I have never played any video games, let alone 'Witcher'. Last year I was travelling about in Europe and picked up a volume at the airport to read while travelling. I was hooked and have read the whole series translated from Polish to English. I believe that Netflix are in the process of making a TV series based on Sapkowski's books. There is a Polish film adaption made in 2002 about the adventures of the Witcher titled 'The Hexer" However, this is the seventh book of the eight books available in English. I suggest that people start reading "The Last Wish' and subsequent books before reading this one. The eighth book in English should be available later this year.
Whew. I've argued before that a lot of fantasy novels struggle in the climax and finale, many either meandering around and fizzling out or waffling for many chapters before frantically cramming all the action into a few final pages as if the author suddenly remembered they were at the end. Neither is a problem here. Sapkowski juggles multiple threads skillfully, weaving in twists and turns and managing a large cast and intense world building with aplomb. The blood, stench and cruelty of medieval warfare are depicted with an unflinching brutality rare in high fantasy outside GRR Martin but never without losing Sapkowski''s dry, endearing wit and likeable characters. Three huge set pieces, including a decisive clash of armies, a heart-stopping raid on an enemy castle complete with villainous boss fights and one final, unexpected twist event I dare not spoil could each be the climax of a lesser novel; here they each feel necessary and each given the space to carry their own weight, tragedy and sense of destiny. As the title suggests, Arthurian themes dominate, sometimes seeming a little weird in that the author can't seem to pick whether he wants them in as influences or literal pastiche, but they lend a mythic gravitas to the proceedings even when they are a little silly. My quibbles are minor; Ciri is by far the strongest character here. As with the other books in the core saga the scope is so huge that Geralt''s voice sometimes gets as lost as he is on his search for Ciri. At least in this one he does a little Witchering! Notably the Aen Elle story arc seems to suddenly disappear (and only be followed up in the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt game it seems) and the long awaited reunion of the Witcher and his daughter occurs quite suddenly in such a way that I had to reread to understand how Geralt got there. But none of that detracts from the powerful gut punches and satisfying beats that bring this one to a close. Fantastic.