Bob’s Pick: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
This book was very enjoyable. Like many other good books, it could be read at many different levels. It is multi-layered like a delectable campfire S’mores, alternating events chapter by chapter to offer the reader morsels of crisp reality followed by rewards of tasty insights and knowledge into its main protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, otherwise known as the “Witcher”.
Before I discuss the book, the first in a series of books surrounding the adventures of our main character, Geralt, I would like to mention that there is also related a TV series entitled, “The Witcher” which is currently offered by Netflix. I found this series to be equally satisfying. Also, there is a video game available of the same title.
The best way to read “The Last Wish” or watch the TV series for that matter is to regard it as a collection of short stories, each chapter or episode offering its own piece of the jigsaw puzzle that comprises the gestalt of “Geralt” (pun intended). The reader should also beware that neither the book nor the TV series present events in any chronological order, but if patient, through continued reading or watching, they may eventually blend together.
Geralt of Rivia is a “witcher”, a being living in an imaginary world very similar to our own during the dark ages. Even more so, his world is Tolkeinesque. Not only are there sorcerers and wizards, his world is populated by elves, dwarves and monsters. The job of the witcher is for a fee to rid the world of monsters and vermin. In other words, he is in pest control. The difference is that he isn’t chasing rats and roaches. His pests are monsters of various sizes and types, including vampires, werewolves, dragons, manticores, wyverns, foglers, aeschnas, ilyocoris, chimera, strigas, black annis, kikimoras, and vyppers. One could imagine his business card with a list on the back including prices.
In the course of his life, he has many adventures, each highlighted in its own separate chapter. As I mentioned, the stories in themselves can be taken on many levels including the level of pure fantasy. Some evoke the old German folktales of the brothers Grimm. For example, in one story there is a character, Rengi, whose tale is similar in many ways to that of Snow White. She lives with a gang of seven misfits and was driven into the forest by an evil stepmother. Unlike Snow White, however, her life has taken on a violent edge and her “prince”, Geralt proves not to be her savior but her fatal attraction.
If one delves deeper, there is also a psychological and philosophical level to the stories. Like Nietzshe and Camus before him, through the character of Geralt, the author examines issues of what really is “truth” and what is “good” and what is “evil”. Appearances can be deceiving. Monsters in some cases can be more human than some humans. Also, throughout the stories, there is a thread on the absurdity of life, similar to what is found in novels by Franz Kafka.
In his stories, there are also other aspects of human existence that come into play. Geralt claims not to be a human and beyond any human emotions. Still, he develops a close friendship with a troubadour by the name of Dandelion and falls in love with a witch by the name of Yennifer. He is also entrusted with the care of a child, a debt payment made to him for saving the life of a nobleman. The irony is that Geralt is by trade an inhuman killer but at heart is all too human.
The title of the book, “The Last Wish” refers to the last chapter in the book. Geralt and his friend Dandelion find a sealed jar and break it open. Inside is a djinn or genie. It grants several wishes and in the process causes some great misadventures. The last wish belongs to Geralt and it is life changing. He seals his relationship with the object of his affection, sacrificing his last wish not for power, not for wealth but for the best of human emotions, “love”.