All The Witcher Books and the Stories Behind Them
The Best Witcher Books Worth Reading
With the immense success of CD Projekt Red’s smash hit The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, fans across the world have become familiar with Geralt, Yennefer, Ciri, and countless other intriguing characters in the world of The Witcher. As some fans might have noticed, Geralt and company frequently make references to their past adventures throughout the game. These adventures are actually contained in the Witcher series of books written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, creator of The Witcher. If you want to learn more about Geralt’s adventures before the game, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a brief summary of all ten books in the main series.
The Witcher (Polish: 1990, English: reprinted in The Last Wish)
Who is our hero Geralt, and what makes him so special?
The first Witcher book was a collection of short stories, which introduced us to our hero, Geralt, and the world of witchers. Witchers are humans put through intense mutations and training that give them superhuman senses and reflexes for the purpose of hunting monsters. In these stories, Geralt reunites two star-crossed lovers, saves a young man who has been turned into a monster by a vampire, slays a rogue group of bandits, and saves a young princess from a curse that turns her into a terrible monster. Even though we don’t meet many of the characters we’re familiar with in the games, we do learn exactly what it is witchers do, what their powers are, and how deadly they can be in a fight for their life. Interestingly, though it was the first book published that featured Geralt, the stories were later reprinted in the anthology The Last Wish alongside the stories told in that book.
Sword of Destiny (Polish: 1992, English: 2015)
Could the young princess Ciri be more than she appears?
Another collection of short stories featuring Geralt, Sword of Destiny also introduces readers to Geralt’s lover, the sorceress Yennefer; Geralt’s long-time companion, the bard known as Dandelion; and the time- and space- warping princess named Ciri. The first few stories look into Geralt’s difficult relationship with Yennefer; while she is beautiful and powerful, she is also willing to do whatever it takes to gain more magical power. We also see Geralt butting heads with mages, royalty, and a fanatical religious organization known as The Eternal Fire. In the final two stories, we see Geralt meeting the young princess Ciri and bringing her back to the witcher stronghold, where he will train her to become a witcher herself. For fans of the video game The Witcher 3, the first story in this collection features that famous fight between Geralt and the zeugl which he repeatedly mentions throughout the game.
The Last Wish (Polish: 1993, English: 2007)
What could Geralt of Rivia wish for from a powerful genie?
Though the third book published, the stories within The Last Wish actually take place before the book The Sword of Destiny. When Geralt is gravely wounded battling a monster, he runs to a nearby temple to rest and have his wounds treated. As Geralt recovers, he tells the priestesses and other visitors stories about his life. Though most of these stories had been published in the first book, The Witcher, two of the stories are brand new and explain how Geralt came to first meet his friend Dandelion and the sorceress Yennefer. In the story The Edge of the World, Geralt and Dandelion had agreed to travel with each other while looking for work. While looking for a mischievous forest spirit, they are captured by elves and only saved when the mysterious Queen of the Elves takes pity on them. In the short story The Last Wish, Geralt and Dandelion take on a contract for a powerful genie when they meet Yennefer of Vengerberg, a sorceress who wishes to harness the power of the genie herself. Players of the video games will know that the titular “last wish” made by Geralt bound Yennefer to him through a love affair that would last for years.
Blood of Elves (Polish: 1994, English: 2008)
The Empire of Nilfgaard is seeking to expand their borders by attacking the Kingdom of Cintra, but do they have other motivations?
The Blood of Elves is the first book in the main series of witcher stories and acts as a direct sequel to the last story contained in The Sword of Destiny. The book starts out with the Empire of Nilfgaard attacking the Kingdom of Cintra. As the kingdom burns, the princess Ciri escapes from the city and is placed under the protection of Geralt, who is training her in the ways of the witcher. After noticing some strange magical behaviour in the girl, Geralt calls his acquaintance the sorceress Triss Merigold, to inspect the girl. Triss realizes that Ciri contains an immensely powerful magic known as The Source, and recommends that the girl be taken and trained by the sorceress Yennefer. Under attacks from elven rebels and being followed by Nilgaardian spies, Geralt is wounded by the leader of the mages, Filippa Eilhart. The story ends with Yennefer and Filippa taking Ciri to the mage’s headquarters where she will be trained in magic.
Time of Contempt (Polish: 1995, English: 2013)
As Nilfgaardian spies chase Ciri, the mages show that they seek more power, too.
The second book begins with Ciri and Yennefer heading to the mage’s headquarters at Aretuza, stopping in to the city of Gors Velen for some rest. During the visit to the city, Ciri escapes through a secret door and runs off to find Geralt. During Ciri’s reunion with the witcher, Yennefer tracks them down and invites Geralt to join them on their travels to Aretuza. During their stay at the mage’s headquarters, Geralt learns of a coup meant to reveal Nilfgardiaan spies among the mages, led by the charming young mage named Vilgefortz. During the ensuing battle, Ciri escapes into a far-flung desert via a portal while Geralt is defeated by Vilgefortz. As Geralt recovers from his wounds, Ciri is taken in by a gang of young bandits known as The Rats.
Baptism of Fire (Polish: 1996, English: 2014)
In Geralt's quest to be reunited with Ciri, he makes some strange and powerful friends as well as enemies.
Having not fully recovered yet, Geralt begins his search for Ciri, running into his old friend Dandelion and a mysterious hunter named Milva. Throughout their journeys, they meet the brash but lovable dwarf Zoltan Chivay, and Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy (better known as Regis), a vampire surgeon who has sworn off blood. A Nilfgaardian soldier known as the Black Rider runs into them several times, and despite Geralt’s initial protests, he comes to join the group as their ally. This ragtag party defends itself and the kingdom of Rivia against Nilfgaardian forces during a fierce battle on a bridge, and for this defence, Geralt is knighted by the queen as “Geralt of Rivia.” Meanwhile, in the desert, Ciri and her bandits steal from the rich and give to the poor while Ciri becomes an increasingly fierce warrior.
The Tower of Swallows (Polish: 1997, English: 2016)
Ciri is left for dead by a cruel bounty hunter. Will she recover?
The story begins with a wounded Ciri found lying in a swamp by an old man named Vysogota. As he nurses Ciri back to health, she tells him of how she came to be lying wounded in the swamp. As she rode around with the Rats, she was tracked and confronted by a Nilfgaardian bounty hunter named Leo Bonhart, who slaughters all the bandits except for Ciri. Though gravely wounded, Ciri managed to escape into the swamp. Meanwhile, Geralt and his group continue their search for Ciri, running into an elven sage named Avallac’h who seems to know a disturbing amount about the young woman. As the group searches for a group of mysterious druids that Avallac’h says will lead them to Ciri, Yennefer of Vengerberg is accused of treachery and espionage on the wild Isles of Skellige. The book finishes as Ciri leaves the old hermit and stumbles through a portal that brings her to a mysterious world.
Lady of the Lake (Polish: 1999, English: 2017)
The riveting final chapter of Ciri's story ends with an explosive battle between inscrutable powers
The final entry in the main series has not yet been officially released in English, but Polish fans have given us unofficial translations and the official English translation is set to be released next year. The story begins with Ciri living in a strange world filled with elves, including Avallac’h, the mysterious elf that Geralt had encountered in the previous novel. As Ciri becomes involved with the intricacies of the elven political scene, she is accused of murdering the elven king and narrowly escapes back to her world through a portal. Learning that Yennefer is being imprisoned by the mage Vilgefortz, she rushes to his castle to save her. Meanwhile, Geralt and his group have been living in the Duchy of Toussaint, taking on contracts to kill monsters. During one such contract, Geralt learns of Yennefer’s capture and gathers his group to save her. During their assault on Vilgefortz’ fortress, Milva the hunter, Regis the vampire, and Cahir the Black Rider are all slain. Though Geralt succeeds in killing Vilgefortz and Ciri slays Leo Bonhart in revenge, the groups are soon divided again by the emperor of Nilfgaard who seeks to return Ciri to the palace. Geralt returns to Rivia with Dandelion, while Yennefer and Ciri fleeing to meet a group of powerful sorceresses. As Geralt stays in Rivia, a race war erupts between humans and non-humans as Yennefer and Ciri return to meet him. During the fray, both Geralt and Yennefer are wounded by the angry mob and left to die. As they succumb to their wounds, Ciri uses her powers to bring them back to life, leaving them alone on an unknown island as she vanishes into the air. It is at this point that the first Witcher video game begins.
Season of Storms (Polish: 2013, English: Unofficial translations online)
Geralt is arrested for theft, but can our hero prove to the corrupt guards that he is innocent?
Another novel not yet officially translated into English, Season of Storms acts as a stand-alone prequel to the Witcher saga, taking place sometime before Blood of Elves. As Geralt arrives in the small town of Kerack, he is wrongfully accused and arrested for theft, and his swords are taken away. Throughout the story, Geralt encounters a deceptive magician, demons that terrorize woodsman, and a cruel, rogue witcher from a rival school.
Something Ends, Something Begins (Polish: 2001, English: Unofficial translations online)
Even in the bloody and cruel world of The Witcher, sometimes heroes get the happy endings they deserve
This is an anthology of short stories written by the author of the Witcher series Andrzej Sapkowski, but it contains a single non-canon story about Geralt contained inside. It’s the fictional tale of the day of Geralt and Yennefer’s wedding. Though many of Geralt’s stories end with bloodshed and tears, Something Ends, Something Begins is a more light-hearted story that imagines what would happen and who would appear if Yennefer and Geralt were to be married.
The world of the witcher is rich and complex, and Geralt has had many adventures before the start of the game series. Remember this next time you jump into any of the games, and see if you can appreciate just how much Geralt, his friends, and his enemies have been through.
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