Welcome to this continuation of the “my partner and I read books together before bed” series. In very cute timing, because today is our anniversary (8 years)! I’m super proud of us because this is the third series we’ve read through together – over two years into this tradition and we are holding strong. It’s still really fun bonding and a nice way to wind down together before bed. Plus, this one was extra exciting because it’s one we’ve jointly gotten really into, in all media forms, recently. My partner has played and been into the Witcher video games for some time now, so he was pretty hype for the Netflix adaptation and talked me into what turned into a hella binge, because while I’m not so much into video games as a medium, I am a sucker for fantasy in other forms. So really by the time we were halfway through our Netflix binge, we knew our next joint read was going to be this series. Plus, bonus, a Polish author (woohoo for repping that heritage!).
The Witcher Series by Andrzej Sapkowski
This was a pretty hefty undertaking, as it was our first “adult” series that we’ve read together (the last two being children’s series with HP and His Dark Materials). And really this was the first time we were reading something that was really new to us both, as the other two were rereads of childhood favorites. Plus, this is a long series, like 9 books, so…whew. But in the end, it was totally worth it! It was just such a fun adventure to go on, full of magic and politics and drama and swords and fantastical creatures and lots, and lots, and lots of battles and fighting and war. So just beware of and ready for the violence levels. But also, there’s a great overarching story of destiny and a sort of found family in the face of the destruction all around. It was perhaps not a new favorite book series objectively, but within the context of enjoying it together, and in conjunction with the show and game (I may not play myself, but I sure have watched/listened to my partner play it in the background a lot), it was exactly what we wanted it to be.
Also, I do have to note a couple other things we particularly enjoyed. First, the writing/translation was spectacular. It had a great adult dark humor vibe (in both description and dialogue), like really intelligent humor that made us snort laugh quite a few times. Super fun. Also, you can really feel the influences of Sapkowski’s growing up in post-WWII Poland. There is definitely a darkness in the writing and story, one that really focuses on the shadow that war brings over a place, both in the moment and afterwards, and the way civilian lives (the lives of the majority) are destroyed for the ambitions/goals of the few. There is also a clear indictment of “meddling of elite forces behind the scenes without regard for casualties” throughout (which we loved to see). And overall, we really appreciated the progressiveness of Sapkowski’s political and social messages. From the environment to feminism/reproductive rights to socioeconomic stratification and more, including some interspecies interactions of superiority that have clear parallels to the Nazi view of Aryan superiority, the striking and not-always-subtle (but still not written in a bash-you-over-the-head way that can get tiresome) commentary was well received by this reading pair. And finally, just one more time for good measure, the fantasy aspects are really spectacularly done. Sapkowski pulls from a lot of Eastern European folklore and we loved all the magic and creatures and enjoyed spotting myths/legends that were familiar from numerous cultures, and googling to find out more.
To sum up, if you enjoyed The Witcher games or Netflix series and are looking to be entertained while also getting much more into the backstory/world of the Witcher, then we definitely recommend the book series. And whether that sounds like you or not, stay tuned because our joint reading ventures are continuing and we are well into our next series as we speak!