Rebecca – a review


I was unsure whether I could count Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca as my fifth Cloak and Dagger read of 2019, but at least it is the February/March book for  The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Book Club group so I can tick that off.

Then, I read the word ‘mystery’ in a description of the book.

Rebecca

by

Daphne du Maurier

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave. 

First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.

Review 5 stars

This was a classic that I thought I had read, but I hadn’t. Now I’m glad I did as it’s memorable and worthy of multiple reads.

Although the novel is described as gothic – and by some as a romance – for me it was also a mystery. Its style by today’s standards might be called dated and yet it was ahead of its time – as was the author.

Much of the narration is as chunks of description mixed with reflection and conjecture by the un-named protagonist living in the shadow of Rebecca. In comparison with the title character, this new Mrs de Winter seems naïve, powerless and at the mercy of others. At first, it would be easy to dismiss her – even the novel – without giving either a chance…without understanding the heroine or the shy author.

I grew up in a world not dissimilar to Manderley, albeit one that had lost its glitter but not its attitudes. I felt myself intimidated by scary and overbearing people – especially when I did something wrong. Society and doing the right thing frightened me.

Especially when such amazing people as Rebecca were being fawned over.

Rebecca may be the deceased wife of Maxim de Winter, but she pervades the story, the house and the grounds. She’s on everyone’s lips. It’s a clever device making her so dominant, giving the novel her name, and naming her, not the protagonist. And it works. The reader is fooled along with the new Mrs de Winter into believing the myth – until the doubts appear.

Mrs Danvers, doth protest too much, methinks. She is the archetypal retainer that creates fear and doubts. Rebecca haunts Manderley in one way, Mrs Danvers in another – a brilliant creation, reminiscent of other classic scary presences. A living vampire?

All the characters are distinctive. All reminded me of people I had met – even worked with. The mannerisms felt familiar, whether Beatrice, the loquacious sister, or Frank Cawley, the faithful agent for Manderley. Even Maxim de Winter was real with all his faults and guilt buried.  

If I had to befriend just one, it would be Jasper. The dog? Yes, the faithful exuberant spaniel.

One other character enfolds the novel – Manderley. The house becomes character, atmosphere and setting. At first magnificent and untouchable with buried secrets. Manderley fills the narrator’s thoughts, not just the house but the gardens and the sea coves. As the protagonist’s thoughts change so do the descriptions of setting, of home, of the weather, of the vegetation. Or is it vice versa? The weather changes and then her thoughts?

But they are all one, interacting as the plot unfolds – setting and thought and events. The past even before Rebecca. Even before Manderley. The sea and the fog.

Cliffhanging language that I need to immerse myself in again.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

#IWSG – Creative Outlets

Created and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post is here again – and so am I.

My plans to develop and focus on Fevered Few, my NaNoWriMo novel are on hold for another week/month until a backlog of junk is clear and my depressed mind clears.

But I’ve been reading though – all pleasure and some as favours. Which brings me in a way to the topic of this month’s IWSG post:

February 6 question – Besides writing what other creative outlets do you have?

Nada – Zilch

Writing is my sole remaining creative outlet – unless I can count dreaming. But that’s linked to writing. I attempted sculpture – once – and struggled to play the flute, but that was decades ago. And the nearest to acting was my failed career as a producer.

So, writing remains my sole creative outlet – unless I cheat and add:

Reading and gaming

But those are both someone else’s creation, even if I spend my chilling time pursuing them. Anyway, in 2019, I have managed to read six books so far. One of those was the novelisation of a game that I have 90% completed, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey – that’s the link to my review.

Writing again. So…Nada y Zilch.

Or do I count my photography? Mostly for work though. Creative? Or is that the poser? Anyway, I can no longer hold any camera steady so that is no longer any sort of outlet.

Zara Phillips competing at Windsor CIC*** – photo by Roland Clarke

What is your non-writing talent/creative outlet?

***

The awesome co-hosts for the February 6 posting of the IWSG are Raimey Gallant, Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you

2019 Cloak and Dagger Challenge


Yesterday, I posted my 2018 books and hinted at another Challenge as well as the Goodreads Reading Challenge. While the Goodreads target includes all genres, this other one is restricted to the genres that my writing falls into. My current WIP is a police procedural but the Cloak and Dagger Challenge encompasses other related genres.

If you want to learn more, visit the sign-up site at: https://www.booksmoviesreviewsohmy.com/2018-cloak-and-dagger-challenge-sign-up/

However, here are the rules copied from the site:

Challenge Rules:

  • You can read any book that is from the mystery/suspense/thriller/crime genres. Any sub-genres are welcome as long as they incorporate one of these genres.
  • You don’t need a blog to participate but you do need a place to post your reviews to link up. (blog, goodreads, booklikes, shelfari, etc.)
  • Make a goal post and link it back here with your goal for this challenge.
  • Books need to be novellas or novels, please no short stories. (At least 100 pages +)
  • Crossovers into other challenges are fine.
  • The Challenge will be from Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st. (Sign up ends March 15th)

This year we are doing the link up a little different. Both Barb and I keep forgetting to do the link ups each month so I thought it would be easier on us if we did Quarterly link ups, so there will be four review link-ups. (Jan-March, April-June, July-Sept and Oct-Dec)

There will be a monthly link up so that others can check out your progress and look at your reviews. At the halfway mark and at the end we will have a giveaway for those participating.

If you tweet about your progress or reviews please use the hashtag #CloakDaggerChal so others can see it.

Levels:

5-15 books – Amateur sleuth

16-25 books – Detective 

26-35 books – Inspector

36 – 55 – Special agent

56+ books – Sherlock Holmes

My 2019 Cloak and Dagger Books

Looking back at my diverse 2018 reads according to Goodreads, I managed to read 11 ‘Cloak and Dagger Books last year – that made me an Amateur sleuth.

But I’m not aiming to read any Cozy Mysteries in 2019, so my aim is to reach the Detective level. Is that realistic?

This is my current list of ‘eligible’ books based on the paperbacks on my desk and on my US & UK Kindles. However, the ones on the UK Kindle, I am unable to access except on the Kindle Cloud reader – such as the rest of the brilliant Fiona Griffiths series. Plus, I am likely to see some tempting reviews that I have to act on as well – and I have some unbought ‘wants’ at Amazon.

  1. The Things You Didn’t See by Ruth Dugdall – read and reviewed: https://rolandclarke.com/2019/01/09/the-things-you-didnt-see-a-review%EF%BB%BF/
  2. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – I’m currently reading this unusual mystery that feels like Cluedo crossed with Groundhog Day with Agatha Christie pulling the strings.
  3. Murder Keeps No Calendar by Cathy Ace – a short story collection from Welsh Canadian author, Cathy Ace whom I first discovered when I picked up a paperback in a Welsh market.
  4. The Pot Thief Who Studied Edward Abbey by J. Michael Orenduff – 8th in the Pot Thief Mysteries series but can be read out of order. I won this in an author giveaway.
  5. The Fake Date by Lynda Stacey – a psychological thriller that received excellent reviews, especially from a reviewer I follow. Plus, the protagonist has amnesia like my detective.
  6. A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang – one of my January free Prime reads with an unusual premise.
  7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – the February/March selection for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Book Club and an overdue read.
  8. Hunter’s Chase by Val Penny – a ‘well plotted’ crime novel reviewed by an author I rate.
  9. No Life Until Death by Garry Rodgers – Vancouver-based police procedural from a retired RCMP homicide detective whose informative blog I follow.
  10. The Silent Dead/Death in the Lakes by Graham Smith – first in police procedural series set in the Lake District, UK.
  11. The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin – the premise of a female comic book writer tackling crime and the sample hooked me.
  12. The Good Knight by Sarah Woodbury – a historical mystery set in 12th century Wales so three reasons to tempt me.
  13. The Lady of the Lakewood Diner by Anne R. Allen – a comedy whodunnit with Woodstock era characters and more. And a writer that I follow and admire.
  14. The Inside Passage by Pendelton Wallace – first in the Ted Higuera suspense thriller series.
  15. Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett – set in an area of the UK, Kent, that I know well, plus this is the first book in the Kay Hunter series.
  16. This Thing of Darkness by Harry Bingham – a must-read as I’m a fan of Welsh detective Fiona Griffiths; this is the fourth novel in the series.
  17. Montbel: A French Murder Mystery by Angela Wren – another visit to the Cevennes is due so I must read this Jacques Forêt Mystery, the third outing in enjoyable series. See my review of Book 1 at https://rolandclarke.com/2017/09/12/messandrierre-a-review/ .
  18. Shallow Waters by Rebecca Bradley – police procedural by a retired police detective set in Nottingham, UK. Second in the D.I. Hannah Robbins series.
  19. Marred by Sue Colettta – the first in a series by the respected crime writer that deals realistically with the attempt to bring a serial killer to justice.
  20. The Spy’s Bedside Book by Graham Greene (Editor), Hugh Greene (Editor), Stella Rimington (Introduction) – collection of short stories.
  21. A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay – it’s about time I read another novel by one of my favourite authors, and this one involves memory loss as well.

This feels like a daunting list, but it’s only mid-January so there’s no reason to panic, Jonesy. If you have any suggestions as to books I should add, comment away.

I might have a larger task with the fourteen additional books that I need to read for the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Children’s books, and novellas?

2018 Reads and Beyond

As a writer, reading is an important part of the process. Reading teaches me many writing lessons while entertaining me. I hope that it’s making me a better writer.

Inspired by some of the writers and readers that I follow, here is my 2018 reading list and top books of the year. Most were not published in 2018, but that’s when I read them so that’s what counts.

First, the list as I reviewed them – with links:

Avalanche (A Stone Mountain Mystery #3) by Kristina Stanley – 5 stars

The Warrior’s Path (When Women Were Warriors #1) by Catherine M. Wilson – 5 stars

For The Winner (Golden Apple Trilogy #2) by Emily Hauser (Goodreads Author) – 5 stars

A Journey of the Heart (When Women Were Warriors #2) by Catherine M. Wilson – 5 stars

A Hero’s Tale (When Women Were Warriors #3) by Catherine M. Wilson – 5 stars

Death in Dulwich (London Murder Mystery #1) by Alice Castle – 4.7 stars

Apricots and Wolfsbane by K.M. Pohlkamp – 4.9 stars

Air and Ash (TIDES #1) by Alex Lidell – 4.3 stars

The Shepherdess of Siena by Linda Lafferty – 4.3 stars

The Last Wish (Saga o Wiedźminie #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski – 5 stars

Lord of the Flies by William Golding – 4.5 stars

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – 5+ stars

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis – 4.4 stars

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 4.3 stars

Sword of Destiny (Saga o Wiedźminie #2) by Andrzej Sapkowski – 5 stars

Look the Other Way by Kristina Stanley – 4.6 stars

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware – 5 stars

Never on Saturday by Sue Barnard – 4.4 stars

Heathcliff: The Unanswered Questions Finally Answered? by Sue Barnard – 4.4 stars

Horsemanship by Gina McKnight (Editor) – 5 stars

Mr Churchill’s Secretary (Maggie Hope Mystery #1) by Susan Elia MacNeal – 3.7 stars

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths (Fiona Griffiths #3) by Harry Bingham – 5 stars

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1) by Elizabeth E. Wein – 5+ stars

Joseph Barnaby by Susan Roebuck – 4.6 stars

Method Acting For Writers: Learn Deep Point Of View Using Emotional Layers by

Lisa Hall-Wilson – 5 stars

The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker – 5 stars

What Child Is This by Rhys Bowen – 5 stars

Eadric And The Wolves: A Novel Of The Danish Conquest Of England by David K. Mullaly – 4 stars

I’ve missed a few books – the Children’s ones – but these are the majority. On reflection, there are more five stars awarded than memorable books, and I’ve tended to be unfair to the authors I interact with. Why? Reverse favouritism?

Anyway, thinking back over the year and looking for memorable reads, here’s my top three for each of the genres that I lean towards:

Thrillers- Mystery- Suspense-Crime:
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – 5+ stars

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths (Fiona Griffiths #3) by Harry Bingham – 5 stars

Avalanche (A Stone Mountain Mystery #3) by Kristina Stanley – 5 stars

Fantasy:
The Warrior’s Path (When Women Were Warriors #1) by Catherine M. Wilson – 5 stars

The Last Wish (Saga o Wiedźminie #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski – 5 stars

For The Winner (Golden Apple Trilogy #2) by Emily Hauser (Goodreads Author) – 5 stars


Historical Fiction:

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1) by Elizabeth E. Wein – 5+ stars

The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker – 5 stars

Apricots and Wolfsbane by K.M. Pohlkamp – 4.9 stars


Some of these cross genres and showed that is achievable seamlessly. These lists lead into my top five reads of 2018 – well fiction reads – in order.

Top Five Reads of 2018
1.             Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1) by Elizabeth E. Wein – 5+ stars

2.            The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – 5+ stars

3.            The Warrior’s Path (When Women Were Warriors #1) by Catherine M. Wilson – 5 stars

4.            The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths (Fiona Griffiths #3) by Harry Bingham – 5 stars

5.            Avalanche (A Stone Mountain Mystery #3) by Kristina Stanley – 5 stars

Top Non-fiction has to be my ‘desk-bible’ – Method Acting For Writers: Learn Deep Point Of View Using Emotional Layers by Lisa Hall-Wilson. By the use it has already got, that 5 stars rating is low.

Keeping track of my reading has been my Goodreads account. I’ve now taken part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for the last three years and passed my modest goal each year. I set the bar low as there are days when I struggle to read more than a few pages; not because the books are bad but because of health issues.

In 2018, I read 45 books and passed my target of 3o – call that figure 42 as three books got counted twice. Only 28 got reviewed – as above – but Goodreads did keep tally so I must have some reviews outstanding.

However, despite reading 41 books in 2017, I have kept my goal for 2019 low at 35. I am ahead as I type this, but I’m now reading a chunky 500-page book.

In my next Book Review post, I will list some of the books that I plan to read – with another Challenge as the target.

To marry Heathcliff?

Thursday_horizons

For today’s Thursday Creation Review, I’m changing tacks again and sailing further into uncharted seas – variety and all that mirror stuff.

Anyway, one of my favourite authors – and one of my editors and writer-friends – is Sue Barnard. Ever since her first novel, The Ghostly Father, I’ve been an avid follower, reading all four of her novels released to date – all four or five star reads. Sue’s latest novel, Heathcliff: The Unanswered Questions Finally Answered? , is released on Monday, July 30th, so I will present the novel for your delectation.

First, an extended version of my original review of Sue’s last novel, Never on Saturday.

NeverOnSaturday

Never on Saturday

by

Sue Barnard (Goodreads Author)

Two stories, two heartbreaks: one past, one present…

Leaving her native France and arriving in North Wales as a postgraduate student of History and Folklore, Mel is cautiously optimistic that she can escape from her troubled past and begin a new and happier life.

She settles into her student accommodation and begins work on her thesis, concentrating particularly on one fascinating manuscript: a compelling and tragic tale of a cursed medieval princess.

Then she meets Ray – charming, down-to-earth and devastatingly handsome. Within days, Mel’s entire world has transformed from lonely and frustrated to loving and fulfilled. Despite her failure with previous relationships, she allows herself to hope that this time, at last, she can make it work.

But Mel’s dreams of happiness are under constant threat. She is hiding a dark and terrible secret, which Ray – or indeed anybody else – must never ever discover…

Review 4.4 stars

I enjoyed this novel which once again showed Sue Barnard’s ability to write in different ‘genres’ – or perhaps that should be time-styles as this engrossing novella has a historical timeline and a present day one.

The two threads to this tales weave together – but saying ‘why’ would be a spoiler. I enjoyed the way they came together and sussed what was going on, or rather ‘who’, early on – even if I took a confusing operatic detour in my head.

Mel is an interesting character as is Ray but in a different way. I enjoyed the familiar North Wales setting and the brief language references. The folklore and historical elements never felt overdone and they were informative as they were thrown in as neat asides.

Never on Saturday is a fast and easy read with a neat ending, a well-crafted mix of styles and their respective settings. Plus, there are informative author notes at the end. Overall, I would recommend this novella.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

How the Story Came About:

Sue Barnard: “A few years ago I was on holiday in western France and came across a legend associated with the area I was visiting.  Previously I’d been vaguely aware of the existence of this legend, but until then I’d known next to nothing about it.

A couple of weeks after I returned home, I was mowing the lawn when suddenly a line of dialogue popped into my head.  Goodness only knows where it came from, but it proved to be the starting point for what would eventually become Never on Saturday.

The line was “My name isn’t [X], it’s [Y].”  Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific here, because that would give away too much.  But suffice it to say that [Y] is the name of the character featured in the old French legend.”

Buy link: mybook.to/never-on-saturday

Other Reviews:

“An intriguing combination of myth and modern! I don’t like to give the story away to spoil it for future readers, but Sue has taken a myth and woven it into a magical love story. This story is easy to read and follow, even though it slips backwards and forwards in time. An act of revenge, a curse, a mythical creature, magic, and a rather attractive man goes into the mix to make a very entertaining story.”

“A must-read for fans of paranormal romance. A simple, modern-day love story is interwoven with an ancient French fairy-tale. I’m a sucker for folklore so I loved the old legend which I hadn’t come across before but even if you have you won’t know how this version will end.”

“A well-crafted, beautifully written little novella, which I devoured in one sitting. Like every book written by this author, a quality read which ticks all the boxes.”

 

Heathcliff

Heathcliff: The Unanswered Questions Finally Answered?

by

Sue Barnard (Goodreads Author)

“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…”

Cathy’s immortal words from Wuthering Heights change Heathcliff’s life. At just seventeen years of age, heartbroken and penniless, he runs away to face an unknown future.

Three years later, he returns – much improved in manners, appearance and prosperity.

But what happened during those years? How could he have made his fortune, from nothing? Who might his parents have been? And what fate turned him into literature’s most famous anti-hero?

For almost two centuries, these questions have remained unanswered. Until now…

How the Story Came About

Sue Barnard: “It all began with a chance remark from a former schoolfriend: “Sue, I love the way you’ve based your book on what we did at school. What are you going to do next?”

“We were chatting just after the release of my third novel, The Unkindest Cut of All, which features a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This was the play we’d studied for English Literature O-Level (as it then was, back in the dark ages before GCSEs). The novel set for the same exam was Emily Brontë’s classic Wuthering Heights.

“Well,” I chuckled, “there’s always Heathcliff…”

“At the time, it was just a passing joke between two friends who recalled crying on each other’s shoulders as we’d struggled to make sense of the vagaries of the plot, tried (and mostly failed) to decipher Joseph’s incomprehensible dialect, and attempted to understand the book’s complicated inter-personal relationships. The latter was not made any easier by the characters’ confusing similarity of names. Emily Brontë had clearly never read the rule-book about this. Three of the characters have names beginning with the same initial, one of them has a first name which is the same as the surname of another, and two others have the same name entirely!

“But somehow, the idea just wouldn’t go away. I then recalled how our teacher (the wonderful Mrs Hall) explained how “…by having the story narrated by Nelly Dean, Emily Brontë avoids having to tell us exactly what happened to Heathcliff during those missing three years…”

“So – what might have happened to him? Could I try to get into his mind, and write a story which attempts to answer that question?”

Buy Link: http://mybook.to/heathcliff

Reviews

“I had always wondered what happened to Heathcliff during those three years he was absent from the action of ‘Wuthering Heights’. What would change him from a passionate, unruly youth into a polished gentleman? And who were his parents?”

“Sue Barnard answers these questions (and more) in a way that makes total sense, as well as making a really exciting story in its own right. Painting vivid pictures of the culture of the time, Barnard shows us Heathcliff as he changes – and why. I loved the fact that her plot and his development made sense psychologically as well as culturally while fitting in seamlessly with the text of WH. I love WH so much that I would have worried about any additions, had not Barnard proved herself to be a safe pair of hands in her earlier books. Being a Cathy myself, I’ve always wanted more of Heathcliff – and I couldn’t have got him in a better form!”

“A great read! It is fascinating to discover the author’s take on one of literature’s great mysteries. Be sure to read the author’s note too.”

Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt – a review

Thursday_horizons

I was struggling to find a book to review this week: okay, I have some with short reviews to expand on, but I can’t fully remember the key points that I had to make. And I am behind with my reading as I’m struggling with finding characters I like. I also wondered if anyone would notice me missing a week.

Would you have missed a review? Or are the reviews interesting?

However, I was determined to write something. I never said these reviews were exclusively about books so how about a game instead, I decided. This felt inevitable back in April when I posted W is for Witcher, looking at the origins of the Witcher games. That post looked in depth at some of the elements, but my experience playing the game was limited back then – but not now.

Let’s don our armour and sharpen the swords then.

Witcher3

The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is an action-adventure RPG based on The Witcher series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, it is the sequel to the 2011 game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, in which the player becomes Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher – a monster hunter for hire. He possesses superhuman abilities and is a master swordsman. a dying breed that makes their living killing the monsters that threaten people.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Polish: Wiedźmin 3: Dziki Gon) is the third and final instalment in the series of games developed by CD Projekt RED featuring the witcher Geralt of Rivia. The game was originally scheduled for release in late 2014, then pushed back to 24 February 2015, and finally released on 19 May 2015. During the first two weeks since release it had sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, more than doubling the total sales of its predecessor The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

The game has proved to be one of the most successful and popular games of recent years – if not ever.

Review 4.9 Stars:

Back in April, I was new to the game, but I was sucked into The Witcher world – and just starting out on my journey. Since then, I have logged over 500 hours of playtime, finished the main game and the two ‘expansions’ – Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine. I am now on my second playthrough, using the New Game + feature, whereby a player can start the story afresh but with the level reached at the end of the first playthrough – so my Geralt was level 55 and the monsters were boosted too.

In deciding to re-play, I had to have found the game more than just entertaining – in fact, the storyline is engrossing with multiple endings possible and the settings are brilliant. That excellent storytelling has been great, underpinned by reading the 1993 collection of short stories by author Andrzej Sapkowski as well as his second series – see my reviews of The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny.

CD Projekt has built on the world of Sapkowski, and there are plenty of references to past events within both the main quest line and in the side quests – and the overall world-building is impressive. There is a clever aspect to this game – cheeky at times even as the depth of the narrative produces amusing references to other games, books, artwork etcetera. What other game would have a major-domo called Barnabas-Basil Foulty.

Graphically the game is immersive and, well-not exactly beautiful, except in the final region of Toussaint, but the settings reflect that this is a world ravaged by war as well as monsters. The countryside and cities – rough, bleak and vibrant – feel real albeit not cinema-realistic, but I never expect that in a game.

The gameplay element is more complex than other games with a lot to learn and master – and that has been ratcheted up in my second playthrough as I have decided to tackle it on the hardest setting – Death March. This time, I must prepare Geralt for battle and not plunge in all gung-ho – or he dies too easily. Some of that though, is down to oddities in aspects of the game mechanics, like Geralt’s a habit of auto-finishing enemies off while there are others still alive.

The quirks in the mechanics have been annoying – like his inability to jump more than a few inches – but these are very minor compared with the massive number of pluses. One minor irritation in the main game is the NPCs wandering the world who tend to bump into Geralt or his mare, Roach. In Toussaint, the people have more manners (or the developers improved the AI).

Some players have had issues with Roach floating in the air – but I had no problems, so I suspect this glitch was sorted in a patch. My Roach seems to wander off, but she is usually looking for something to eat or drink when Geralt is busy – extremely sensible. It would be cool to build houses but that is not an essential, although Geralt gets a vineyard to do up in Blood & Wine – with BB’s help. By then, you can also dye Geralt’s armour.

Roach01

I must end this lengthy player-review by saying that my favourite aspect must be Gwent. This is an in-game card game that is popular in the Witcher world and was invented by the dwarves – they get annoyed when a new deck is introduced in Blood and Wine, initiating a clever side-story. Most innkeepers, merchants and even central characters play Gwent, and some sell individual cards. Geralt can collect cards and take part in Gwent quests and tournaments – with trophies. I must admit that I even have a physical Gwent set with the game board and all five sets of cards. Does that make me a card-geek?

In summary, a great game that has justified the countless awards and accolades received. I will be enjoying Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt for many more hours playing on Death March – despite the quirks and glitches. I’m eagerly anticipating the rumoured Witcher 4 – even if it will be some years before it emerges. Plus, I still have five more of Sapkowski’s Witcher books to read.

Setting: 5*

Storyline: 5*

Gameplay: 4.5*

Graphics: 5*

Entertainment: 5*

Features: 5*