennefer, and while in many ways she is as inscrutable here as she ever was in the short stories, we do get to have some insight into her as a person, and I think it helps to round her out more as well, rather than just being the woman over whom Geralt painfully pines.

There is quite a bit of politics and power-plays later in the book, but I definitely feel as though we need a map because I do struggle to picture where all of these kingdoms and cities are in relation to one another. There are some really interesting bits about the Wizard Council as well, and in general I think the world-building is great. In particular, the history of the elves is explored, and I was almost overjoyed to see that here we have a credible reason for just why the elves are an ancient race that is dying out.

In short, I think the first book in the series (book three if we’re counting actual volumes, though, but the first novel) is really good, and I’m thoroughly invested in just what is going on. I would have preferred a more in-depth discussion of the politics, or a map, to help with the bigger picture, but the character drama that is playing out has really sucked me in!

I’m reading The Witcher series with Dave, Milou and Jenn, and will be linking their blog reviews here in the fullness of time, as well!!

The Witcher: Sword of Destiny

Hey everybody,
I’m still playing catch up with getting my thoughts on the Witcher books down on the blog here, so it’s time for book two already! I did read this back in March, so it’s been a while before I’ve put pen to paper, so to speak!

I want to say right off, that I really enjoyed this book, perhaps even more so than the last book. Now, the first Witcher anthology, The Last Wish, was a tremendous book, and I pretty much ran through it, lapping up all of the stories almost as quickly as possible. I also really liked the frame story that felt like it made the anthology something more. Starting on Sword of Destiny, I think I was initially hesitant, because it is a straight up collection of six stories that are loosely told in chronological order, but otherwise felt a bit like a step down from the earlier book.


While I was reading it, maybe halfway through, maybe not even that far, and my opinion just totally changed and I really got into it. I think it helps that the stories are, on the whole, longer than those in the previous volume, so they have a bit more time to evolve. Plus, I suppose, we’ve already met most of the characters by the time we get to this book, so when, for example, we meet Dandelion again, I did give a little cheer to see these familiar faces.

(Interestingly, this was the first book published for the Witcher series, back in 1992, though I think that’s probably because The Last Wish collects stories that were published in magazines etc).

The anthology is interesting, though, as while we know that Geralt is a Witcher, that is he hunts monsters for a living, he does very little of that throughout this book. In the very first book, he pointedly refuses to take part in a dragon hunt, as dragons are not a threat to humanity. The monster hunting comes second in the next story, which is something of an exploration of Geralt and Yennefer’s relationship. I thought this one was a really interesting character story, and tells us a lot about the two of them (although it’s actually three, as the story is a love triangle with another sorcerer, Istredd, who I believe shows up in the main novels too).

The third story, Eternal Flame, was a nice little story that features halflings and changelings, amid the theocratic city of Novigrad, which is I believe an important place within the lore. I found it interesting because it made for a very different type of fantasy story – one of the main plot points was the mercantile activities of the halfling (or, should I say, the shapeshifter). Dandelion is also back, which is always a pleasure!

He’s also in the fourth tale, A Little Sacrifice, which was both my least favourite, but also one that I still managed to enjoy a great deal. The “main” story involves Duke Agloval’s pursuit of a mermaid, and his hiring Geralt to investigate the deaths of some pearl divers purported to be the work of a sea monster. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it, I just wasn’t really into the story all that much. However, intertwining this is the story of Dandelion’s fellow minstrel Essi “Little Eye” and her relationship with Geralt. It was kinda cute, and I think much more down to earth than Geralt and Yennefer, which is the kind of tempestuous love story from a drama or something. In sharp contrast, Geralt and Essi is like the sort of thing you would see happening every day, and there was just something really quite lovely about it all – which makes the ending really quite heart-rending.

The last two stories are somewhat strongly connected. Sword of Destiny introduces Ciri to the lore, as Geralt comes across the girl while travelling through the Last Forest in an attempt to deliver a message to the dryad queen, Eithne. The dryads attempt to take Ciri as one of their own, giving her the waters of Brokilon to drink and forget her former life. However, the water has no effect on her. It later transpires that Ciri is the granddaughter of Queen Calanthe, from the previous book, and is the Child of Destiny that Geralt had originally claimed under the Law of Surprise. Geralt, however, refuses to take her as is his right, and claims to have only invoked the law to look destiny in the eye.

Finally, we have Something More, where Geralt is injured when saving a merchant from undead monsters, and hallucinates memories from his past. While the merchant is able to take Geralt to safety, he offers anything in return, and so the old Law of Surprise makes another appearance, as Geralt asks as payment that which he was not expecting upon his return home. Along the way, we learn that Cintre, the kingdom of Calanthe, has fallen and the royal family has committed mass suicide. Geralt mourns for Ciri, only to find that the merchant’s wife has taken in a refugee fleeing the attack – and of course, it is Ciri. Wonderful!

These stories were almost more mature than the last volume, with much more of a focus on the human drama between the characters than we had last time. We do still have the world-building, as we get to explore more of the setting, and we get some very interesting new characters to add to the development of those we know from The Last Wish, but I feel like it was a definite step-up from the last book.

I have no real idea as to the chronology of the stories, or how they are supposed to link in to the main novel series yet, but that almost doesn’t matter, really. I mean, each story was self-contained enough that you don’t feel that you’re missing out on anything, but I still get the impression that they’re setting up more important relationships (particularly with Ciri) for later down the line. I found it interesting that I was able to enjoy these stories almost in isolation, therefore, although I suppose having read the first book, that has provided enough grounding?

At any rate, I really enjoyed this one, which is weird, because both Jenn and Dave, with whom I’m going to be reading the main series, were pretty ambivalent about it, at best! I wonder how our opinions will turn out after reading the next one, Blood of Elves…?

The Last Wish

Hey everybody,
It’s time for something different on the blog today, as I finally get round to my write up of the first Witcher anthology – the first book? Not sure, it seems like trying to work out when the books all take place is an industry all of its own. At any rate, The Last Wish is a collections of short stories from 1993 that serves to introduce us to the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia. There are seven stories, around which is entwined a continuing narrative that serves to bind everything together.

I was first introduced to the Witcher by my buddy Tony, who is a huge fan of the video games, and had read all of the books. We have played the boardgame, of course, but I never really made much of an effort to learn more about the whole thing. I then read Dave’s review over on his site, and I decided that the time was right – in fact, it was right now, because within a day or two I had got myself a copy of the book from the local library and was merrily reading away!

I was instantly hooked with this, and pretty much devoured it as quickly as I could. The premise is that Geralt, a Witcher by trade, was wounded by one of the monsters he is paid to hunt, and so is recuperating at a monastery. The subsequent stories are a bit like Geralt remembering his past deeds, each time coming back to the “present” as this frame story advances. I think the stories were originally published in magazines and stuff, so it’s a nice way to bind them all together in a book.

The first story, The Witcher, is one of my favourites, I think because it sets the tone for the world. There are elements from Slavic folklore interspersed here, which is both familiar and strange to me. Geralt is a man who hunts monsters, and as part of his training he had undergone a kind of super soldier transformation. In order to hunt these beasts, he takes a variety of potions that enhance his speed, or his reactions, or his strength; enhancing his already enhanced body (he has excellent night vision, like a cat). We see this when he is tasked with lifting a curse on a king’s daughter (the result of an incestuous relationship with the king’s sister). The girl was born a striga, but Geralt thinks he has what it takes. The tale is vaguely creepy, which I really liked, and there is a political element that I enjoyed – making these not merely generic sword-and-sorcery fantasy stories.

All of the stories seem to be leading to the last of the seven, the eponymous The Last Wish. This is the story that tells how Geralt meets Yennefer, a sorceress and his great love interest. Somehow, even knowing so very little of the whole world, I knew about these two. Geralt’s bard friend Dandelion is injured by a genie he discovers in a sealed bottle while fishing, so Geralt takes him to the nearest city and asks Yennefer for aid. She heals Dandelion, but uses her magic to avenge herself on her detractors in the city by bewitching Geralt into running rampant. Yennefer further attempts to harness the power of the genie for herself, causing untold destruction in the attempt.

While all of the stories are, to some extent, Geralt on an adventure, it really doesn’t feel like some kind of by the numbers thing, where we have Geralt on the hunt of some kind of monster of the week. While each story does to some degree showcase some particular kind of gribbly, they nevertheless seem to be more about the people, and less just a series of sword fights and the like. There are a few elements that did make me feel just a little bit lost, however, such as the geography of the stories, and stuff like the political landscape. I think, when reading this as an introduction to the whole Witcher phenomenon, however, it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the ride – Geralt making the sign of Aard is just a thing he does, you don’t need a massive two-page explanation of the lore and so on to understand its purpose right there in the story. I realise that some people might not like that, but I’m choosing to just go along with it, and I suppose I’m expecting a lot of these sorts of things to be more fully fleshed out in the novels, where space is more affordable.

There is a whole lot to enjoy here, though, and while I have no idea how important to the ongoing narrative some of the story elements are (one of my least favourite stories, A Question of Price, appears to loom large already by being a direct prequel to one of the stories in the second anthology), I was nevertheless thoroughly entertained by this book. The allusions to fairy tales, while providing original spins thereon, is quite nice, and despite being a fantasy series, it somehow feels quite modern in its outlook, without the characters seeming to overly subvert the established norms for such stories. I think the storytelling flows quite well, and there isn’t that kind of annoying effort to try and be something other than Tolkien that some fantasy writers often fall into. It genuinely feels like something new and fresh, but also it doesn’t need a lot of laborious exposition for us to “get” the kind of story that we’re reading. We get details filled in about the world-building as we go, rather than all up front – the penultimate story, Edge of the World, gives us a lot of background to the elves who originally populated the continent on which the action takes place, for example.

I really enjoyed this book, and I thought it was a really good introduction to the world and the characters, having a bunch of short stories to serve as short and punchy introductions. If you’ve been on the fence like me about this series, then it’s really about time that you got yourself a copy and gave it a read!

As I said at the start, I was inspired to actually pick this book up following Dave’s review, and while I’ve also now read the second book in the series, Sword of Destiny, we’re now poised to read the first novel, Blood of Elves, with Jenn from Eternal Bookcase (you can read Jenn’s review of The Last Wish here!) and Dave’s better half, Milou. So stay tuned as we all dive into these books together, with cross-pollination across the sphere of WordPress!

February 2022 retrospective

Hey everybody,
February has been and gone, and in all honesty I don’t think it was half as productive as January turned out to be! This is probably because I ended up struck down with a cold for the last week, although there has been plenty of real-life stuff going on to make matters worse.

To start with, I have finished painting the Tau Fire Warriors that were this month’s project. I was hoping that I could have been as productive as last month, and get at least two units painted up, but in the event I only just managed to get the one done! They have been painted in the same manner as the Pathfinders, for the most part, which has meant the scheme was already established, etc. That was fortunate, though part of me does feel like they haven’t turned out looking as good as the Pathfinders did. Hm. At any rate, that’s one squad down, so I’m pleased on that score! The army, if it can be called that, it off to a good start then, I think, as I have a lot of infantry units fully painted, as well as their associated drones, so I’m pleased about that!

Something that I always try to avoid when starting army projects like this is falling into the trap of painting up the fancy HQ model / models first, getting really excited, then realising that I need to get a whole bunch of troops done next. Doing the troops done first allows you to get the scheme figured out, and doing it that often allows you to really practice things, so that the HQ models should look a bit better! That’s the theory, at least!

So, why has it taken me so long to get these Fire Warriors done? I mean, one month to paint one unit was the target that I gave myself, but I managed double the numbers in January, so what gives?

February was a bit of a stock-taking month for me, and I spent quite a bit of time looking through all of my other projects, a blog about which you can read here. It wasn’t until I was halfway through the month that I had gotten the armour basecoat done on the troops! I did get distracted quite a bit, first with Sisters, and then with Drukhari, as I started to think about other stuff that I’d like to achieve this year. I would really like to get more of the Dark Eldar finished off, and I would really like an Imperium army, which is de-railing me quite a bit! After giving some thought to the Sisters, I’ve now begun to think a lot about my AdMech, as I hadn’t realised I had so much left. So it has taken something of a concerted effort to actually finish the unit off.

Also, Necromunda happened. I played another game (it should have been two, but I was unwell…) and have been building up more scenery and some of the Forge World minis. I did start to paint up another Delaque ganger for my roster, he’s not quite finished yet but hopefully it won’t take too long to get the finishing touches done. There have been a few distractions, though, and while I do usually like to have different projects on the go to keep my general hobby interest up, it doesn’t always work to my advantage!

At any rate, in March I’m going to be scaling things back somewhat, and I have the Commander to build and paint, and I’m hoping that I can also get the Ethereal and maybe Cadre Fireblade done at the same time. I have talked about my Tau plans, though since then I have picked up the Combat Patrol box, so have a bunch more models to paint for the army! I got promoted in work, and the new job started mid-month, so I used the leaving gift of amazon vouchers to pick that up! Ten more Fire Warriors, the Fireblade, a Ghostkeel and Stealth Suits, and another Ethereal. Busy times ahead! Breaking all of this down, I’m going to focus on getting the HQs ready now, then if time allows I’ll be moving straight on to the Crisis Suits, and then the next batch of Fire Warriors. So that will probably take me right up to the end of April, at the very least – at which point I’ll have a fairly decent-sized force, and can start thinking about the big suits!

Drukhari are still on my mind, however, and I do want to try to get the squad of 10 Wyches painted up in advance of a game that I’m planning sometime soon. I’m hopefully going to keep these things ticking over for the time being, a few models here and there, and we’ll see how much more for the army I’ve got finished by the time December rolls around again! It would be nice to be able to field my Drukhari more, though, and with increased options such as the Wyches and more Reavers, etc, so that’s something for the side project list.

It’s also been a bit of a Star Wars month, as I’ve been reading the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy – again, it’s just been a really slow month, but I did manage to finish the third part in the trilogy, Lesser Evil, and will be publishing a blog with my thoughts on it in the coming days! Since then, I’ve moved on to reading The Last Wish, a book of short stories that introduce The Witcher, after reading this blog from Dave at Wordaholicsanonymous. The Witcher is something I’ve been meaning to dip into for years, albeit having never played the video game. My buddy Tony is a huge fan, and we have played the board game, but that has been it up to this point. I think I’ve read the first three short stories so far, and I’m definitely into it!

The Book of Boba Fett closed up this month, as well, what a curious show that was, in the end. Much more haphazard than The Mandalorian before it, I have to say. I’m still not 100% sure what I think about it, two weeks later – I mean, it was Star Wars, so it was fun. It was a bit of a miss, I think, but I don’t think I actively disliked it as much as, perhaps, a lot of other people seem to. I think a lot of the failings come down to the fact that it was a show about a character nobody has really known what to do with since his debut in 1980; The Mandalorian has shown us how good a show about a bounty hunter could be, so I’m a bit confused as to why this needed to be a Thing. But a Thing it is, and so here we are.

When I’m done with the Witcher, I think I’m going to read some more Star Wars, as I do seem to be in that kind of zone right now. I’ve got the Alphabet Squadron trilogy to read, for starters, although I’m also thinking/hoping that I can re-read some Legends classics soon! There are a lot of wonderful books in the Legends continuity that I would like to showcase on the blog here, so I’m thinking it’d be good to get back to my roots, as it were!

Games Night!

Hey everybody!
It’s Tuesday, so it’s game day here on – and today is a very exciting game day blog indeed, because I got to play an awesome game at the weekend, and really can’t wait to talk about it! Let’s get going!

After something of a hiatus, my longtime gaming buddy Tony came round at the weekend and we basically had a day of gaming, trying out a couple of new games he has bought. I haven’t been buying all that many games lately – indeed, I’ve actually been downsizing my collection in the wake of all the plastic I’ve been investing in! – but in the couple of months since we last played anything, he’s gotten quite a few new ones.

The Hobbit deck-building game

We started out with The Hobbit deck-building game from Cryptozoic. This follows the same basic premise of all the other Cerberus-engine games from them, such as DC and Street Fighter, and the only real difference that I could see came in the form of the One Ring card. The “super villains” this time are three arch-enemy cards that form a stack, each separated by loot cards – powerful artifacts such as Glamdring and Sting, as well as “manoeuvres” that act much like superpowers. When you defeat an arch-enemy, you take a treasure card then everyone suffers an attack, discarding cards. There’s the One Ring card that can also be found in this manner, and is initially placed to the side of the line-up – cards such as Bilbo and Gollum will let players take control of this card, which functions as a sort of ongoing-effect. It’s actually really nice, especially if you happen to have a Bilbo card to take it, then your opponent takes it back with a Gollum card (screaming “My precious!” is mandatory in this instance).

I lost this one, 86 to 96.

But let’s move on to the main event!

The Witcher adventure game

Released late last year, Tony has been eagerly awaiting this game for what feels like ever, as he’s a big fan of both the video game and the novels. He’s often talked to me about them, and they do sound intriguing, but I can’t say I’ve ever shared his enthusiasm for it. Until now, of course!

This game is just awesome. You play one of four (presumably) iconic heroes from the world, and you go about the board trying to complete quests in order to score victory points, and the winner is the person with the most who has completed three quests.

The Witcher adventure game

I have recently come to realise just how much I love games like this. The sort of games that take up at least two tables, that feature massive boards, and allow you to truly immerse yourself in the world as you go through. Even knowing nothing about the lore, I felt like I was able to track a story of my own here, which is a mark of just how successful the game works I suppose. This in itself is a new experience for me, as I usually have some idea of what I’m doing in thematic games like this! So that’s definitely in its favour!

The quest cards are really cool, as they have your main objective, as well as two side quests you can complete for additional VPs, and a support quest that another player can complete for you, both of you then scoring. This adds a degree of co-op to the game that I thought was really interesting – it’s still a race, but you’re not trying to outright screw each other over, as you might want to complete a quest for them, or get them to complete one of yours. We were only playing two player of course, but I can see how this support mechanic could lead to forming brief alliances as you try to get ahead of other players.

The Witcher adventure game

On your turn, you can take two actions from a small menu of such things – move, investigate, develop, prepare, and rest. While you can never actually die in the game, taking wounds reduces what you can actually do during your turn, and can force you to rest to heal up. Developing yourself allows you to draw cards from a small deck of personalized skills, customizing your hero for what you want to do. Preparing then allows you to potentially buff those skills, or at least make them playable in future rounds.

I really love the investigation action, though, because of its variety. When you move, you travel along the dotted line between locations, and pick one ‘lead’ token of a colour available at that location – red, blue or purple. These can be traded in later for tokens that will allow you to complete your main quest, and each hero has a different ratio of leads to quest tokens, so some might have an easier time converting blue tokens, for instance. Investigation will sometimes give you even more leads, but can also provide tasks that provide greater benefits when you accomplish them, or setbacks, such as combat or just delaying you.

As I said before, it’s super thematic and even with no prior knowledge of the game, I had a great time playing as I began to spin this tale of my character travelling through the land for whatever reasons…

At the end of your turn, you have the obstacle part. Each location of the board is part of one of six regions, each colour-coded. There’s a track down the side of the board where you can amass both enemy tokens and skull tokens – at the end of your turn, you must then face whatever is in that part of the track. The skulls are Foul Fate tokens that cause you to draw from that deck, and usually awful things will happen. Enemies (the token in the bottom-right of the above picture) have two attributes, swords and shields. To defeat them, you must roll the three battle dice as well as your hero dice, and equal or exceed both stats – to symbolize both defeating the monster and escaping unharmed. If you fail on the swords, the monster remains in the region, and you suffer any penalties listed on the token. If you defeat it, but fail to equal the shields, you can still claim the successful combat but you may find yourself wounded or something. It’s a really interesting way of dealing with combat, making it more than just outright defeat of something.

The Foul Fate mechanic – while awful – is also really interesting, as you can take these tokens onto your hero sheet as well, causing you to draw a card if you wish to take the action you placed the token on. It really adds a lot of depth to the game, so that you aren’t just running around killing stuff and completing quests to win!

Like I said, I really enjoyed this one – I even won! – and hopefully we’ll get to play it some more over the coming weeks and months.

We rounded out our game day with six games of Magic, which I haven’t played for about five or six months, so unsurprisingly didn’t do very well. Managed to get him to 1 health in two games, and still lost, but did win two of the games. My Jeskai deck did a lot better than I thought it would with three colours involved – I even triggered Narset’s ultimate! – but my Rakdos deck was just appalling, so I need to sort out the mana in that one. Shame, because there are some really fun cards in that one. Magic is still a fun game, when I can get to play it, so I’ll no doubt feature more of that in upcoming blogs…

Anyhow, this blog post has trundled on for quite enough time now, so I’ll leave it there! Suffice it to say, though, that Witcher boardgame is amazing!