The last two stories made the entire collection for me. I think this was where things really lead up to the beginning of the series. “Sword of Destiny” and “Something More” were hands down my favorite.
SWORD OF DESTINY
by Andrzej Sapkowski, David French (Translator)
Orbit Books, December 2015
High fantasy, short stories
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies
Geralt is a witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent. He roams the country seeking assignments, but gradually comes to realise that while some of his quarry are unremittingly vile, vicious grotesques, others are the victims of sin, evil or simple naivety.
So I meant to read this book after having watched the series, but once I started watching Henry Cavill as the Witcher, all bets were off. I ended up bingeing the Netflix show and within a few days, I was definitely done and Sword of Destiny still wasn’t read. But the good thing is, now I can actually follow the stories and compare them to both the series and the game!
It’s safe to say that there are minor spoilers here, so WATCH OUT!
In any case, I enjoyed the collection almost as well as The Last Wish, solely for the last two stories in it. The other shorts were kind of just vignettes of Geralt in different places and situations, but they were mostly slow-going and focused on his relationships with other people that I didn’t really care about. (To be honest, book Yennefer annoys me just as much as game Yennefer, so…)
From my understanding, Sword of Destiny takes place shortly before the beginnings of Blood of Elves which starts the Witcher series. The collection is still a broken set, but it does have a better chronology than its predecessor. The stories themselves were longer, and there were less to pay attention to. Mostly, the focus is the fact that Geralt is really avoiding doing much and ends up being forced into his destiny.
I will say there is a great lack of Geralt actually being a witcher in these short stories. Many of the stories here do run smoothly right after the other, but a lot of them show inner conflicts and backstory. It really does lead up to Blood of the Elves, which connects the whole collection in this particular case.
Here’s a breakdown of each tale:
“The Bounds of Reason”
The Netflix series actually bases one of the episodes on this story, which focuses on a dragon hunt. A man called Three Jackdaws approaches Geralt and tries to persuade him to go with him into hunting a dragon. It turns out, however, that Three Jackdaws is not the only one looking for said dragon, and Geralt, Three Jackdaws, and the Zerrikanian warriors in the latter’s employ are accompanied by a bunch of bounty hunters out to get the treasure that the dragon leaves behind.
While much of the Netflix episode streamlines the story (in a better way, I may add), the text itself relied a lot on conversation between Geralt and Three Jackdaws (which was amusing for a bit, but really dragged on when all they’re doing as they’re talking is sitting there drinking and eating and quite possibly fooling around WITH the Zerrikanian women). The re-appearance of Yennefer in this particular story was also lackluster, but again, the story just drags on.
“A Shard of Ice”
This story puts Geralt and Yennefer in Vizima, and the two are living in some kind of domestic lifestyle–if witchers and sorceresses can actually live domestically. Yen and Geralt do get into arguments, and Yen uses the whole “shard of ice” as a metaphor about truth and pain and whathaveyou. Also, it seems that Geralt’s not the only one vying for Yen’s affections. Turns out Istredd still exists.
Quite easily my least favorite story in the collection. I get the importance of this, especially because it does show how absolutely devoted and emotional Geralt can be when it comes to Yen. But to be honest, Yennefer isn’t my favorite person in the books. The Netflix series makes her SO LIKABLE but I just can’t seem to warm up to her in the text. This story definitely cements my eye-rolling, which is a shame, considering how powerful she is. And I do like me some powerful ladies.
Novigrad and Dudu! In Novigrad, Geralt encounters an irate dwarf, who seems to be having a case of identity theft. It turns out it’s because there’s a doppler taking the dwarf’s semblance and making money off of the stocks that the merchant dwarf has. The story is a comical display of how doppler magic works, and it is an interesting turn from the seriousness of the previous short story.
The game Witcher 3 makes so much more sense now. This story was actually pretty amusing, but mostly because there was a lot of confusion caused by one doppler. The game definitely heightened my interest in “Eternal Flame,” because I wanted to know a little bit about Dudu–who plays a bit of a role in Witcher 3. There is no Caleb Menge as the leader of the Eternal Flame in this case, but the Church of the Eternal Flame definitely plays a big part in the story, and already Sapkowski foreshadows a bigger involvement in the Church for later.
“A Little Sacrifice”
This one was interesting, because it has a female bard involved! We start off with a spin on the tale of the Little Mermaid, only subverted and not quite ending happily for either party. Geralt doesn’t get paid for his supposedly “poor service” and has to find a way to survive with Dandelion in tow. You know it says much when the bard is making more money than the witcher. In any case, Dandelion introduces Geralt to Little Eye, a female bard who ends up with a crush on the White Wolf. Little sacrifices are made, and there you are.
I liked this story because yes, finally, Geralt, we’re dealing with mermaids and sea monsters! There’s action taking place! Dandelion does a lot of fairy tale allusions in this one, and I loved the dynamic between Geralt and Dandelion (because BROMANCE FOREVAH). The story as a whole was bittersweet and tragic, because duh, Geralt loves Yen still, and well…we never really hear about the bard again, so…
“Sword of Destiny”
The Forests of Brokilon and Ciri finally shows up! We see this a bit in the Netflix series, but in the actual short story, it’s Ciri and the unsuspecting Geralt who walk into the forest and encounter the dryads. At this point in time, Geralt kind of realizes Ciri is his Child of Surprise, but turns out this isn’t quite the right time to be taking care of a kid who’s technically a princess and the granddaughter of the ever-intimidating Lioness of Cintra. The story delves deeper into the dryads of Brokilon, and much like the elves in The Last Wish, we see a race of peoples who are still clinging to a slowly receding lifestyle. Throw a child of the Elder Blood in there and of course the dryads are going to want to keep Ciri and make her a fellow dryad sister. Of course, it doesn’t happen, but there ya go.
I’ve actually been looking forward to this story since the one about Pavetta in “A Question of Price.” I mean, it’s CIRI, of course I’d be interested. “Sword of Destiny” also goes back to the idea of fates being intertwined, which is a recurring theme in all the stories between Sword of Destiny and The Last Wish. Geralt ties his fate to Yen, and it’s why Yen runs away from him every so often. Geralt’s fate is tied to Ciri, and yet he tries to avoid owning up to his own Child of Destiny–up to the bitter end. It’s a cool concept, and “Sword of Destiny” is one of my favorite stories because of it.
Geralt gets super-injured and through a series of hallucinations and backstory, as well as the impending war with Nilfgaard, we see everything lead up to the fall of Cintra in this story. We learn a little bit more about Geralt’s mother, for one. We also learn that the Nilfgaardians have been continuing their march, to the point where even the sorcerers are getting involved. In this story, Geralt is aided by a merchant who gives him news of current events. Other than a minor panic attack at quite possibly having lost Yennefer in the Battle of Sodden, Geralt discovers that he can no longer outrun destiny, especially when he invokes another Law of Surprise that ultimately ends to–you’ve guessed it–Ciri.
I will say that I absolutely loved how “Something More” plays out in the Netflix series. The last episode actually breathes life into the Battle of Sodden, and the stakes are much higher because of this. Sapkowski only kind of hints at what happens at Sodden in “Something More,” and we don’t really get the full scope of the conflict or importance of the battle yet. While Geralt is suspicious of Yennefer’s involvement in Sodden, the Netflix series definitely puts her in that location, and well…the effects are rather grim.
Needless to say I am really stoked about having read this book, and considering I’m replaying Witcher 3 again, I’ll definitely be looking out for more book-related game allusions.
4 out of 5 cookies! I did much prefer the stories in The Last Wish, but the last two shorts definitely more than made up for any of Sword of Destiny’s shortcomings.