Much like The Last Wish before, Sword of Destiny is a collection of short stories following a talented witcher called Geralt of Rivia. Although you can start the series with Blood of Elves which is where the full-length novels commence, I can't recommend enough that even though a handful of these short stories are hit-and-miss, that they will add considerable depth to the future narrative arcs.
The Last Wish featured mostly isolated stories with the Witcher tackling a certain monstrosity for a set payment. He travels around the world to where his peculiar killing and magic techniques are needed to tackle a problem and individuals will hire him. In the first book, apart from a couple of brief interludes, there were no recurring characters. It was solely about a certain adventure at one end of the world and then another a thousand miles away. Sword of Destiny features a handful of main characters from the series who become more fleshed out as there presence recurs. Geralt's friend and lady loving bard Dandelion, his mysterious sorceress love interest Yennefer and a potential child of destiny called Ciri. If you've played The Witcher computer games I imagine you a familiar with these characters, the sort of missions set and the monsters the Witcher is assigned to eradicate, and how beautiful and vast this created world is.
I found the stories in The Last Wish more consistent but two or three of my favourites are from this entry. If you decide to read the short story collections first I'd truly recommend starting with The Last Wish and not Sword of Destiny. Two stories in The Witcher #1, one including Yennefer and one including a Queen and a Princess, add huge depth to the action and events that occur in this collection, especially with certain relationship complexities.
The Witcher tales are exciting and addictive to say that a story can be finished within about half an hour. Sapkowski doesn't dumb down the world and there are a plethora of complex characters and demons throughout these pages. My favourite story is here is The Bounds of Reason and it features about twenty-five different well-crafted characters who set off on a mission to kill a wounded dragon. I found this narrative exceptional, unpredictable, thrilling with a hell of a twist at the end. This sets Sword of Destiny up brilliantly. This constructed world does feature typical fantasy tropes but nothing feels forced. It all feels enticing and original. I'm not looking forward to seeing more of the Elves in the next book!
I won't go into the details of the stories too much as it might approach spoiler territory. I will confirm that these tales feature many fantasy races as well as mermaids and underwater warriors, showdowns with sorcerers, a group trying to trace a doppleganger, and also meeting Ciri. It features monster hunting of course but not as much and as frequent as The Last Wish. Each The Last Wish story played like a level on the Witcher games. These are less standalone and cleverly building up for the full narrative which will start with Blood of Elves.
I adored The Bounds of Reason, A Little Sacrifice and Sword of Destiny. Eternal Flame and A Share of Ice were very average. The final story Something More I really struggled with initially. It follows two timelines as Geralt in a fevered state and I sometimes got confused where and when we were. If it was a full-length story I wouldn't have finished it but I did and I'm glad I fought through as the ending is highly satisfying with setting up what can possible happen in the next outings.
I decided to read all of the Witcher books before the TV series is released and I am glad that I have taken on this venture. I've read the first two books within four days and I can't wait to move on further. I often struggle with short stories but I can recommend these highly. The Bound of Reason is one of the top two finest short stories I've ever read alongside Sebastian De Castell - The Fox and the Bowman.
James Tivendale, 7.5/10
“I like elven legends, they are so captivating. What a pity humans don’t have any legends like that. Perhaps one day they will? Perhaps they’ll create some? But what would human legends deal with? All around, wherever one looks, there’s greyness and dullness. Even things which begin beautifully lead swiftly to boredom and dreariness, to that human ritual, that wearisome rhythm called life.”
So continues my adventurous Witcher journey…
The Netflix series releasing later this year is an adaptation of the novels, so watch as everyone (myself included) tries to cram as many of the books into their eye holes as quickly as possible!
There are two short story collections & six full-length novels in The Witcher series, including a prequel of sorts (Season of Storms) that takes place during The Last Wish short stories.
Did you follow all of that?! Because that seems to be one of the major issues people have when first beginning The Witcher Saga. The fact that these books were released the way that they were, it tends to throw some readers off. Don't let it! It's truly not as complicated as it first seems. Not like, say, The Malazan series. AHEM.
Sword of Destiny is the second book, chronologically. It's again made up of six short stories, this time much more character driven, whereas The Last Wish had more STABBY-STABBY. Honestly, I thought I preferred The Last Wish by just a fraction, but I think they are probably just about equal for me. As much as I love my battles & monsters, I also appreciate getting inside a characters depth. Sword of Destiny does just that, especially with providing more details on the complex relationship between Geralt & Yennefer. Also? We finally meet Ciri, my favorite character from the video games! Oh, how I adore her! We get to experience the start of what becomes such a beautiful relationship between the troubled Witcher & the Princess.
Sword of Destiny & Something More, the final two stories in this volume, were my favorites, no doubt in part because of the introduction to Ciri & her backstory.
“Life is full of hazards, selection also occurs in life, Geralt. Misfortune, sicknesses and wars also select. Defying destiny may be just as hazardous as succumbing to it.”
Sword of Destiny is an introspective look at both old & new characters. The core theme is, not shockingly, destiny. How people linked by destiny will always find each other, but that something more is needed.
There's drama, romance, intrigue, suspense. The supporting characters are brilliant (especially Dandelion, the poet & Geralt's best friend & of course, Roach.. A VERY GOOD HORSE!) I just absolutely love the back & forth in dialogue in the two books that I've read, so far. I enjoy the feeling that is captured in those moments. The games have always been heavy with dialogue, which is clearly a nod to Sapkowski's engaging writing.
After having read the two short story collections, I would suggest that fans of the video games at least read these for some glorious background on an already beloved series!
Holly Grimdragon, 8/10
Gary from United Kingdom
I've never really been one for short stories as such, preferring the larger canvas presented by novels. When I do read a short story it's usually a one off and I seldom reach entire collections in one sitting. Saying that, I have read some damn good short stories, but as I say I tend to read one from time to time between novels. However, having become hooked on the Netflix take on The Witcher I decided to familiarise myself with the books and I read the Last Wish from cover to cover before starting this second collection. I enjoyed both collections and although many of the stories seem to be made up of mostly dialogue they do carry the action forward. They are good, very good and do give an understanding of the characters and worlds of the Witcher. I'm eager to start the first proper novel now.
8.9/10 from 2 reviews