The Return of the Witcher
A prequel that will appeal to avid fans, filling out the backstories of key characters and expanding further upon the established lore. However, as a standalone, it’s perhaps the weakest of The Witcher series.
Once more Geralt finds himself trapped between malicious monarchs and sultry sorceresses, dragged into conspiracies and criminal enterprises where allies and enemies are rarely who they appear to be. Featuring the trademark dose of gritty realities and grey imperfect outcomes that fans have grown to love.
The world-building, character interactions and political intrigues are still as interesting and well-delivered as ever, Andrzej Sapkowski absolutely deserves the comparisons to J.R.R Tolkien. The witty dialogue, Lovecraftian description of monsters and general horror depictions, visceral violence and conspiracies continue to deliver at the high standard we’ve come to expect.
Everything that you loved with the main series is still here, the allegories of racism and discrimination and the more “reality-based fantastical” nature of how this world works. The relatable characters and viewpoints, particularly between various class roles or non-humans. Some might even argue that the Witcher series has never been more relevant, given the exemplary job it does of raising these issues to the fore. Not to mention the epic monsters and creatures, described in disturbingly wonderful detail.
This is an Epic Fantasy that has many great stories left to tell, but unfortunately this novel at times feels more like a filler episode than an exciting new direction. Previously, Sapowski has created full-length serialised novels as well as collections of short stories, and to a degree this book seems like a short story which has been laboriously stretched to full-length.
Due to the nature of the plot, nothing has any real impact or value to the main saga – making this at times feel more like empty fan service…or a quick cash grab for the more cynical of us, conveniently close to the launch of the new Netflix series… as well as the obvious success of the video games. This was originally written in 2014 however, and only officially translated to English in May 2018. The last major game launched in 2015.
In short, I suspect my own expectations and hopes over one of my favourite franchises has probably contributed to my disappointment, as the potential has not been realised. However, even the worst Witcher book tends to be far and above many other modern fantasy novels. The lore, characters and world are simply beyond reproach. They must be experienced.
Buy this book, and tell your friends, this series has so much more to give!