Once again we join Geralt the witcher on his adventures. From childhood he has been raised with one purpose: to destroy monsters at every turn. But that doesn’t make it easy. It’s up to him to determine what is right or wrong, who needs protection, and who needs protecting. Let’s continue journeying with Geralt of Rivia in Andrzej Sapkowski’s Sword of Destiny. (Translated into English by David French)
[Warning: My review of Sword of Destiny contains some spoilers!]
Geralt and Dandelion make an engaging pair
Sword of Destiny is similar to Sapkowski’s The Last Wish in that they’re both anthologies following the exploits of Geralt of Rivia. Sword of Destiny continues with the monster-of-the-day presentation that The Last Wish had. Dandelion is again at Geralt’s side for most of his adventures. Sometimes the two travel around together and other times they happen to encounter each other. I love when Dandelion is with Geralt because his levity and banter are a nice foil to Geralt’s seriousness. It’s also interesting to see the two getting on with women because while Dandelion is always trying to get women, Geralt can’t seem to get rid of them.
Geralt doesn’t try to attract women, he’s still too caught up on Yennifer, but they all throw themselves at him anyway. Something about his quiet power and complete confidence draws them in and convinces them that he’s worth chasing. I think that they secretly think that they’ll be the ones to finally capture his heart. So when it turns out that he will return their physical advances but never the emotional ones, they always break. Geralt leaves a string of broken hearts behind him without even trying. It’s sad. Both for the women and for him. After all, Geralt is always alone and sad because of how Yennifer toys with him, but he can’t change how he feels for her, and so he can’t try with anyone new.
How Sword of Destiny ties to The Last Wish
Dandelion isn’t the only familiar face from The Last Wish. In The Last Wish Geralt saves a man from a curse and unites him with his princess love. The man offers him anything he wishes as a reward. Geralt invokes the Law of Surprise, claiming that which the man has, but doesn’t yet know he has. This ends up being a child that his lover is carrying. Geralt hoped the child would be a boy he could train as a witcher. After the exchange Geralt leaves, promising to return in six years to collect his boon. In Sword of Destiny, we learn what became of that Child of Surprise.
It was nice to see that continuity from one book to the next. Just like his relationship with Yennifer, or meeting up with Dandelion again, these connections make Geralt’s world feel more three-dimensional and real. Hopefully, these connections continue throughout the series.
A running theme in The Witcher novels
As I read Sword of Destiny, I realized that Sapkowski had woven a theme throughout the two books. In adventure after adventure things aren’t quite how they seem. The monsters aren’t really monsters. The rewards aren’t gratifying. Geralt has emotions that he shouldn’t. What looks like hate is love. I could go on but you get the idea.
Now of course sometimes the monsters are exactly that, monsters. Sometimes the rewards are worth it. And sometimes hate is real. But more often than not there is more going on than there seems to be. I have a feeling that this will be an overall theme of the entire Witcher series. Just like the witcher superstitions don’t define Geralt, so things aren’t always as they appear. Or maybe I should say “Don’t judge a book by its cover” (this is a book review after all).
Sword of Destiny still has plenty of laughs
A nice aspect of Sword of Destiny is that it made me laugh. A lot. Even though Sapkowski could have made Geralt’s world a dark, depressing place, he doesn’t. Through Dandelion he injects a lot of humor into Sword of Destiny. Dandelion himself is very witty and has a hard time controlling his mouth (translation, he doesn’t control his mouth). He also manages to get Geralt into some very funny situations. It’s always going to be a good read if Dandelion is along for the ride.
Geralt can be funny on his own, but it’s a different kind of humor. More of a dry humor that comes from people underestimating him or acting like they’re better than him. I enjoy it, but not as much as when Dandelion is around.
A good translation for these Andrzej Sapkowski novels
Translation is hard. As someone who spent two years translating French to English for all different types of reading, I know this intimately. So whenever I read a book that wasn’t originally written in English I make sure to keep that in mind. What’s more, I have to remember that the book I’m reading isn’t just the work of the named author, but the translator as well. When I read a different Sapkowski book earlier this year, I was very underwhelmed. So I wasn’t sure about trying The Witcher books. But I reminded myself that it could have been the translator that I didn’t like the first time and I gave Sapkowski a second chance with an open mind.
And boy am I glad I did. The translator for The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny did a good job. There are a few times that things didn’t quite sound right but for the most part the text felt like a native English speaker wrote it. The humor and excitement translated very well and I was never bored. Sapkowski wrote a great book and his publisher found a great translator.
Better than TV
Everyone probably knows about the Netflix series The Witcher. The second season of The Witcher is based loosely on Sword of Destiny. The series has been well received and is already renewed for a third (coming this June and July) and fourth season. While they are great to watch, nothing beats the novel for really getting to know the characters. If you have seen the show I really suggest that you check out Sword of Destiny. If you haven’t seen the Netflix series, I still recommend reading Sword of Destiny. Meet Geralt and his friends (and enemies!), and enjoy an escape into fantasy.
My Rating: 9/10
The Witcher: Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski (Translated into Engish by David French) is available now! Are you interested in reading it? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.