Want to pass the time until The Witcher season 2 finally gets here in 2021? Reading The Witcher books in order is the ideal way to do that. If you've enjoyed the fantasy show, which we consider one of best Netflix shows so far, you probably won't be surprised to learn that the books are a terrific read if you liked the series starring Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia.
Before we start, here's some background on The Witcher books. Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski created monster-hunting Geralt of Rivia as part of a magazine's short story competition all the way back in the mid-'80s – and he only finished third. He took the stories set in this 'Continent' and turned it into a successful and much-loved fantasy book series.
The way timelines jumped around on The Witcher Netflix series was certainly contentious (Netflix have subsequently released a timeline to help, and season 2 will be easier to follow), but what’s the best order to read the Sapkowski Witcher books and short stories that inspired it? And which stories do you absolutely need to read?
We’ve looked back at Sapkowski’s work to list The Witcher books by publication order, in the order they come in the Continent’s chronology, and also rank them from best to worst based on their reader ratings on Goodreads. So before you toss a coin to your Witcher’s author, read on to learn the best way to go about it.
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The Witcher books: reading order explained
- The Last Wish
- Sword of Destiny
- Season of Storms
- Blood of Elves
- Time of Contempt
- Baptism of Fire
- The Tower of the Swallow
- The Lady of the Lake
The short stories of The Last Wish come first in the chronology of The Witcher universe, and provide the ideal introduction to Geralt of Rivia, sorceresses Yennefer of Vengerberg and Triss Merigold, and singing bard Dandelion (renamed Jaskier in Netflix’s The Witcher TV series). Indeed, events in the stories ‘The Witcher’, ‘The Lesser Evil’, ‘A Question of Price’, ‘The Edge of the World’ and ‘The Last Wish’ form the basis of Geralt’s arc in the first season of the Netflix show – we meet the Striga, learn how Geralt became known as ‘the butcher of Blaviken’, and see the origin of the ‘Law of Surprise’ that ties him to Princess Ciri.
Although the standalone Season of Storms was published after the five saga novels, the events of the book take place around the same time period as The Last Wish. It’s not essential to the overall story arc, but completists may find hints of things that will later come to pass in the main saga.
The stories in Sword of Destiny, meanwhile, introduce the young Ciri. The book’s final tale, ‘Something More’, shows the fall of Cintra (a key event in the first episode of The Witcher TV show), and serves as a prequel to the quintet of saga novels.
The five saga novels, then, are Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of the Swallow and The Lady of the Lake.
With much of season one of the TV series adapted from the two short story collections, the second season is where the Netflix show will get deep into adapting The Witcher saga novels.
How to read The Witcher books in release order
The first Witcher books debuted in the early '90s in Sapkowski’s native Poland, but the rest of the world was a little slow to catch on to Geralt of Rivia. It wasn’t until the English version of The Last Wish was published in 2007 – the year that the first Witcher videogame was released – that Anglophone readers got their first chance to read the books. Danusia Stok translated the first two English releases before David French took over for the remaining six.
We’ve gone with the original Polish publication order below, which differs slightly from the English-language releases – while Sword of Destiny was the first (still available) collection of Witcher short stories published in Poland, The Last Wish was the first release in English. (It’s interesting to note, however, that four of the short stories in The Last Wish had previously been published in a now out-of-print 1990 release, simply called The Witcher.)
These short story collections were followed by the five novels of the main Witcher saga, as mentioned earlier (Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of the Swallow, The Lady of the Lake), and standalone novel Season of Storms.
Short story collections:
- Sword of Destiny (original Polish version: 1992/English: 2015)
- The Last Wish (Polish: 1993/English: 2007)
The Witcher Saga:
- Blood of Elves (Polish: 1994/English: 2008)
- Time of Contempt (Polish: 1995/English: 2013)
- Baptism of Fire (Polish: 1996/English: 2014)
- The Tower of the Swallow (Polish: 1997/English: 2016)
- The Lady of the Lake (Polish: 1999/English: 2017)
- Season of Storms (Polish: 2013/English: 2018)
The Witcher comics explained: are they canon?
If you still haven’t seen enough of the Continent after watching the Netflix show, reading Andrzej Sapkowski’s books, and adventuring your way through the games, there’s even more Witcher storytelling out there, as Dark Horse have published various Witcher comics and graphic novels.
They’re not written by Sapkowski and although Fox Children is based on a chapter from Season of Storms, they’re set in the continuity of the games rather than the books. All are available to buy from Dark Horse as standalone comics, or collected together as graphic novels.
- The Witcher: House of Glass (by Paul Tobin and Joe Querio, published 2014)
- The Witcher: Fox Children (by Paul Tobin and Joe Querio, published 2015)
- The Witcher: Curse of Crows (by Paul Tobin and Piotr Kowalski, published 2016-2017)
- The Witcher: Of Flesh and Flame (by Aleksandra Motyka and Marianna Strychowska, published 2018-2019)
The best Witcher books: ranking the source material
Going on the reader rankings on Goodreads.com, The Witcher books are remarkably consistent in terms of quality.
Season of Storms, originally published 14 years after Sapkowski had completed his saga, comes bottom of the pile, which hints that some of the author’s magic had dissipated in the intervening years. And the five books translated by David French come ahead of the two handled by Danusia Stok, suggesting that readers might prefer French’s style.
But seeing as even the lowest-ranked title receives a highly respectable 3.95 out of 5, fantasy fans are unlikely to be disappointed by any of Sapkowski’s novels.
- Sword of Destiny – 4.35
- Baptism of Fire – 4.34
- The Tower of the Swallow – 4.32
- Time of Contempt – 4.26
- The Lady of the Lake – 4.24
- The Last Wish – 4.19
- Blood of Elves – 4.16
- Season of Storms – 3.95
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