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.