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Literature / Sword of Destiny

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The second book in The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski, originally in Polish. For whatever reason, the English translator decided to skip it and jump from the first book straight to the third (despite the small fact that it introduced Ciri, around whom much of the saga revolves) but a translation was finally released in the UK in 2015. The original Polish title was Miecz Przeznaczenia.

Like the original book, Sword of Destiny is a collection of six novellas (minus a Framing Device) that continue the trend of merrily deconstructing your favorite fairy tales, though the motif of You Can't Fight Fate comes across even stronger.

Tropes found in the book:

  • Action Girl: Queen Calanthe led the fight against Nilfgaard.
  • All Myths Are True: When trying to find a dragon, Geralt mentions that gold-colored ones are a myth. Guess what colour it turns out to be.
  • Amazon Brigade: The dryads use those to fend off people away from their forest.
  • Apothecary Alligator: Istredd has a stuffed crocodile in his study.
  • Arc Words: "Something more" is said repeatedly throughout the text of Something More, doubling as a Title Drop.
  • Armies Are Evil: Geralt thinks murder, plunder, and worse are just normal consequences of war. Dandelion says that Nilfgaard is worse.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Geralt doesn't believe in destiny. He's wrong.
    • More specifically, he refuses to claim Ciri to become a Witcher since the likely result is her grisly death.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The entire city of Cintra prefers this to capture by Nilfgaard, with women and men killing their children and then each other.
    Dandelion: The Nilfgaardians captured the castle at once, their sorcerers pulverised the gate and some of the walls. Only the keep was being defended, clearly protected by spells, because it resisted the Nilfgaardian magic. In spite of that, the Nilfgaardians forced their way inside within four days. They didn't find anyone alive. Not a soul. The women had killed the children, the men had killed the women, and then fallen on their swords or ... What's the matter, Geralt?
    Geralt: Speak, Dandelion.
    Dandelion: Or... like Calanthe ... Headlong from the battlements, from the very top. They say she asked someone to ... But no one would. So she crawled to the battlements and ... Headfirst. They say dreadful things were done to her body. I don't want to ...
  • Betty and Veronica: A rare male example. Yennefer is having difficulty choosing between the safe option of Istredd who is an adoring wizard in her profession and Geralt who is a mutant who has broken her heart before. She chooses neither.
  • Big Eater: Despite being of average size for a man, Borch orders at least two of everything on the menu at dinner. Of course, we later discover he has a pretty large stomach to fill.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Téa and Véa are the bodyguards of Borch. Who's a golden dragon.
  • Boring, but Practical: Townsfolk of The Bounds of Reason give us two examples when they deal with the dragons. The first time, they offer her a fake goat with any kind of poison they could come up with inside, only failing because they didn't have anything strong around and still it took a lot for the dragon to move again, and even then could barely fly to safety. Then facing a golden dragon, who easily survived wizards and skilled, expert warriors, they just zerg-rush him and try throw nets. They are able to pin it down and, were it not for Yennefer's sudden help, they'd have actually killed him.
  • Brick Joke: In The Last Wish anthology, Geralt complains about how many noblemen want to hire him to acquire nonhuman wives. In A Little Sacrifice he's hired to serve as a translator from a Duke to a mermaid.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dudu is a magical creature who has lived his entire life in the forests around Novigrad. He's also, without a doubt, the single-greatest venture capitalist the Continent has ever seen.
  • Bus Crash: Essi Daven, Geralt's Temporary Love Interest in A Little Sacrifice, is bluntly mentioned to have died of small pox four years later in Vizima.
  • Cat Like Dragons: Villentretenmerth is described as having something graceful and feline in the way he sits.
  • Chain of Deals: In Eternal Flame, Dudu relies on insider trading to go from twelve stolen horses to over twenty thousand crownsnote  on Dainty Biberveldt's account in Vimme Vivaldi's bank. This draws the attention of inquisitor Chappelle, who openly suspects that only a doppelganger could get the confidential information before his spy network - because he is secretly a doppelganger himself.
  • Character Death: Queen Calanthe of Cintra, introduced in The Last Wish, dies here. Her daughter and son in law, Pavetta and Duny, too, but later, we find out Duny faked his death.
  • Corrupt Church: The Eternal Fire in Novigrad is one of these from top to bottom.
  • Crapsack World: Lampshaded in Something More, after a merchant begs Geralt for protection, and Geralt gets an almost lethal wound doing it. While recovering, he thanks the merchant for not letting him to die alone, and the merchant wonders how horrible the world should be, when you are thankful for the other not being a monster. Geralt agrees, but adds that it wouldn't have been the first time it happened to him.
    • The beginning of the first story sets it as one: some citizens are considering taking Geralt's properties, while Geralt himself is fighting the basilisk hunting their own town.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Eternal Flame involves a doppelgänger assuming the identity of a dead inquisitor. Nobody catches on, despite a rather radical shift in personality (they assume the man has changed due to a near-death experience and old age in general).
  • Defenestrate and Berate: Eternal Flame begins with Geralt stumbling across a woman angrily shouting and throwing things out the window at a man who cheated on her. Said man happens to be Dandelion, of course. Who makes a point of staying until he can get his prized lute back from her the obvious way. Hilariously, one of the items she tosses is another man's trousers, implying she might not have been so faithful either.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Yennefer uses the Snow Queen myth to talk about her relationship with Geralt.
  • Dominant Species Genes: Dryads have to breed with human or elf men and the child will always be a dryad. The children will very rarely have their father's features like hair or eyes. This may be related to the dryads' demonstrated ability to turn fully human girls into dryads.
  • Doomed Hometown: Cintra becomes this for Ciri.
  • Don't Fear The Reaper: In one of his flashback-dreams after being wounded, Geralt comes face-to-face with the personification of Death. It appears as a beautiful, fair-haired young woman but with cold features. Geralt accuses her of dogging his steps and being responsible for the trail of bodies he's left behind him. However, she explains, her role is not to cause death but to simply be there when a person dies and take their hand, so that no one has to move on to the afterlife alone.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: In Sword of Destiny, whenever Geralt gets fed up with Ciri's brattiness, he threatens her like this. Which shuts her up quick.
    • While Geralt mostly just threatens to spank Ciri, her grandmother and primary caretaker, queen Calanthe, was mentioned to be a firm believer that sparing the rod means spoiling the child, which is why Ciri tends to take those threats seriously. And of course Geralt himself did it to a corrupt burgher in The Last Wish, albeit under Yennefer's influence.
    • When Mousesack catches up with them, he cheerily informs the child that Calanthe is already preparing her switch, and teases the fact they're going to be hearing Ciri's screams when they get home. Ciri immediately covers her backside in fear.
  • Dramatic Irony: A Little Sacrifice has a very minor and plot-irrelevant example Played for Laughs: Dandelion reacts with disbelief when Geralt informs him high and low tides are caused by the moon.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Geralt gets drunk the night before his fight with Istredd over Yennefer.
  • Fantastic Racism: As always, a major theme in the books. Geralt is loathed because he's a Witcher, nonhumans are loathed by humans, and humans are loathed by nonhumans.
    Dudu: "You've reached an accord with the dwarves, the halflings, the gnomes and elves; even," he continued, his lips stretching into Dandelion's insolent smile, "a modest degree of integration. What makes me worse than them? Why am I refused the right? What must I do to live in this city? Transform myself into a doe-eyed elven maiden, with long legs and silken hair? Huh? How is an elf better than me? At the sight of an elf, you stare at her legs, but me, when you look at me, you want to vomit? You order me to clear off, you want to banish me, but I'll survive. I know how. In the wolf pack, I ran, howled and bit my confederates for a female's favors. As an inhabitant of Novigrad, I'll trade, weave wicker baskets, beg or steal. As part of your society, I'll do the ordinary things that people do in your society. Who knows, perhaps I'll be able to get married?"
  • Fate Drives Us Together: Geralt towards Yennefer and Ciri. Geralt shows up in Cintra to collect the Surprise Child, only to give up his claim. Naturally, he later rescues Ciri from becoming a Dryad. Finally, the books final story has Geralt invoking the Law of Surprise once more, and ends with said Surprise once again being Ciri.
  • Fish People: In A Little Sacrifice, later to reappear in the games.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Geralt argues that golden dragons don't exist, even when he's standing looking at one.
  • Forced Sleep: Visenna casts a sleep spell on Geralt and makes him forget their conversation.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Everyone knows who Yennefer will choose between Geralt and Istredd. She actually ends up choosing neither to keep them from murdering each other, and only comes back to Geralt in the novels.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: In Eternal Flame, Dudu finds out too late that disguising himself as Dandelion may not have been the brightest idea when he runs into one of the bard's furious exes, who whacks him in the face with a copper pan. It causes him to revert to his original shape.
  • Genocide Backfire: The Nilfgaardians are implied to be responsible for one of these with Cintra and Ciri. The truth is a trifle more complex.
  • Great Offscreen War: The first Northern War. We're offered a brief glimpse, from fleeing civilians' perspective, to how it begins in Something More, and then the story jumps forward a year and we're treated to the aftermath. Yet it's a major world-altering event and many characters who witnessed it firsthand reference it throughout the rest of the saga.
  • Guile Hero: Dudu. By assuming the right identities, hearing the latest news, and making the most lucrative trades, he's able to turn himself into one of the richest people in Novigrad in record time. Most impressively, he's even able to convince Geralt into leaving him alone.
  • Heroic BSoD: Geralt spends the entirety of "Something More" in this state. His tumultuous relationship with Yennefer never working out, his fear that she died in the battle of Sodden Hill, and his similar belief that his surprise child did not survive the sack of Cintra have caused him to fall into a deep depression, so much so that he doesn't even want to accept whatever payment a kindly merchant offers him for saving his life. It's only when Geralt sees that Ciri is alive and well that he snaps out of it.
  • Hero of Another Story: Sh'eenaz doesn't have much screen time in A Little Sacrifice, but it's her offscreen actions that resolve both the conflicts involving the impending war with the Fish People and her dysfunctional relationship with the local duke.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Duén Canell, the Heart of Brokilon, the last sanctuary for the dryads.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: When Vell suggests pouring some vodka down an injured Geralt's throat, Yurga says it's a stupid idea but he'll take it himself because he needs a drink.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Where Istredd tries to lecture Geralt on why he, as a Witcher, doesn't have human emotions. What's terrible, though? It works. It also serves as a Breaking Speech.
  • Interspecies Romance: The mermaid and the prince from the A Little Sacrifice, which puts Geralt into the role of their translator. They are genuinely in love and each asks the other to magically transform into their species, which would solve problems with incompatibile biology. In the end the mermaid becomes a human, so they can be together.
    • And, of course, Geralt and Yennefer. Even if human by birth, they both became something quite different, and in-universe no one would consider Geralt human anymore.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Continues to be a problem for Yennefer, who's willing to kill a dragon on the chance that it will allow her to have a child. Implied for Geralt as well, who invoked the Law of Surprise in A Question of Price and again in Something More for a chance to adopt a child, despite his own mixed feelings about destiny.
  • Legacy Character: Geralt reveals this of Roach; Dandelion identifies the horse as a different one then he was used to, and Geralt As You Know informs him that all his horses are called Roach.
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • Eternal Flame might be the most optimistic and violence-free story set in the Witcherverse. It's mostly focused on finding out who, how and why a halfling trader was robbed, instead of a climatic confrontation with some creature. The "monster-of-the-week" is intelligent and compassionate, with no intention of hurting anyone.
    • A Little Sacrifice really tries to sell itself as pessimistic and crap-sack, but in the end remains a light-hearted love story with a Happily Ever After ending (which can't be said about The Little Mermaid it's deconstructing).
    • Becomes Darker and Edgier with Sword of Destiny and Something More. Indeed, Something More is arguably the darkest Witcher story of all time.
  • Lovable Rogue: Dandelion, of course, as well as Dudu.
  • Mama Bear: Queen Calanthe is this for her daughter.
  • Mars Needs Women: The only reason the Dryads let Frexinet live is so he can conceive them some children.
  • Mister Seahorse: Played for laughs in A Little Sacrifice, when the mermaid points out she can't mate with the prince, since he as human can't carry her roe in any other way than in a hat.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: The green dragon in The Bounds of Reason.
  • Mood Whiplash: Some of the silliest and darkest stories in the Witcher canon. A Little Sacrifice is especially notable, as it happens in-story. Twice.
  • Mugging the Monster: Two guys attack Geralt when leaving a bar but run away terrified when they realize he's a Witcher even though he's lying semi-conscious on the ground.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Istredd and Geralt come to an agreement they need to do this in order to have no competition for Yennefer. Deconstructed as both of them know this will just make Yennefer hate them and neither wants to really hurt the other.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Nilfgaardians wear all black, invade Fantasy Poland, and are portrayed as completely evil but ruthlessly efficient. They are specifically contrasted against the 'normal' armies who rape, pillage, and plunder in the North.
    Dandelion: "Not this war, Geralt. After this war, no-one returns. There will be nothing to return to. Nilfgaard leaves behind it only rubble; its armies advance like lava from which no-one escapes. The roads are strewn, for miles, with gallows and pyres; the sky is cut with columns of smoke as long as the horizon. Since the beginning of the world, in fact, nothing of this sort has happened before. Since the world is our world... You must understand that the Nilfgaardians have descended from their mountains to destroy this world."
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Zig-Zagged. On one hand, mermaids and humans can't interbreed, since female mermaids are deposing roe in the sack placed in the tail of their male mates. Meanwhile dryads not only can, but need to use male mate of other humanoid race to reproduce at all.
  • Noodle Implements: In Eternal Fire, Dudu sells stolen horses in a favorable deal, then buys large quantities of seemingly random commodities.
    Dudu: Five hundred bushels of cochineal, sixty two hundredweights of mimosa bark, fifty five pots of rose oil, twenty three barrels of fish oil, six hundred clay bowls and eighty pounds of beeswax. By the way, I got the fish oil very cheap, because it's a bit rancid. Oh, and I almost forgot: I also bought a hundred ells of cotton string.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Queen Calanthe has a surreal conversation where she threatens Geralt with horrible death, torture, and murder to prevent him from claiming her granddaughter to be a Witcher. Geralt makes it abundantly clear he's not actually interested in claiming her and this does nothing to dissuade Calanthe from continuing her spiel.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The warning against the Nilfgaardians wouldn't be half as effective if not for the fact its Dandelion telling Geralt to shut up and be serious about things.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Battle of Sodden Hill, where the Northern Kingdoms united and successfully repelled the Nilfgaardian invaders, happens entirely offscreen. We only hear about it from Yurga.
  • One-Gender Race: Dryads from the titular short story are downplayed version. They still need a male mate, but their offspring is always female. And they don't mind raising human girls as their own or outright brainwash pre-teens to bolster their numbers.
  • Only Sane Man: Much of the book's humor is derived from the fact that Geralt occupies this role in the setting. Everyone is one shade of crazy or another.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: The fake inquisitor gives Geralt one of these when he is trying to hire him to find the doppelganger. Geralt doesn't want to because not only is Dudu not evil, there's no actual way to find a man who can shapechange in a city of 30,000 people.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Essi always has one of her eyes covered under her unruly hair.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Visenna gives herself one after overexerting herself healing Geralt.
  • Royal Brat: Ciri is a very whiny princess in Sword of Destiny who often threatens that she'll have Geralt beheaded.
  • Screening the Call: Calanthe makes it clear she'd rather kill Geralt than let him take Ciri away to become a witcher. Despite this, Ciri still ends up in Geralt's care, because You Can't Fight Fate.
  • Screw Destiny: Geralt refuses to lay any claim on the surprise child he is destined for because he does not want to believe in destiny, even though it's clear he really does want a child.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: The king in the end of The Bounds of Reason. He wants a nearby kingdom, but local nobles don't want him to marry the princess, so he plans to use an ancient prophecy (saying someone bringing a dragon's head will become king) to his advantage. After spending some time with the mercenaries hired to slain said dragon, however, he decides that, since he has a bigger and better army than the other kingdom, he doesn't need a dragon's head. He also figures that, since the local nobles can't stop him, they'll come up with some way to justify his solution.
  • Secret Test of Character: Borch tests Geralt extensively, probing his stance and relation with humans and especially human affairs. He even tries to provoke him and goad into angry rants early on to check the witcher's reactions.
  • Spiteful Spit: Cicada is about to do it to provoke Geralt but Geralt decks him first.
  • Suicide by Cop: Upon learing that Yennefer doesn't want him, Istredd descides to face Geralt in duel without using magic hoping the later would kill him.
  • Supernaturally Young Parent: In Something More, Geralt meets his mother, Visenna, who looks younger than him. Justified, because she's a sorceress.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Eternal Flame is really more about Dudu making his fortune. Geralt merely serves the role of a mostly passive Audience Surrogate.
  • Tap on the Head: Dudu knocks Dainty out in order to steal his identity. Geralt interprets this as proof that Dudu is ultimately a good person, because killing Dainty would have been much smarter.
  • That Man Is Dead: Braen used to be a human girl named Mona before she became a dryad, and she suffers a Heroic BSoD after being reminded of it. By the end of The Sword of Destiny, she has finally let go of her previous identity and tells Geralt that "there is no Mona."
  • Tin Man: Geralt. Istredd delivers a cruel Breaking Speech where he says that Geralt, as a mutant, was stripped of all human emotions, can't feel as humans do, and can only imitate them. The Witcher actually believes it's true, and that makes him very bitter, angry and sad.
  • Tyke-Bomb: When visiting Duén Canell, Geralt muses how there are almost no young dryads there and those few child-aged are all naturalised human girls.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Dudu, as a doppler, of course possesses this ability.
  • Was Once a Man: Dryads will convert human girls by making them drink the Water of Brokilon if they can't find a man to breed with.
  • The Wild Hunt: Gets its first mention in A Shard of Ice. Its depiction there slightly differs from what we learn in the Saga, likely as being a personal opinion.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Bounds of Reason introduces a whole host, taking part in a dragon hunt - a knight who thinks he's in a chivalric tale, a peasant who thinks he's in a folk legend, a wizard who is out to protect endangered species (the dragon), and a sorceress who thinks dragons are a threat to society. This being Witcherworld, none are right.
  • Zany Scheme: How Dudu gets filthy rich in Eternal Flame. It involves a Chain of Deals in what seems to be Noodle Implements... Until news reaches the city and each bizarre commodity purchase is revealed to have a very specific and profitable purpose.
  • Zero-G Spot: Geralt lists levitating 30 fathoms above the earth as one of the places he and Yennefer had sex.