Sword of Destiny is the second short story collection in the Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. I read the English translation by David French.
Finished on: 6.8.2020
[Here’s my review of the first short story collection/novel in the series.]
After the pleasant surprise that was The Last Wish for me, I was really looking forward to delving further into this world. Sword of Destiny, unfortunately, didn’t work quite as well for me as The Last Wish. It focused too much on Yennefer who is exactly the kind of female character in a dudebro fantasy that I was afraid the Witcher series would be full of. Still, overall. I did enjoy the collection and since it was actually written before The Last Wish, here’s to hoping that the rest of the books (that I’ll certainly read) will continue the upward trend.
Read more about each of the stories after the jump!
The Bounds of Reason
By chance, Geralt meets the traveling knight Three Jackdaws and his companions and protectors Tea and Vea. They are heading in the same direction and that direction leads them to a big hunting party: a dragon hunting party. Everybody who slays dragons, or would like to, is part of it. Geralt doesn’t kill dragons, but since Yennefer is there, too, he goes along anyway.
I liked the take on dragons here, but I was a little taken aback by the constant horny comments about Tea and Vea (also, is it implied they are having a foursome or was that my dirty mind?). It gave me an inkling about what was to come in this collection. I mean, The Last Wish wasn’t boobs-comments-free, but it definitely was better than this. In any case, I quite liked the ending to the story.
A Shard of Ice
Geralt and Yennefer have taken up residence in the city of Aedd Gynvael where Yennefer is working with another sorcerer, Istredd. But Geralt is unhappy in the city and suspicious of Istredd. He knows he can’t stay in the city for long, but Yennefer has no inclination to leave.
A Shard of Ice was very Yennefer-heavy and I have nothing against Yennefer herself, but I struggle with the way she is portrayed – with the role she plays in Geralt’s story. She is such a male fantasy, tailored to give Geralt a heroic and tragic love story and still leaving him free to screw every nice pair of boobs he sees. So, yeah, I can’t really get into the whole Yennefer thing and this hurts this story. At least I liked how the dueling was resolved.
Geralt meets Dandelion in the city of Novigrad. As usual, Dandelion is in trouble with a woman and has some unpaid bar tabs, so he wants to ask the halfling merchant Dainty for a loan. But when they meet Dainty, something is off.
Dandelion is also much more of a dudebro here than I remembered him from the first short story collection. Maybe because he is much less of a part there, and takes more center stage here, but I find his womanizing and his callous disregard for the upset he causes pretty offensive and not very charming. Anyhow, fortunately, it is not a huge part of this story. I liked the turns this story takes and the solution feels very round.
A Little Sacrifice
Geralt found a job translating mermaid for Duke Agloval. Meanwhile, Dandelion took a job singing at a wedding where Essie, another minstrel and practically his sister, is also singing. During the wedding, the Duke approaches Geralt again: a ship of pearl-divers was found abandoned and bloodied, no sign of the crew. He tasks Geralt with finding out what happened.
I was very touched by the relationship between Essie and Geralt – much more than I thought I would be, especially because it doesn’t take up that much space of the story. Generally, I think this was one of my favorites of the collection, with a nice showdown and also, mermaids!
Sword of Destiny
Geralt has a message to deliver to the dryad queen Eithne. In Brokilon, the forest where the dryads live and rule, he finds the bodies of some men and a survivor, his old friend Freixenet, who tells him that the princess is missing somewhere in the forest. Now Geralt has two missions: find the girl and deliver his message.
Sword of Destiny introduces Ciri and she is definitely an intriguing character. Also very intriguing: the dryads (although a little less male gaze on them would have been extremely nice). I wouldn’t mind spending more time with this matriarchal society.
Geralt finds the merchant Yurga on a bridge in a dire situation and agrees to help against the promise of something Yurga doesn’t expect when he comes home. But Geralt is gravely wounded and haunted by visions and memories before they ever get there.
Ciri is back in this one, albeit only in a short moment – but one with huge implications. I wonder where things will go from here. The central focus of the story are Geralt’s hallucinations where he sees Yennefer, of course. I did like this take here more, but I still woul have preferred if the story had dwelled less on it. The best part, for me, was the reexamination of the recruiting method for witchers, and what it means for destiny.
Summarizing: Not quite as good as The Last Wish, but I still enjoyed it. Looking forward to starting the series proper.