My husband and I are big video game nerds. Big enough nerds that we’ve got Final Fantasy-themed wedding rings, and had matching action figures on a cake at our wedding. Sometimes this nerdiness spills over into other things, influencing everything from the decor in our house to what kind of music we listen to. And sometimes, it introduces us to new things to enjoy, things we normally wouldn’t have known to look for.
Recently, my husband has been playing The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. It’s a very entertaining game, and fun to watch, though it’s not one I’d play myself. The world is interesting and immersive and the characters are well-written. But what makes it especially interesting to me is that it’s based on a book.
Video games have a long history of not getting along with books and movies. The crossovers never work, the games are always disappointing, and sometimes they’re downright terrible. This makes The Witcher an unusual exception, because the games are great. And yet, despite the fact that they’re well-written, feature interesting gameplay and good graphics, the games are not popular. I was curious as to why this was, so I took the time to look up the source material – A book titled The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski.
The Last Wish receives mixed reviews, depending on who you talk to. While its reviews on Amazon are favorable, a large part of the internet seems to agree that the book is simply awful. It’s hard to say why that is – It’s true that the book suffers some translation issues, due to it not being written in English, but they are easy enough to overlook. And one twist in the book is one I didn’t expect at all. Though The Last Wish is a collection of short stories featuring the same character, Geralt of Rivia, there’s an important distinction to be made about these stories: They’re fairy-tales.
I didn’t catch on at first. Reading through the second of the short stories, there was certainly a moment where I had the fleeting thought of Huh, this seems familiar. But it wasn’t until I reached the part about the queen with a magic mirror, sending a huntsman to kill her stepdaughter, that I made the connection. These are fairy-tales for grown-ups. Action packed and sometimes rather violent, they’re a fresh take on classic stories, reworking them until they’re something new altogether.
And I like that.
You’ll hear it over and over again through life, that there’s nothing new under the sun. But then, you’ll also hear the saying that everything old is new again. To me, the two sayings mesh nicely into the idea that no matter how old, clichéd or trite an idea or story might seem, there’s always a way to twist it into something new, exciting and unexpected.
The Last Wish is a good example of that, and I’m glad that exposure to the game led me to pick up such a refreshing take on tales I thought I’d outgrown.