Fantasy

Bi-Weekly Book Club: The Last Wish (Part Two)

Greetings, and welcome to Book Club!

I hope everyone found their books alright and managed to carve an hour or two out of their busy schedules to read through the first two chapters of The Last Wish. Included in those chapters were two short stories in the witcher universe: “The Witcher” and “A Grain of Truth,” as well as the first two parts of the frame story: “The Voice of Reason.” If you missed the first book club “meeting,” let me catch you up here!

I’ve got a few questions ready that I hope will spark discussion in the comments. I’ll give my own thoughts on them below, but first let me present them here so that you can consider them without having my own words influence your ideas.

  • What did you expect going into the book, and how did it differ from your initial impression?
  • What was one standout line or passage for you? Something that struck you or made you pause for a moment.
  • What have you noticed so far that lines up with the themes you expected? (And how did those themes differ from mine?)
  • Do you see any other emerging themes you didn’t anticipate?
  • And of course: how are you liking it so far?

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What did you expect going into the book, and how did it differ from your initial impression?

I certainly expected a different style of writing than I was met with, and this wasn’t even an expectation that I realized I had. It’s written in a very straightforward way, without all of the expounding on aesthetic and atmosphere that I would expect (particularly in a fantasy book.) That’s not to say it’s devoid of description. Not in the least. There’s plenty of picture-painting where it’s called for, but rooms that don’t need every corner described are left up to the reader’s interpretation.

When dialogue is present, the passage is carried heavily by the conversation itself, with characters reacting mid paragraph to actions we weren’t able to see. The reader is left to imagine most of the smaller gestures and expressions that I’m used to having shown explicitly.

The tone really works to convey Geralt’s position. He’s straight to the point, a professional on the job, and while he’s present in the fairytale, he’s not a part of it (or at least, he tries his damnedest not to be, but I think I’ll talk about his attempted neutrality in a later meeting, when there’s more material for it.)

What was one standout line or passage for you? Something that struck you or made you pause for a moment.

What’s immediately noteworthy about this passage is that it breaks suddenly to first person. The effect of slowed time is stunning, and we’re thrown directly into Geralt’s thoughts as the head of his latest target falls to the ground. Everything is disjointed, and the questions are left unanswered, leaving us on the worrying note that Geralt feels empty inside.

What have you noticed so far that lines up with the themes you expected? (And how did those themes differ from mine?)

In my last post I listed Destiny and Choice, What Makes a Monster? and War as themes I expected to see in The Last Wish. I haven’t yet seen much war mentioned, though we have been introduced to some politics of the world in “The Witcher.”

There’s certainly been some discussion as to the nature of monster and man. The most interesting moment of this was, I think, during Geralt’s fight with the striga. At one point, it is revealed that he was using the fight to link himself psychically with the monster (the term drifting springs to mind, for anyone who’s seen Pacific Rim) and he uses this link to mirror back to the striga the evil that created her.

It’s important to note that this evil was not the striga’s. The hatred, anger, and violence that Geralt pushed toward the monster were foreign to her, and scared her into running from the fight. This evil came from whoever cast the spell that turned the princess into a striga. This evil sent the monster fleeing and left the witcher shaking and tired from the effort of redirecting it. This evil came from the heart of someone who was not a monster, and yet, what else would you traditionally call someone with such things in their heart? At the very least, it’s been made clear so far that “monster” and “evil” are by no means synonymous.

As for the theme of destiny, so far most of it has been tied up in the frame story, “The Voice of Reason,” with Nenneke’s insistence that Geralt attempt a trance so that Iola might be able to discover something about his fate.

Do you see any other emerging themes you didn’t anticipate?
There’s one that I only just noticed at the beginning of chapter two, and I can’t believe I didn’t consider it at first.

  • Impartiality and Why It Does No One Any Good

Geralt’s attempt at neutrality when faced with two sides is something that was introduced in episode one in the Netflix series. It’s less immediately obvious in The Last Wish, but I do think it will come into play soon, what with how “The Voice of Reason” last left off and with the next short story being called “The Lesser Evil.” I think this theme will tie heavily into Geralt’s refusal to believe in anything, and we just got a glimpse of that in chapter two.

It would be the first proof I’ve ever heard of that a lack of faith has any kind of power at all.

-Nenneke

It’s pretty clear that Geralt won’t be a neutral party forever (because that’s no fun and also not how character development works), but I’m excited to see exactly how this theme develops and in what way it differs from the series.

And of course: how are you liking it so far?
Personally, I’m really enjoying the story so far, and I’m excited to continue. It’s been longer than I’d like to admit since I intentionally made time to read like this, and I think the format of a collection of short stories is well-suited to my schedule and attention.

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Please don’t be shy in the comments! The questions are just to help me structure this article, spark thought, and give a little guidance to those who want it. Feel free to answer any, all, or none! All forms of participation are welcome, from ranting about one particular part you liked (or hated!) to just dropping in to say you’re enjoying the story so far! And of course, question and structure suggestions for the book club are welcome! This is still in its experimental phase after all.

In two weeks we’ll be back to talk about chapters three, four, and five, which contain the stories “The Lesser Evil,” “A Question of Price,” and “The Edge of the World” as well as the next three parts of “The Voice of Reason,” and clocks in at about 150 pages. See you in the comments!

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