The second collection of short stories brings us another step closer to the beginning of the novels in The Witcher saga. While spinning the tales of Geralt’s fights with the monsters, Sapkowski, on the side reveals to us the tumultuous nature of Geralt’s relationship with Yennefer. Also, we finally get to meet Ciri, and the first impression leaves some things to be desired.
Some of the themes from the previous book continue and are reinforced here, such as outcasts, humans irreversibly changing the world, destiny and free will. The sense of loss is what permeates the stories too, passing of the world that is not going to come back. We see creatures who lived in the world for much longer than people, now destined for extinction. We also see how the world of chaos is sometimes incompatible with the world of people and the only thing that sometimes can build a bridge between them is love. Thankfully Sapkowski with his dry sense of humor manages to avoid becoming maudlin. Instead, he states the harsh facts through the monster metaphors and leaves us to deal with them, while the Geralt and Dandelion party moves on.
We meet here a golden dragon, who likes people, a mermaid in love with a prince, but wanting him to make a small sacrifice, a doppelganger, forced t live among humans under assumed shape, because there is nowhere else for him to go and he cannot function in his own shape, for fear of death. We also travel to the Brokilon forest, and on the way meet Ciri.
The last story is really already a prelude to the novels, explaining Geralt’s attachment to Ciri, his refusal to take the child, and their subsequent meeting after the siege of Cintra.
Again the stories loosely form a chronology, and step by step give us all we need to dive into the novels. They also each stand on their own as a fully formed adventure, where even the side characters are developed to a point that even after eight books we remember them. And this is what I also liek about those books, Sapkowski cares about his monsters and outcasts. Each of them comes with a backstory, and each of them becomes relatable. So much so that some of them just beg for a spin-off. And probably had the books been written twenty years later there would be one, but there’s also a pleasure in knowing that some things will remain unexplained and that there are limits to this universe.
After I finished the short stories and enjoyed them so much, I was curious how I will react to the reading of the novels. It may seem that it’s a minor change of form, but the continuous narration of the novel is very different from short stories that allow for some level of discontinuity while still coming together at the end. A novel cannot be just a series of loosely tied adventures.
Links to previous review in the series:
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska