Top positive review
The Second Collection of Tales of Geralt, the White Wolf.
Reviewed in the United States on January 4, 2020
I think I am landing on four stars for Sword of Destiny, the second collection of Witcher stories. Of the six stories I'd give four of them four stars, and two of them five. So four seems fair.
The first thing I noted is that Sword of Destiny has a different translator than The Last Wish. David French in this case, rather than Danusia Stok. I noticed a little stiltedness and awkwardness in some of the writing in the beginning stories, and I wanted to attribute this to the new translator, however I am wondering if this was not more of a placebo effect. Because the first time I read The Last Wish I had similar 'issues' with the translation, but the second time I didn't have any at all. Nor did I have any issues with, say, the back half of this book. So I think it may just be a mood thing, or a matter of getting used to the writing/translation. In any case, I have never really felt my enjoyment of Sapkowski's stories lessened by the fact that they are not in the original language.
So, then. Sword of Destiny. If you enjoyed The Last Wish and want to learn more about our man Geralt (much more) then you'd be doing yourself a disservice not picking up this book. It expands on the world, on the characters, and on just about everything that Sapkowski introduces in The Last Wish. It even introduces Ciri, who fans of the games will recognize instantly. She appears in two of the stories in this collection, and it's no coincidence that those two are the ones I'd have easily given five stars. In fact, Ciri's story bits--and the way they affect Geralt--have me more excited to eventually dive in to the main Witcher series than I ever was before.
As I mentioned there are six stories in Sword of Destiny, just as there were six stories in The Last Wish. Sapkowski's talent for storytelling shines through once more. In his clever resolutions to what could otherwise be run of the mill fantasy; in complicated characters who engage in meaningful, smart dialogue and are consistently challenged emotionally (even when those characters aren't human). The feel of his world is one that I enjoy. It feels very lived in which is a compliment that I throw around at times, but not lightly. It's rough around the edges, but with the capacity to be beautiful. I'm actually reminded of the movie Willow at times, for whatever reason. Not in tone, or in content. Just the feeling of the world. It's a good feeling though. Spakowski is not without his faults. Women outside his main characters can sometimes feel like fodder for Geralt; whether sexually or to challenge him in some way (emotionally, intellectually, etc). You can make the, "It's the times!" argument here, probably even successfully, but still it's a noticeable piece of these stories. Even so, I enjoy them greatly. Now, here's a bit about each story in the collection.
THE BOUNDS OF REASON: In which Geralt embarks with strange company on a dragon hunt, finding himself face to face with a living legend. This story explores the limits of possibility.
A SHARD OF ICE: In which Geralt finds himself in a lover's spat with a sorcerer named Istredd as they fight over who should be with Yennefer. This story was noteworthy for how it challenges the idea that Geralt, as a Witcher, is without emotion.
ETERNAL FLAME: A story surrounding a series of chaotic trade deals after a mimic (doppler) assumes the form of a merchant friend of Geralt's. Fans of the game will recognize the city of Novigrad, the dwarf banker Vivaldi, and the doppler Dudu. This one has an excellent scene during which the reader's view of 'monsters' or non-humans is deeply challenged. Some good Dandelion bits in this one.
A LITTLE SACRIFICE: In which Geralt and Dandelion--down on their luck--are invited to a wedding where Dandelion has been commissioned to sing alonside Essi Daven, known as Little Eye. Soon enough Geralt is entangled in a Duke's advances on a mermaid and a case of some murdered pearl divers. This is another one that dives a bit deeper into Geralt's supposed lack of emotions.
THE SWORD OF DESTINY: This and the next story were my favorite of the bunch, and may even be the two best stories of both collections. They serve as the introduction of Ciri, and begin to build toward what I can only imagine will be a large part of the series moving forward. In this one, Geralt is on a diplomatic mission to Brokilon, home of the dryads.
SOMETHING MORE: Wounded after defending the life of a merchant stranded in monster territory, Geralt experiences several hallucinogenic visions while he recovers using his own alchemical agents. These.. visions, are very interesting. Namely because the reader is unsure whether they are visions. Or whether they are simply hallucinations. Additionally, we have no idea if they are happening now, have happened, or will happen; though some guesses can be made. Each is worthwhile though. This story also contains major information about The Law of Surprise, Geralt's parentage, and the Niflgaard war that will likely consume a large portion of our story moving forward. Excellent story.
Well, there it is. Next up is Blood of Elves, the beginning of the main series.