SWORD OF DESTINY by Andrzej Sapkowski (Book Review)
‘There is no destiny, he thought. It does not exist. The only thing that everyone is destined for is death. Death is the other blade of the two-edged sword. I am the first blade.’
Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski is the second book in The Witcher series and is comprised of another collection of short stories. This time around we see many escapades with Geralt of Rivia and his longtime friend, Dandelion the bard. Although this collection is not as action-packed or as dark as its predecessor, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable read that delves deeper into the complex world and character of the Witcher.
The opening of Sword of Destiny introduces Geralt once again on his monster-hunting mission, which is his sole purpose as a Witcher. The story follows Geralt as he goes to watch the townsfolk embark on killing a dragon; although Geralt is bound by a Witcher code not to kill intelligent creatures, he still travels to see how the events unfold. From there on the stories consist of Geralt facing mimics, mermaids, sea monsters and druids, alongside partially chasing his beloved Yennefer.
On the whole, I mostly enjoyed each story immensely. Although the writing felt repetitive at times, I still found myself engaged in seeing each scene unfold. If you’re expecting lyrical descriptive prose here, you won’t find it. Let’s not forget though that this is a translation, and within the nature of that, nuances, meaning and general flow can be lost. Or this could be a trait of Polish/Eastern European fantasy stories, and therefore I appreciated the simplistic style, it was quite soothing. I did find that some of the stories lost their momentum during the middle section, they felt too long, but I absolutely loved how each story ended on little twists that really brought the narrative together. My favourite story was ‘Sword of Destiny’, which finally introduced Ciri’s character! I’d heard a lot about Ciri from fans of the game, so I was eagerly anticipating her arrival. She didn’t disappoint, I loved her fiery but innocent temperament, and I can’t wait to see her story arc develop in future books.
I found Sword of Destiny to be more of a light-hearted romp than The Last Wish, particularly in the stories that predominantly involved Dandelion. Now this wasn’t a negative aspect, but it did take me a while to adjust to. Dandelion is a wonderfully amusing character; he’s your typical ‘cheeky chappie’ with his openly lewd behaviour towards women and his constant bragging of how great a poet he is! I found myself highly entertained by the contrast between Geralt’s more dry and stoic nature, and Dandelion’s brazenness. They had some excellent banter between them, and my love for banter never ceases! I also appreciated that Dandelion served as Geralt’s one true friend, which was warming.
‘’You only think you know me. Don’t forget: I’m complicated by nature.’
‘Dandelion,’ the Witcher sighed, now genuinely tired. ‘You’re a cynic, a lecher, a womaniser, and a liar. And there’s nothing, believe me, nothing complicated about that. Goodnight.’
I’m not usually one to get caught up in romantic drama in books. I personally enjoy romance when it’s not the forefront of the story, when it’s slowly simmering away in the background to give precedence to a more epic plot. However, in Sword of Destiny I really enjoyed the relationship between Yennefer and Geralt. They were both characters who others immediately loathed because of their status as a Witcher, and Yennefer as a sorceress, and because of this they were both alike in their loneliness. As a Witcher, Geralt is supposed to be void of any emotions, this is something that is eliminated during the mutation, but we see in this book that with Geralt, this is not the case, especially where Yennefer is concerned. Though he may not accept it, buried deep within his character are feelings of compassion, kindness and even love.
In contrast, we see truly how volatile Yennefer is in this book; she’s manipulative, impulsive, and quite sexually liberated. I liked this about her, she’s a character who is strong, and unpredictable, which made her scenes all the more fun and intriguing. She reminded me of the character Lanfear from the Wheel of Time series; she was also a character I both loved and hated. Yennefer’s ambitions and goals always governed over any feelings she had towards Geralt, and therefore their encounters were always laced with tension. I really felt for Geralt, I wanted him to have love and companionship and although he seemed to be a bit of a magnet for women, I wanted him to be with Yennefer and no one else. I’ve been told by a few friends who play The Witcher game that there will be another love interest when the character Triss is introduced, so I’m eager to meet her and possibly change my mind! Like I said, I got far too caught up in the drama!
If, like me, you’re new to The Witcher world, then I recommend reading this volume, as you’ll get insightful backgrounds for these wonderfully intricate characters. The next book in the series is Blood of Elves, which will be the first full-length Witcher novel. I’m both excited and nervous to read it, because I’m so used to this short story format. I hope the novels are still as engaging. We shall see!