The Last Wish
by Andrzej Sapkowski
I had never heard of the Witcher until the Netflix trailer dropped last year. I started watching some promotional interviews with the cast, and getting excited over the general buzz for the show. And then…a video appeared on youtube one day. A video of Henry Cavill reading from the book the show is based off of. It, to this day, is the best read aloud I’ve ever heard…and I’m a librarian WHO DOES READ ALOUDS!
When I finally picked up my own copy of this book, I immediately fell into the story. It was incredibly immersive, and not too complicated if you go in with the mindset of I-don’t-know-anything-and-that’s-okay. I quickly realized that this novel shifts between two moving timelines. While the story remained cohesive, I could see how a lot of people would have trouble keeping up with these shifts.
I really enjoyed how this novel was set up. The Witcher is talking to another main character (a Priestess) throughout the novel, and as he returns from his travels. She is like his home base, in my mind. When the story moves away from home base, it does so abruptly, but it is always action packed and ready with a good tale to tell.
The action in this story was very descriptive, and what I would expect from a high fantasy world. My biggest complaint from this novel was how it treated female characters. I tried to brush it off at first, until I realized this was a pattern and a choice the author had, unfortunately, made.
For the most part, women were solely sexual beings, the evil creatures the Witcher needed to destroy, or (rarely) the damsel in distress. I understand that, for whatever reason that didn’t get explained at all in this book, the Witcher is a hyper sexual character. Did that happen because he was made into a Witcher, or is that just who he is as a person? I’m not sure. The sex scenes were never graphic, thank goodness, but they seemingly came out of nowhere. One minute the Witcher hates this person and realizes he has to kill them, and the next minute they’re in bed together. The more women we encountered, the more grossed out I got by how women were portrayed. It was just…not my cup of tea.
While I really liked the pace, action, and storytelling, I don’t see myself returning to finish this massive series. Granted this was published in the 90’s, and translated from Polish, I’m really hoping the portrayal of female characters somehow got lost in translation…but I doubt it.
I’ll still be watching the Netflix series to compare the two, and I’ll be praying that they revised this particular aspect of the story. It’s one thing to find a woman sexy and attractive. It’s something entirely different to describe every woman strictly on the shape of her breasts.
I want to add that while I thought the female characters were not to my liking, that does not mean everyone will feel the same way. For whatever personal reasons, this is a very sensitive topic for me. Just because I found this to be problematic, doesn’t mean that you will too.