I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself an avid reader, I probably read one or two books a year. Sometimes when I’m inspired I may even read three or four but in the past few years I’ve read less and less… and it’s not something I’m proud of.
Sure, I read a lot of internet articles, reviews etc but that just ain’t the same as losing one’s self in a well spun yarn. From time to time we hear about a book series everyone is going nuts over; Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Dune, Mistborn and more, but for me being inspired enough to enter into a multiple-book series is quite the commitment. But, what if I told you I’d recently finished my fourth book in less than two months? And that I plan to have read four more before the year is over?
Why? Because I found Geralt of Rivia. Please, allow me explain myself…
At one time, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series caught my fancy and after reading five of those books, I created a Podcast book club around them – where my co-host and I would record our thoughts on said book in a timely fashion. We did three shows covering the first three books in that series and I have to tell you, its a challenge to read a book then gather your thoughts enough to cover it in detail with another human. You have to do your homework – and I was never too fond of that in school. If I’m honest, I think my passion for the series waned after the fourth book and while I always intended to finish the shows it just didn’t happen.
Cut to years later. Hollywood finally cranks out a film about the exploits of The Gunslinger – and it’s quite simply awful. The kind of bad that leaves a terrible taste in your mouth that won’t wash away no matter how many times you’ve brushed your teeth. To put it bluntly, The Dark Tower film sucked. And while it’s not the fault of the books or the author, I just don’t think I want to dive back into that series after it. It’s a rare thing for a film based on a book to surpass the book, it just hardly ever happens. And it’s even rarer when based on an entire series. Many people said The Dark Tower would have made a better TV series… and they’re probably right.
Wait, a TV show based on a series of books? Hey, now that’s an idea! It worked with Game of Thrones (at least until the end). Which brings me to The Witcher. I knew The Witcher was a series of video games and I knew The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt was hugely popular. I’d never played it, but heard good things. Sadly, I also heard it was about one hundred hours long and I knew I’d never have the time to commit to something like that – especially as it was part three in a series. I didn’t see myself going back to to play the older, graphically inferior Witcher games to get the full story, so I basically wrote it off.
Then came the announcement of a Netflix series starring Superman Henry Cavill. The internet talked about it for weeks and I was intrigued but with no investment in the franchise it was tough to get excited – then in July, the first teaser arrived for the show. and I was SOLD.
Hell yeah, it looks awesome! I may have never played the game but I certainly have the time to binge a Netflix series. Apparently, the show isn’t based on the video games, but the Polish Book Series Wiedźmin by renowned author Andrjez Sapkowski. Wait, The Witcher is a BOOK SERIES!?! Yes, indeed it is. Not just any book series but also the pride of Poland. How popular is this book series in Poland? Well, they have Witcher postage stamps and when President Obama visited Poland in 2011 the Prime Minister gave him a copy of The Witcher 2 video game and a signed copy of The Last Wish – a book of short stories based on the exploits of The Witcher. The Witcher is a big deal and the rest of the world had to wait years for the series to be translated to get to see for themselves what an incredible series it is. I say that like I know, I partially do know because I’ve read the first four books now (I’m so proud of myself, can’t you tell?) and I plan on reading them all, all eight of them and I want you to read them along with me — That’s why I am writing this article in the first place!
What is The Witcher about? The Witcher is a guy or a mutant named Geralt of Rivia, he’s a monster hunter, a slayer, a medieval Orkin man if you will (I stole that from my book club co-host Ross), he’s an exterminator of pests, beasts and a protector of the innocent. He doesn’t just do this out of the kindness of his heart though, he kills monsters in exchange for coin and if you have no coin an arrangement can be made. To say the books are about Geralt’s many encounters with monsters would be underselling it a bit, it’s about so much more than that.
When I first took a look at the book series I was fortunate to see this Reddit post on how to read The Witcher books in the correct order because it’s not real clear at first glance. There is a first novel in the series called Blood of Elves but that is not necessarily the first book you should read in the series, in fact if you were to read that book first you would be doing yourself a great disservice. To embark on the journey of The Witcher correctly the first book on the reading list is called The Last Wish, it’s a book of short stories written by Sapkowski introducing us to not only Geralt but to other important characters and locations in the world of The Witcher. Another thing you should know is that this world is inhabited by many forms of fantasy creatures, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Trolls, Dragons and Sorcerers, essentially it’s a world filled with magic and knights and swords and destiny.
Like I said before, I have read the first four books in the series and have been recording podcasts with my co-host Ross discussing each book at length when we complete each book. So far fatigue has not set in (it won’t) and I’m anxious to get started reading the fifth book but first I thought I would write this very article that you are reading into possibly coaxing you into joining me on this journey. The great thing about a Podcast Book Club is that you don’t have to rush through each book, you can take your sweet ass time and the podcast will be there waiting for you to listen to when you are done. The only negative part of this would be if you wanted to participate but that’s no big deal, right? No one, produces feedback to podcasts! Right? Pshaw.
The Witcher isn’t really about monster slaying it is about character interactions, it is filled with rich and witty dialogue and many comedic moments and references to fables and fairy tales and do not be fooled by the badass pictures of Geralt. Don’t get me wrong he is a badass but he makes mistakes and he has his moments where he totally botches situations. He has a strong sense of honor and sometimes that gets him into trouble. Geralt doesn’t view himself as a normal man but as a Mutant, he doesn’t fit in well with society in fact society is already fractured and divided by the many different races that inhabit the world. He’s a bit of a loner but he also has companions that join him on his journeys and those characters are amazing too. I most certainly don’t want to spoil anyone on any story points so I will just say that if you decide to read these books prepare to laugh and to be enthralled and drawn into a world that begins to live and breathe before your very eyes.
The second book of short stories you should read is called Sword of Destiny. It’s a lot like Last Wish with interesting adventures but it also sets up the first novel to be read after called, Blood of Elves which is book one (but the third book in the order that you should be reading — not confusing at all) of the novels. The book is the beginning of a huge storyline spanning many characters and locales and situations revolving around Geralt’s destiny. Next on the list is The Time of Contempt in which the story continues right after where Blood of Elves left off. Time of Contempt is as far as I’ve gotten in the story but it is safe to say I am hooked into this world (into my veins!) and these characters and I’m ready to begin my next read Baptism of Fire and I hope that you will join me on my journey to read all of the books in The Witcher saga.
So far, I’ve published three podcasts covering these first three books for anyone who wants to listen to them as they’ve completed reading them and the fourth episode of the podcast will follow shortly. If you enjoy reading and enjoy humor and adventure and fantasy then I think you will enjoy this series as much as I have. I have to warn you though, these books aren’t for twelve year olds, don’t let the covers fool you, some knucklehead at the book publisher no doubt thought that putting video-game-like covers on each novel would help bring in the readers but I find them pretty tacky and not really representing what is in the books and really not doing them any favors. These books are filled with sex and foul language and epic violence. So in other words, they are awesome!
So, join me on my journey to the world of Geralt of Rivia, join me in experiencing an epic story of a Witcher and his destiny, read the books and then listen to the show and then we can watch the Netflix series when it premieres and either marvel at it or tear it to pieces whining about how it’s nothing like the books! We wouldn’t really do that, would we?
Here is the order that you should read them:
1. The Last Wish (a book of short stories)
2. Sword of Destiny (second book of short stories that also has a pivotal character introduction)
3. Blood of Elves (the first novel)
4. The Time of Contempt
5. Baptism of Fire
6. The Tower of Swallows
7. Lady of the Lake
8. Season of Storms (a prequel that takes place between the Last Wish and Sword of Destiny but I’ve read from more than one person that it should be read last.)
I might also add that if you don’t have time to read (because, who does?) you may though, have time to listen, check out The Witcher series of audio books read by Peter Kenny who does a fabulous job narrating. He does voices for characters that will endear you to them and all of the audio books can be found on Audible and other outlets. I will also share the Book Club’s iTunes page if you want to subscribe for future episodes!