It's The Witcher Week! The most hyped new show for people jonesing for their Game of Thrones fix! Henry Cavill's first major role in a franchise after Superman. Netflix's biggest show of the season! The whole first season is unloaded this Friday.
The series is adapted from the books by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. So were the videogame trilogy, which were produced after the books were published in Poland. The books weren't fully translated into English until after the third game was released in the West. The books probably would not have been fully translated if the games hadn't become bestsellers in the West.
The Netflix show will adapt the books. If you fancy getting a head-start or just want to see how the original version was like here's a quick starter guide.
There are two books you should read first: The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. Here's a quick rundown for you without too many spoilers.
"The Last Wish"
This is the first book of stories that introduce the world of Geralt of Rivia. The stories are interlinked and their order jumps back and forth in time. It introduces Geralt's best friend Dandelion, a wise-cracking bard and occasional spy-for-hire. "The Lesser Evil", adapted for Season One, tells the tragic true story of how Geralt becomes the Butcher of Blaviken.
The rules and attitudes of the world are established here, including the Law of Surprise that ends up tying Ciri to Geralt later on. The title story introduces the sorceress Yennifer of Vengerberg and begins her dysfunctional and messy relationship with Geralt.
"Sword of Destiny"
This is the second book of stories in the series, but actually the first to be published. Sapkowski wrote many of the stories in The Last Wish later. It was as if he was still working out Geralt, the world and the rest of the characters through these stories. Geralt's dysfunctional relationship with Yennifer gets even messier. Ciri is introduced in the latter half of Sword of Destiny. Geralt meets her as a child and the threads of destiny begin to weave them together in ways neither of them realise. The end of the book paves the way for the surrogate parent-child relationship between Geralt, Yennifer and Ciri that drive the five novels.
Sapkowski wrote an 8th book ( Season of Storms) in 2013, fourteen years after he finished the seventh book The Lady of the Lake. It's another collection of interconnected stories set after The Last Wish and before Sword of Destiny. Many of the stories take place between the first two books, but there are moments that reveal or hint at the future after the last novel.
Hardcore fans told me that they didn't like Season of Storms. They said the stories weren't as good or fresh. As far as they're considered, the 8th book can be considered inessential.
"The Witcher": Expected Changes
Showrunner Lauren Hissrich announced that she has seven seasons planned, which is in keeping with the original seven-book cycle. She also said that the first season doesn't even cover all of The Last Wish. Sounds like Season Two will cover the rest of the book and start on Sword of Destiny.
The first season of the show looks set to adapt mainly stories from The Last Wish and draw from Sword of Destiny. Yennifer's childhood and origin story, which are alluded to in the books, will be fully dramatized in the show. Ciri's story will be changed, since she only appears as a child in Sword of Destiny. we'll have to watch to find out how.
To read the books before watching a show is a mental game of catch-up and compare that's part of the fun. You don't have to do it, but you might get more out of the experience than just watching the show.