Sword of Destiny – a review

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Ever since I met Geralt of Rivia in the game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and posted about it in W is for Witcher, I have been exploring the origins of that world in the creations of Andrzej Sapkowski.

After reviewing the first book in Geralt’s chronology – The Last Wish – I kept reading. I will eventually review the game but I have many hours left so today my Witcher journey continues with a review of the second collection of short stories, Sword of Destiny:

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Sword of Destiny (Saga o Wiedźminie #2)

by

Andrzej Sapkowski

The New York Times bestselling series that inspired the international hit video game: The Witcher.

Geralt is a witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent.

This is a collection of short stories, following the adventures of the hit collection THE LAST WISH. Join Geralt as he battles monsters, demons and prejudices alike…
The Witcher series 
The Last Wish
The Sword of Destiny 
Blood of Elves
The Time of Contempt
Baptism of Fire

The Malady and Other Stories: An Andrzej Sapkowski Sampler (e-only)

Review 5 stars

I’m attempting to remain chronological in reading and reviewing Andrzej Sapkowski’s absorbing books about Geralt of Rivia, although I first met the White Wolf in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt video game. I also know that there are some shorts that might not fit this chronology.

However, the six short stories in this second collection are on the one hand standalone but on the other, there are strong threads linking them – not least the White Wolf himself, Geralt of Rivia.

Some see him as emotionless and ruthless, but his potion-subdued emotions emerge, and he is torn by his heart and by his destiny. Sapkowski creates an evolving and complex character who has a code, relationships, habits, quirks, dreams, nightmares…and destiny.

That destiny unfolds in the stories – and I know in later books. However, the author doesn’t use a linear style for the plot, weaving the threads with flashback memories, nightmares and encounters. Some readers might find this approach confusing, but when the pieces fall into place, I sat back and admired the craft, grinning with pleasure.

Each story deals with an event in Geralt’s journey, introducing both new characters and old ones, like Dandelion, the bard and Yennefer, the sorceress. From the opening story, The Bounds of Reason, when we encounter the mysterious Borch Three Jackdaws, we realise that this is neither a black-and-white world nor classical fantasy, but a multi-faceted and richly-visualised world of many hues, some grey and muddy, some earthy and verdant, and some red as blood or purple as lilacs.

Each character, in this and the other stories, has levels of complexity, none more so than the child called Ciri in the last two stories – The Sword of Destiny and Something More.

I could write about all six stories, but other reviewers can do that better. Do I focus instead on Yennefer’s devious attractions or Dandelion’s humorous escapades? Not this time – even if they are both play memorable character-driven episodes.

Ciri is the person who fascinated me most, watching her cope with events as a child, her raw emotions and reactions, seeing her encounter Geralt and struggle together with Destiny. The whole plot comes together in their story, with seeds sown in one of the key stories in The Last Wish collection and continued in the novels (and games).

Everything takes place in a world that mirrors issues that our society still struggles with, like prejudice and racial segregation. Pogroms directed against elves and dwarves echo the horrors that the Jews suffered, totally – and witch burnings were for real. And the persecution of ‘minorities’ continues. People even dislike Witchers so abuse and exploit them – so why not send all Moslems back where they belong.

Geralt’s world is filled with monsters, and sometimes the human ones are the worst – as in ours. Sapkowski takes folklore and cleverly twists it, posing dilemmas. What side do you stand with, Order or Chaos? Are all dragons evil because a knight-errant must rescue maidens in distress? Sapkowski also raises topical issues, such as the struggle to preserve the natural world, vanishing species struggling to survive. Do we have a right to their land?

I have just taken a few enjoyable steps exploring Sapkowski’s creation, even if I’ve visited the world others built from his imagination. Playing the Witcher 3 game and reading the early books creates moments of ‘understanding’ about this complex world. The depth originates in Sapkowski’s mind, so I must keep reading.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

The Last Wish – a review

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Yesterday, I posted about my favourite A to Z post which was about the game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. Today, I’m doing a review of the short stories that brought that world of Geralt of Rivia into being. Sadly, although I read a great deal of fantasy, I had failed to encounter the creations of Andrzej Sapkowski – until now.

His first short story, “The Witcher” (“Wiedźmin”), also translated as “The Hexer” or “Spellmaker”, was published in Polish science fiction and fantasy magazine Fantastyka. By 2017, The Witcher series encompassed two collections of short stories (1992-1993) and five novels (1994-1999).

This is my review of the first collection of short stories.

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The Last Wish (Saga o Wiedźminie #1)

by

Andrzej Sapkowski,

Danusia Stok (Translator)

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin.

And a cold-blooded killer.

His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world.

But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good. . . and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

The international hit that inspired the video game: The Witcher.

Review 5 stars

Although I read fantasy, I first encountered Geralt of Rivia in the video game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and as I explored this gaming world, I was inspired to discover Andrzej Sapkowski’s books – starting with this first collection of short stories.

The last story in the book deservedly took third place in a magazine competition and sowed the first seed that created a universe. I enjoyed these original stories, discovering Geralt’s origins in pre-game events. (And these stories are echoed in-game.}

The collection is assembled to reflect the chronology of Geralt’s life, although we have yet to learn many things – and I look forward to reading more books. Sapkowski creates a brilliant and exemplary framing structure for these stories that gives them more impact – and adds to the unfolding plotlines that I know develop. (This is a writing technique that I need to learn.)

Some amazing and complex characters are introduced, including the sorceress, Yennefer, whose life is woven into a complicated relationship with Geralt that opens great possibilities. And then there is Dandelion, the bard whose tales and exploits are something else amusingly different. These are origin stories perhaps before the Witcher-universe had fully-formed, but the characters are relatable.

The tales are rooted in heroic deeds – even if Dandelion has a habit of re-telling them differently. The author demonstrates that he has been inspired by folklore. However, while the echoed fairy stories have a germ of truth, this is a grimmer tradition than Grimm, in a cutthroat environment. There are the Slavic monsters that a reader might expect but other mythologies play their part, adding to a rich tapestry.

The world rings with the realism of bloody steel and fangs, the smells of soiled streets and tempting food. The era doesn’t feel static, even across so few stories. The times are changing and so are the people. Evolving? Maybe not – but sowing many seeds. This is a medieval world of superstition and persecution – and torn apart by discrimination that resonates today. Witch-burnings are inevitable, and nothing is black-and-white. Not all monsters are obvious or what they seem.

Is my interpretation coloured by exploring the game-world? Perhaps, but these are the roots of the legend that is Geralt of Rivia. I look forward to discovering how the writing evolved, and how the world of The Witcher builds in later stories and novels. This was definitely the place to start on my quest to enjoy how Sapkowski grew from a very good writer into a master craftsman.

 

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

#AtoZChallenge #roadtrip 2018

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This year, #AtoZChallenge Bloggers are being asked to pick ONE post from our #AtoZChallenge 2018 offerings and link it up to share.

The Road Trip – #roadtrip – is where bloggers continue to visit each other from May thru March. So, for me, that will be a chance to visit more of the #AtoZChallenge posts that I missed, especially of those visitors who managed the full A-to-Z. I even found some amazing new sites to follow, notably: Song A Day, a great music blog that is expanding my musical tastes (and inspired my 2019 #AtoZChallenge theme).

Plus, this informative folklore website, The Multicolored Diary, by Hungarian storyteller Zalka Csenge Virág, which delves into areas that fascinate me.

Folklore and mythology, as well as storytelling, are tied to many of my #AtoZChallenge posts, even if video games were the starting point.

When I was looking ahead to this road trip, in my #AtoZChallenge: Reflection, I hinted at what might be my favourite post and why, asking, “Will the writing-related research or the gaming-experience lift the award? H is for Hellblade or L is for Lord of the Rings? Or maybe something unexpected.”

Were you taken in by that red-herring?

Did you guess that my favourite post was W is for Witcher?

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Or why? Well, that had less to do with the average number of comments, and more to do with ongoing research into the world that has emerged from The Witcher series of fantasy novels by distinguished Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski.

There proved to be so much to explore, from a Slavic mythology and folklore tradition that I barely knew to a game that I had only just started – The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. That game is my current escape, not least for the Gwent card-game within that fantasy world, but also for its excellent storytelling. As my Thursday Creation Review tomorrow will show, Sapkowski’s first collection of short stories, The Last Wish pulled me into the world of Geralt of Rivia and laid the world-building foundations, sowing seeds that resonate within the games.

Did you rate any of my posts as a favourite?

Are you sharing a favourite of your own on this #AtoZChallenge Road Trip?

Have you found any stand-out posts that we need to read?

If you are on the Road Trip then please be sure to include this phrase in your comments:
“Stopping by from the #AtoZChallenge Road Trip!”

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W is for Witcher

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The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: 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.

Release Date: 19 May 2015

Developer/Publisher: CD Projekt

Genre/gameplay mechanics:  Players control protagonist Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter known as a Witcher who fights, rides, walks, runs, rolls and dodges, jumps, climbs and swims. Weapons include bombs, a crossbow and two swords: steel sword is used primarily to kill humans while the silver sword is more effective against creatures and monsters.  Geralt has five magical signs at his disposal; crafted mutagens increase magic power. Players can learn about their enemies and prepare for combat by reading the in-game bestiary. A dialogue wheel allows players to choose how to respond to NPCs. Geralt must make decisions which change the state of the world and lead to 36 possible endings.

Setting: Open-world with a third-person perspective, set in the Continent, a fantasy world surrounded by parallel dimensions and extra-dimensional worlds. Humans, elves, dwarves, monsters and other creatures co-exist, but non-humans are often persecuted for their differences. Europe was the basis of the game’s world, with PolandAmsterdam, and Scandinavia as its primary inspirations. Locations include the Redanian cities of Novigrad and Oxenfurt, the no man’s land of Velen, the city of Vizima, the Skellige islands (home to several Viking-like clans) and the Witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen.

Storytelling: The Continent is caught up in a war between the empire of Nilfgaard led by Emperor Emhyr var Emreis and Redania ruled by King Radovid V. Geralt of Rivia is looking for his missing adopted daughter, Ciri on the run from the Wild Hunt, an otherworldly force determined to capture and use her powers. The writing is infused with real-life aspects like moral ambiguity in a deliberate attempt to avoid simplification, impart authenticity, and reflect Sapkowski’s novels.

Further details: Game Wiki + Kirk Hamilton’s Beginner’s Guide to the setting, story, and more.

Releases + Expansions:

  1. Two expansion packs, Hearts of Stone(2015) and Blood and Wine (2016) were also released to critical acclaim.
  2. 16 DLCs were released that included cosmetic and additional gameplay content.
  3. A Game of the Year edition, with the base game, expansion packs and all downloadable content, was released in August 2016.

Formats: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Origins (Chronological) – these range from Sapkowski’s books, other writers such as the Brothers Grimm to Edgar Allen Poe, as well as Polish cultural elements. The main sources include:

  1. 2007 – In 2007 Polish video-game developer CD Projekt Red released The Witcher, the first game based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski‘s saga. CD Projekt had acquired the rights to the book series for about 35,000 zloty (approximately US$9,500) from Sapkowski, who wanted all the payment rights up front, rather than through royalties. However, as Sapkowski said in a 2012 interview by Eurogamer’s Zbigniew Jankowski, “The game – with all due respect for it, let’s say it openly – does not create any “alternative version”, let alone any further sequence. The game is a free adaptation that uses elements of my creativity, an adaptation made by other artists.” He also noted, “‘The Witcher’ is a well-made video game, its success is well deserved, and the creators deserve all the splendour and honour due.”
  2. 1990sThe Witcher appeared in Bogusław Polch‘s six comic books, which he drew from 1993 to 1995 – Maciej Parowskiwrote the story with Sapkowski, already a popular fantasy author.
  3. 1986 – Andrzej Sapkowski’s first short story, “The Witcher” (“Wiedźmin”), also translated as “The Hexer” or “Spellmaker”, was published in Polish science fiction and fantasy magazine Fantastyka. By 2017, The Witcher series encompassed two collections of short stories (1992-1993) and five novels (1994-1999). The 69-year-old author has become one of Poland’s most distinguished fantasy literary icons. Despite readers’ pleas, Sapkowski gave up the idea of continuing The Witcher His next series was the fantasy Hussite trilogy, the main character of which is Reinmar from Bielawa.
  4. Although the author denied any similarities between Redania and Poland in the books, the game developers do make use of Polish elements. Marcin Blacha, Story Director at CD Projekt Red said in a December 2016 interview, “We have the perception we were taught by the poets of Romanticism. Every time we look into the sources, we don’t study old Polish literature or archeologic manuals, but culture which refers to those elements. We don’t draw from the source itself, but from the pulp processed by cultures, and we try to make it look that unique way in which we ourselves perceive it.”
  5. 1820-1864Romanticism in Poland, a literary, artistic and intellectual period in the evolution of Polish culture, began around 1820, coinciding with the publication of Adam Mickiewicz‘s first poems in 1822. It ended with the suppression of the Polish-Lithuanian January 1863 Uprising against the Russian Empire in 1864. The latter event ushered in a new era in Polish culture known as Positivism.
  6. 13th-15th century – Marcin Blacha said, “…The Witcher is a tribute to the Polish language and to Polishness in general. At least I always treat the game that way”. For instance, supposedly, the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Grunwald(1410) was recorded for the sounds of battle, marching, blacksmithing, and the firing of arrows. However, it is impossible to focus on a specific era, although the 13th century might be the nearest – or is that because the game world says May 1272 – in another dimension.
  7. 12th century – Across Central, Western and Northern Europe, the Wild Hunt is a well-known folk myth of a ghostly leader and his group of hunters and hounds flying through the cold night sky, accompanied by the sounds of the howling wind. The supernatural hunters are recounted as either the dead, elves or in some instances, fairies. In the Northern tradition, the Wild Hunt was synonymous with great winter storms or changes of season.
  8. 6th century – The world in which these adventures take place is heavily influenced by Slavic mythology. The first authoritative reference to the Slavs and their mythology in written history was made by the 6th century Byzantine historian Procopius, whose Bellum Gothicum described the beliefs of a South Slavic tribe. However, as Marcin Blacha of CD Projekt Red said, “The truth is that every time we start creating some monster – like the botchling or a noonwraith – we don’t perceive this monster like pre-Slavic people did, because we have no idea what their perception of the monster was. We have the perception we were taught by the poets of Romanticism.”

Adaptations set in ‘The Witcher’ game universe – CD Projekt Red studio head Adam Badowski in response to the Eurogamer interview, said, “We want to develop The Witcher’s universe in other media, not only video games. We have Mr Sapkowski’s blessing and what we create is in line with his vision of the world, no matter how the saga will evolve. We want The Witcher’s universe to be a part of pop-culture like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, and for our fanbase to expand rapidly. We just have to carefully and diligently do our thing.”

  1. 2011 – second video game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
  2. In 2007, Kuźnia Gier developed two card games based on CD Projekt’s The Witcher video game. One, Wiedźmin: Przygodowa Gra Karciana (The Witcher: Adventure Cardgame), was published by Kuźnia Gier; the other, Wiedźmin: Promocyjna Gra Karciana (The Witcher Promo Card Game) was added to the collector’s edition of The Witcher in some countries.
  3. Another card game, Gwent was released with The Witcher 3: Wild Huntas an in-game activity. In 2016 a stand-alone Gwent online card game was announced and then released as Gwent: The Witcher Card Game by CD Projekt Red.
  4. In May 2017, Sapkowski’s The Witcher was picked up by Netflix, to be adapted as a television series. Sapkowski will serve as a creative consultant on the project. The series of eight episodes is set for release in 2020.

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Recommendation: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt received critical acclaim, with praise of its gameplay, narrative, world design, combat, and visuals, although it received minor criticism due to technical issues, some of which were later patched. It received numerous Game of the Year awards and is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time. By August 2016, CD Projekt said that The Witcher 3 had received over 800 awards since its release.

The game was also a commercial success, shipping nearly ten million copies by March 2016. GameSpot and Eurogamer gave the game their highest rating.

In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die

4.7 Stars: I must confess that I have been sucked into The Witcher world – hence this long post. Plus, my research is ongoing as a reader, writer and gamer. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is my first adventure in the world and the settings are brilliant. The storytelling is great, underpinned by reading the 1993 collection of short stories. Also, the side quests do tie into the overall world-building. The gameplay element was more complex than other games with a lot to learn and master. However, it was entertaining, and I got my partner hooked. As for its roots, well, that’s an ongoing quest.

  1. Setting: 4.75*
  2. Storyline: 5*
  3. Gameplay: 4.25*
  4. Entertainment: 4.5*
  5. Genesis: 5*

Alternative ‘W’ thoughts:

W as in When Women Were Warriors, the best trilogy since The Lord of the Rings, and also for Wonder Woman – the original comics, the classic TV series and the enjoyable 2017 movie.

+ ‘W’ Games played: World of Warcraft, which was my original W game – until the research started.

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

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