Literature / The Last Wish
The first book in The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski, originally in Polish but translated to English after the game became popular.

It consists of six short stories framed by a seventh narration. While not an immediate part of "The Witcher Saga" (which spans books three through seven), it introduces most of its protagonists (Geralt, Yennifer, Dandelion) and foreshadows Ciri's origin.

  • "The Voice of Reason": The Framing Device. While Geralt recuperates from injuries sustained during "The Witcher" at the Temple of Melitele, Head Priestess Nenneke makes him recount some of his adventures.
  • "The Witcher": A deconstruction of Save the Princess plots, where Geralt is hired by King Foltest of Temeria to break the curse on his daughter.
  • "A Grain of Truth": A gleeful deconstruction of "Beauty and the Beast". Investigating corpses he found by the side of a road, Geralt encounters a man transformed into a beast.
  • "The Lesser Evil": An In-Name-Only deconstruction of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". Geralt is contacted by a wizard to protect him from bandits led by a former princess.
  • "A Question of Price": A critical look at the fairy tales like "Rumpelstiltskin", where a supernatural being asks for "what you don't expect to find back home". Sets up one of the key plotlines of the rest of the series with foreshadowing of Ciri's origin story.
  • "The Edge of the World": A deconstruction of Our Elves Are Better, among other things.
  • "The Last Wish": A deconstruction of "Aladdin". Geralt and Dandelion encounter a djinn, and Geralt meets Yennefer of Vengerberg, his Love Interest for most of the series.

As you may have noticed, the book is mainly a Deconstructor Fleet of classical Fairy Tales.

Tropes found in the book:

  • Affably Evil: Nivellen is a rapist and bandit but is surprisingly congenial company. Despite being a Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil sort of fellow, in general, Geralt acts as if his curse is more than enough punishment. See Cursed with Awesome for why this is somewhat questionable.
  • Altar Diplomacy: In "A Question of Price", the fifth story, Queen Calanthe of Cintra wants to ensure a good political marriage for her daughter Princess Pavetta, and entertains suitors at Pavetta's fifteenth birthday celebration. She specifically wants Pavetta to marry into the royal house of the Viking-like Skellige Islands to make Cintra a less-attractive target for Skellige pirates, and contracts Geralt of Rivia to help ensure Pavetta marries well. So Pavetta ends up in a Perfectly Arranged Marriage with Duny, a lord formerly under Baleful Polymorph to whom Calanthe's deceased husband had promised "what he finds at home but does not know about" in exchange for saving his life, while Calanthe herself ends up in a love match with Eist Tuirseach, a knight of Skellige with whom it's implied she was having a covert affair offscreen.
  • Anachronic Order: "The Voice of Reason" is set immediately after the "The Witcher", which is chronologically the last adventure Geralt recalls. The rest seem to follow each other, though.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Eist Tuiseach to Queen Calanthe in "A Question of Price" after the latter is thrown against the wall by Princess Pavetta's runaway magical gift.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: The wizard Stregobor, who specializes in illusions, has conjured a sunny field inside of his stone tower.
  • Because Destiny Says So: A running theme in the book is the concept of Destiny is Serious Business. It's particularly highlighted in "The Lesser Evil" where the wizards of the land decide the mere possibility of young women becoming evil due to a prophecy is enough to warrant their murder or imprisonment.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: King Foltest of Temeria infamously impregnated his sister Princess Adda and, due to a curse placed on them by a more appropriate suitor, their daughter is born as a striga. The battle between Geralt and the striga was later used for the opening cinematic of CD Projekt RED's video game.
  • The Butcher: Geralt is named "The Butcher of Blaviken" in "The Lesser Evil". The truth is more complicated: He killed seven bandits in a Curb-Stomp Battle to stop them from massacring the town to draw out its town wizard, against whom the leader Renfri had a (probably justified) grudge.
  • Captain Ersatz: Snow White, The Beast, and a few others, since it's a book of Fractured Fairy Tales.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At one point in the framing story, the priestess Nenneke mentions the climate starts to change and many plants have already gone extinct. Guess how important it is for the saga.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • "A Question of Price" has two massive ones that set the course for the rest of the saga. The unborn child is one, as she goes on to become Ciri. The second is her dad, Duny, much later revealed to be the Emperor of Nilfgaard himself.
    • Eskel, Triss and Vesemir are name-dropped in "The Last Wish," but they don't make an appearance proper until Blood of Elves.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Yennefer on her detractors in The Last Witch. She magically compells Geralt into delivering them stinging yet overly poetic rebukes in public, including humiliating beatings, knowing anyone who tries to protect them will get their asses kicked. It works, until Geralt goes to beat up a priest, who was less than polite when talking about Yennefer in his sermons. The priest dispels the Yennefer's spell and Geralt gets knocked unconscious. Later Yennefer tries to use a genie's magic to let Geralt get off scot-free; it doesn't work, but the authorities let him go anyway.
  • Covers Always Lie: The second mass paperback edition run of the American printing of the book by Orbit features Geralt fighting a dragon. At no point in any of the vignettes does such a scene take place. Hell, the art in question is taken from concept art for the second Witcher game.
  • Cursed with Awesome: A robber baronnote  is cursed to become a beastly monster in a direct homage to Beauty and the Beast. The thing is, the curse comes with a magical castle that caters to his every whim and he quickly finds out that most women are won over by his wealth and charming personality more often than not. Given the crime he committed was raping a priestess (of an evil Temple, he defends), this seems like Moral Dissonance.
  • Dark Messiah: What wizards are afraid the Black Sun daughters will become. It's noted almost no one else takes this prophecy seriously and it's resulted in a staggering number of Distressed Damsel stories being created, often leading rich and powerful princes to try and rescue then marry them. In at least one case, resulting in the aforementioned wizards getting their (just?) desserts.
  • Establishing Character Moment: "The Witcher" really hammers in what being a witcher is all about, what methods they use, and what Crapsack World they operate in. The events in this short story were so iconic, the developers of the video game adaptation put them into the opening cutscene, even though it had only tangential connection to the main plot.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: "The Witcher" short story again. Witchers are said to be novelty thing, not relic of the past. Vizimir is called king of Novigrad. Magic closer resembles traditional folklore, not Magic A Is Magic A. The most notable difference is social position of the sorcerers - they are travelling pariahs not unlike witchers.
    • Geralt in "The Witcher" also behaves in a much more cruel and pragmatic way than he would even in later stories in the same book, killing a few drunkards solely to attract the attention of a local lord and using a man as live bait for a monster he is hunting. While both of these were semi-justifiable (the former wanted to kill Geralt solely because he was an outsider and the latter was responsible for the curse which created the monster), this is still a far cry from the later depictions of Geralt, who would only kill other humans as a last resort or out of self-defense. This can be attributed to the fact that the story was written much, much earlier than the others for a Fantasy magazine, before the greater Witcher universe was conceived.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Averted with Princess Adda II in "The Witcher", who was the result of an incestuous affair between the King and his sister Adda I and spends the first fourteen years of her life as a striga, and again in "Lesser Evil", which features a sociopathic leader of a warband, who happens to be a princess by birth. Played straight in "A Question of Price", where Princess Pavetta of Cintra is a Living MacGuffin and a latent mage.
  • Evil Versus Evil: "The Lesser Evil" is appropriately about a murderous bandit versus an utterly ruthless wizard.
  • Fantastic Racism: A running theme in the book, as always.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The entire book is more or less a bunch of variations on Grimms Fairy Tales with Geralt thrown into them.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: The events in "The Lesser Evil" is what earns Geralt the reputation of "the Butcher of Blaviken." By killing Renfri and her band in an unprovoked attack, the townspeople see Geralt as a murderer, unaware that he did so to prevent Renfri from massacring the townspeople.
  • Karmic Death: Averted by Stregobor as Geralt, much to his disgust, accidentally rescues him from one.
  • Kavorka Man: Despite being a mutant Heroic Albino Deadpan Snarker of questionable means and appearance, Geralt ends up having sex with no less than three staggeringly beautiful women over the course of this book.
  • Kirk Summation: Geralt gives a pretty good one to the elves in "The Edge of the World" about how they can live in peace with humans. They reject it, which leads to a The Reason You Suck speech.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Geralt throughout is really sick of people giving him crap for trying to do the right thing.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The wizards persecute, kill, and imprison numerous women who just have the misfortune of being born during an eclipse, due to a prophecy that they would be born evil. The thing is, The Last Wish is full of young noblemen desperate to prove themselves by doing great deeds for fair damsels. As a result, many of these "cursed" (and extremely pissed off) women find themselves married to powerful husbands who proceed to help them in their revenge plans against the aforementioned wizards.
  • I Owe You My Life: Pavetta was promised to Urcheon, in accordance with the Law of Surprise, after he saved her father's life. Geralt also invokes the Law, after he helps protect Duny and resolve the resulting crisis.
  • Living MacGuffin: Princess Pavetta of Cintra has various nobles vying for her hand, though the dowager Queen Calanthe wants her to marry into the royal family of Skellige for political reasons. Then the monstrous Urcheon arrives to claim her hand in accordance with an oath given by Calanthe's dead husband. After Geralt and a druid stop the nobles from killing each other and Pavetta's latent magical gift from destroying the castle, Pavetta marries Urcheon, whose curse has been lifted by true love and now uses his birth name Duny, and Calanthe marries Eist Tuiseach, the king of Skellige who had confessed his love for her when she got injured in the middle of this craziness (and is implied to have been having an affair with her behind the scenes).
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: We never find out if Renfri was a Black Sun princess or not.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Geralt was originally told that the phrase he shouted at the genie was an exorcism spell. After he uses it, Yennefer informs him that it actually means "Go fuck yourself", which because of Geralt getting three wishes, the genie was forced to do literally. No wonder it was pissed.
  • Nonindicative Title: More like deliberately misleading (both in original Polish and English translation). "The Last Wish" refers not to a Last Request but to the last remaining (out of three) wish the genie had to grant Geralt.
  • The Power of Love: True love is noted by Geralt in "A Grain of Truth" to have great magical power after he is forced to kill the bruxa, who was genuinely in love with a human cursed into monstrous form, and whose love and blood lifts the curse. True love also lifts Urcheon/Duny's curse.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Pavetta is going to pick her husband on her 16th birthday and in the end decides on Duny. Since he saved her father's life in battle around the same time she was born he has to be at least twice her age, probably even older than that. Oh, and she's already pregnant.
    • This creates a rather funny Older Than They Look moment in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: because Duny is really Emhyr var Emreis, The Emperor of Nilfgaard, by the times of the game he should've realistically been around sixty, but is portrayed as a middle-aged man no older than forty-something.
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time:
    • This is one of the arguments Geralt supports his disbelief in Renfri being some kind of bloodthirsty mutant with - the Black Sun prophecy speaks of "sixty women in crowns of gold, which will fill the rivers with blood". It's obviously not a proper prophecy: as Geralt points out, it doesn't rhyme.
    • The Ithlinne Prophecy on the other hand does rhyme, at least in original Elven...
  • Reality Ensues: A running theme of the books is more realistic consequences to actions happen all the time like a girl rescued from bandits throwing up at all the bloodshed.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Nenneke is one of the nicest characters in the series.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Geralt gives an absolutely brutal one to the elves in "Edge of the World" which explains, at length, why they're all going to die out.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Renfri intends to kill Stregobor even if innocents get caught in the crossfire. Geralt is really annoyed by this as his sympathies are clearly with Renfri rather than Stregobor but he wants to protect the town.
  • Sex Is Violence: Renfri almost outright states that she sometimes derives sexual pleasure from killing. Whether that means that she is one of the Black Sun children prophesied to be evil monsters remains unclear.
  • Screening the Call: Queen Calanthe uses every trick in the book to stop her daughter Pavetta from marrying Urcheon, to whom she was promised through the Law of Surprise. When everything else fails she simply orders him killed. After the resulting mayhem almost destroys the castle, Calanthe finally gives the two of them her blessing.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Geralt's relationship with Yennefer starts, develops, and continues as this.
  • Slashed Throat: In "The Witcher" Geralt only just survives having his neck ripped open by the still-partially-a-striga Princess Adda. He got lucky: The claw swipe in question missed the really important bits, and he got medical attention quickly. He still spent a few months in a temple-cum-hospital.
  • Take a Third Option: Geralt does this when forced to duel with a knight. His choices were: (1) refuse the duel and be executed on the spot; (2) fight, but if he lays his weapon on his higher-class opponent, he'll be arrested and executed in even more horrible fashion; (3) "fight" and let his opponent wound or maybe maim him. So Geralt parries in such a way the guy is hit with his own weapon. He gets away with this because the duel's arbiter, a dwarf, was sick of the other side's cheating and racism.
  • Taking You with Me: Attempted by Renfri in her dying breath
    “I... am... cold...”
    He did not answer. Renfri moaned again, curling up even more. Little torrents of blood were quickly filling the cracks between stones.
    “Geralt... embrace me...”
    He did not answer. She turned her head and went still with a cheek touching the cobbles. An extremely thin-bladed stiletto, so far concealed under her body, slipped from her stiffening fingers.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Hiring Geralt to kill the boyfriend of a latent sorceress Pavetta might have been a bad idea.
  • Unreliable Expositor: In "The Lesser Evil" Geralt doesn't really believe either Renfri or the wizard. The princess claims she was driven to evil by the abuse suffered at various hands (and caused by the bloody wizard meddling, thank you very much); the wizard says, with conviction, that Renfri is a mutant who was born Ax-Crazy.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Geralt points out the Beast-analogue in "A Grain of Truth" isn't a monster just because he's cursed into appearing ugly.
  • Yandere: The Bruxa in "A Grain of Truth", who is in love with and violently protective of a human cursed into monstrous form.