DIDN’T CARE FOR IT
SWORD OF DESTINY is the second collection of short stories in the dark world of The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a monster hunter, a mutant who slays beasts and demons for coin. This collection follows Geralt as he hunts a dragon, gets hung by his guts from the rafters (metaphorically speaking) by his developing relationship with Yennefer and is humorously outdone by a changeling. There were bits and pieces in it that I enjoyed, but overall I definitely found this book lacking in Va Va Voom, as Thierry Henry might say.
Sword of Destiny is a weird book because, even though it’s the second in the series chronologically, it was actually the first to be published and honestly, the fact I enjoyed THE LAST WISH a bit more is the only reason I’m persevering with these books. But let’s not be a stick in the mud – I’ll start with the stuff I liked. And there was actually a fair bit that I liked.
Geralt and Yennefer’s relationship. Hoo Boy. That right there is some juicy drama and we see it play out in the second story, A Shard of Ice. These are two broken people – people who love each other but are too emotionally damaged to admit it or function together. Watching them trying and failing to overcome their own deeply-felt insecurities and self-loathing in order to open themselves up and commit to each other is both fascinating and upsetting in equal measure.
Dainty Biberveldt. Loved this guy. In the third story, Eternal Flame, Geralt and his pal Dandelion find themselves caught up in a classic sitcom case of mistaken identity when a halfling merchant called Dainty Biberveldt discovers he’s being impersonated by a changeling, who turns out to be an infinitely better merchant than Dainty himself ever was. This is a lighthearted little tale that serves as a bit of light relief following the emotional massacre at the end of A Shard of Ice and was actually my favourite story in the book. Don’t ask me why, but I’m a sucker for detailed discussions of trade goods and mercantile nonsense in fantasy and this story delivered that with some nice humour and the introduction of a great new character in Dainty Biberveldt.
I found the remaining stories somewhat forgettable, with the exception of the final instalment, called Something More. This is where we really see Geralt’s world turn upside down. From what I know of the full length Witcher novels, they centre around Geralt and a young princess called Ciri, as he attempts to ensure she is trained as a witcher herself. Previous short stories in the collection lay the groundwork for their meeting and this is where it all pays off and it was the first time I really had the sense of the world coming to life, with forces on the move that will start to make things interesting. This final story made me hopeful for the novels.
CW: sexual assault
Now I’ll tell you what I really didn’t like, and that’s Sapkowski’s writing of women. Frankly, he’s terrible at it. In the first (very forgettable) story, we’re introduced to two deadly female warriors who, as far as I could see, served no purpose other than to titillate. They’re frequently described wearing skimpy armour and it’s heavily implied they serve not only as bodyguards, but also as lovers to the important man Geralt spends his time actually talking to. Later on in the story, we’re subjected to a pointless scene where Yennefer is sexually assaulted and Dandelion is aroused by the whole thing. I’m not against depictions of sexual assault in fiction by any means, so long as it serves a purpose and is treat with care. Arguably this served the purpose of developing character for Dandelion (using sexual assault as a means of doing so is questionable, but hey ho) given that we see how he reacts to it. This would have been more justifiable if it was to show how much of a piece of shit Dandelion is, but my reading of the situation was just that we’re meant to find his red-blooded male response to seeing a bit of tit quite funny actually. This is one of the many reasons why, despite his reputation as a ‘cheeky chappy’, comic relief type character, I just find Dandelion intensely unlikable.
In another largely forgetable story, A Little Sacrifice, the first paragraph describes a mermaid emerging from the water and, I shit you not, contains this sentence:
“Geralt saw that she had gorgeous, utterly perfect breasts.”
And if that wasn’t enough to convey to you just how great her breasts were, we’re reminded again a little later on, with this gem:
“She still had beautiful breasts.”
Tear my fucking eyeballs out now.
There’s more stuff like this, but you get the picture. Sapkowski is the archetype male writer of the kind of utter garbage that gets posted on r/menwritingwomen. His many sins in that area, coupled with some plain bad writing that I talked about in my review of The Last Wish (you can read it here) made this a two star book for me. I only hope I’m not proven a fool by giving the novels the benefit of the doubt and continuing with these books.
Don’t make me look a fool Sapkowski!
Did you find this review useful? Follow the blog and never miss a post!