Okay, this is going to be a long post! The Witcher is a very important thing to me and is very close to my heart. So there are a lot of things I want to say about this. There won't be any spoilers, though!
My very own Witcher story
I came into contact with the Witcher universe for the first time when I started playing the first game. To make a long story short, that one didn't impress me at all and I turned a cold shoulder to everything Witcher coming after.
My bro Vergil93 however started to rave on about the third game (Wild Hunt) and almost begged me to give it a shot. At some point I gave in a started playing.
That game then made something close to a fanboy out of me! :P
After The Witcher 3 I wanted to dive deeper into the world of Geralt of Rivia and swooped down on the books. It's common knowledge, that the Witcher games are based on a series of books written by the polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowksi. So I got all the audio books from Audible and listened through them all. Additionally I plan to play Wild Hunt's two predecessors, so that I can start another round of Witcher 3 with ABSOLUTE experience. I love this game!
The Witcher universe is based largely on European mythology and fairy tales, albeit very dark, brutal and all in all very mature. War, eviction, torment, rape and racism are being displayed very unvarnished.
Sapkowski's world additionally offers an almost tolkienesque depth with a wide history where each and every creature has its own reason for being there.
The story mainly revolves around the familiar relationship between the protagonist Geralt, the sorceress Yennefer and the "child of destiny" Ciri, whose harmony gets disturbed again and again by external, political and power hungry forces.
This article gives a good summary of the most important things in the Witcher story and world, if you like to have some details. (I only skimmed briefly over that one when I started playing Wild Hunt and the game still was fun so it's not necessary. It helps, though.)
I've started with the English audio books but switched to German after reading about the English translations being very bad. I don't know polish so I've chosen the German ones. I liked the English speaker more, though...
The books can be loosely divided into main story and attachments. For the most part the main story concerns itself with the adventures of Geralt, Yennefer or Ciri.
Main story and attachments
The main story is the really fun part. The story of how the three main characters meet and how their little family is separated and is getting together time and time again is the cause for true and deep emotion. At some point one just starts suffering with them. The whole experience is additionally enhanced by the colorful bunch of friends the main characters drag along on their journeys and the antagonists create a true feeling of threat. One does really get afraid of them.
The attachments usually describe political situations the main story is embedded in. It describes the course of battles or royal conferences, which enrich the main story. The complexity of the Witcher world is realized fully through them.
But that's where the fun ends!
The pacing really creates an imbalance between things, that are interesting and those, that are not. Especially with the latter it feels like it's dragging on forever, which mostly could've been told way faster. Instead the reports in the attachments go on and on for chapters where, to add insult to injury the author throws around an abundance of names no human being can remember.
Also, names and fantasy babble is present throughout all of the books and especially the former is impossible for a normal human brain to process without forgetting real world friends and family members first! It takes a while until one can distinguish the important from the unimportant names.
Top that off with the books often not being clear about what just happened and why it did. I've often found myself in a state of having to imagine what events took place, but always being in doubt, if that actually did happen. Because it never gets said clearly. If I was lucky it got mentioned IN PASSING a few chapters later.
If the main story then finally went on it often got interrupted (and I would say hold up) by excessive philosophical discussions. Those might be interesting for some people but I found them unnecessary, uninteresting and way to looooooong!
Sapkowksi's Witcher books just aren't that good, but the story about Geralt, Yen and Ciri is phenomenal. Especially if it would be told separately from the rest. The world has a nice and interesting complexity, but the narrative style leaves much to wish for. A lot of times it just feels like one has to drag the story behind oneself.
In any case I'm glad I did drag through all the books. I already started playing the games and met a lot of things that were familiar, which is a really good feeling!
P.S.: My favorite part of the whole series was the end of book five!