There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes with completing a game. This satisfaction, however, is often accompanied by a tinge of sadness. This is something I experienced particularly with The Witcher 3. Having just completed the wonderful Blood and Wine expansion, I set down my controller and suddenly felt there was a void in my life. I had spent what felt like countless hours in this fascinating world, filled with adventure, political scheming, monster slaying and endearing characters. I wanted more!
Despair not, for there is an entire series of novels waiting to be read. If you felt the same way I did after completing The Witcher 3 (and due to The Witcher 3’s huge success, I’m sure there are many of you), here is a summary on what to expect from Andrzej Sapkowski’s wonderful Witcher novels.
It’s worth noting that although the stories of the three Witcher video games are non-canonical, they do follow the story found in the books and pick up where the books finished. It’s not up to me but, in my mind, the games might as well be canon. Alas.
The Witcher series is comprised of seven books in total: Sword of Destiny, The Last Wish, Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of Swallows and The Lady of the Lake (to be read in that order.)
The first two books, Sword of Destiny and The Last Wish, are a compilation of short stories. They all involve Geralt of Rivia and are loosely tied together by a story arc that generally involves Geralt remembering specific events while on his travels. To my mind, these stories read and felt like side quests. However, these two books do contain important plot elements that run throughout both the book series and the games. You will learn, for example, why Geralt is often referred to as “The Butcher of Blaviken”. You will also find out how Geralt met Yennefer and how their fates became intertwined. But most importantly, you will discover how Geralt became Ciri’s guardian and how she acquired her strange powers. These short stories are a fun read and really set the tone for the rest of the series.
The next book, Blood of Elves, is the first book in the main series and sets up what will be the story arc for the rest of the saga. I won’t go into the specific plot details - I have only just finished Baptism of Fire, still two more books to go - but instead will give you a broad sense of what the main narrative entails. No spoilers, I promise.
The story, much like in The Witcher 3, revolves around Ciri. We will find out a great deal about her powers, but also why she is so important to the Nilfgardian emperor, Emhyr var Emreis. The war that has ravaged the land in The Witcher 3 is very much center stage and you will see how the Nilfgaardian Empire comes into power. Geralt is reluctantly swept up into the affairs of royalty, magicians, witches, and war politics, as he tries to protect Ciri from the dangers that surround her. Amongst other things, you will see Geralt meet many characters for the first time, like Zoltan and Triss Merigold, but also witness how the Witches Lodge was formed. There is so much more to discover. If you’re a fan of the Witcher games, you are in for a treat.
Finally, it is important to look at what makes the Witcher series such an interesting read. It’s worth reading not just because it’s “The Witcher” but also because it’s original. Rather than follow the narrative from one protagonist’s perspective in a linear fashion, the books jump to very specific moments for each chapter. One chapter might involve Geralt and Dandelion making their way somewhere and finding out an important piece of information, while the next could involve say, a courier for the Nilfgaardian empire, who witnesses something important while on the road. Not all chapters take a back seat to big events but when they do it’s interesting to see it unfold from the point of view of a minor, unimportant character. It makes the world seem real and lived in. In addition, all these little moments serve to paint a grand picture of the events that are unfolding in the world.
The Witcher novels are the perfect remedy for those of you who crave more from Geralt of Rivia and his companions. If anything, it will help you understand many references found within the games. Including shedding some light on Yennefer and her stuffed unicorn. Now that’s worth a read!