This highly anticipated Netflix series has been a hot topic in recent months. Whether that anticipation comes from the series being lauded as “The next Game of Thrones“ by critics, or because it is being met with frustration due to the apparent differences between the television series and the video games, both the Netflix adaptation and the games are the result of Andrzej Sapkowski’s highly acclaimed eight-book series.
The series follows the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a man who was subjected to various mutations as a child and, because of this, he can fight creatures that normal humans wouldn’t stand a chance against. Through the Law of Surprise, Geralt adopts his ward Ciri, a young princess with prolific powers. While Geralt is content to remain neutral in the face of great political upheaval, he must become a part of that conflict to see that order is restored to the world.
In the past, the books were adapted into a 90s Polish film and television series that were not met with favorable reviews, so this most recent series not only has the video game fans to contend with, but it also has the previous series’ shortcomings added on for increased pressure.
So why not sit down to watch this series with an idea of what to expect?
1. The netflix series is an adaptation of the book series
What some game fans don’t realize is that the games take place after the book series. While some of the events, like the Battle of Sodden, are mentioned in the games, you don’t really get a feel for what happened if you haven’t read the books. Triss’s account of what took place at that one battle in Blood of Elves is positively gut-wrenching. The books also help you have a deeper understanding of the turmoil that exists between and in countries like Temeria, Novigrad, and Cintra.
Though there will likely be homages sprinkled throughout the series for the video game fans (I personally hope so), the Netflix series is, at its core, an adaptation of the books. If you’re anything like me, you probably like to read the stories before sitting down to watch the movie or show. Not to say that I’m that one friend who sits there and says “Well, they changed that from the books,” but I most definitely am.
The fact that the Netflix series is a book adaptation does seem to be throwing a few fans for a loop, as Yennefer’s appearance is never remarked upon in the game series, so it has become the cause of some confusion. The books, on the other hand, does explain why Yennefer looks this way.
Image via Glamour Fame
Regardless, if a person watches the series having already read the books, they’ll probably have a better idea of why certain decisions were made by the team that created this series.
2. This series does resemble ‘a game of thrones’ in style and tone
Going off of what critics have said, yes, the Witcher does possess certain qualities that were prized in George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire. There are multiple points of view to follow, so when you need a breather from following Geralt around in the narrative, you can read Ciri’s point of view. The same grittiness and violence that you observed in Martin’s work is also present in Sapkowski’s books. The looming threat of war is also present in the Witcher books as well, and you get to witness how it all begins and how it all falls apart (I would suggest starting with Blood of Elves if the movers and shakers facilitating a war behind the scenes interests you).
3. the political situation in the world is a lot easier to follow
image via pinterest
Although the television series hasn’t dropped, one of the faults in the game series was that the political stage of the Witcher universe was very hard to follow and often unclear. Which makes sense, because the political situation was dense and complicated and, if not given the space and breadth to be explained, it definitely felt like walking into an exam unprepared. However, a game has the ability to explore a world in a much more in-depth way than a television series can, so this is a concern that does hold water.
An example of this would be the Scoia’tael, a group of predominantly elvish rebels who regularly commit acts of violence against humans. While the game briefly touches upon their motives and what they ultimately wish to accomplish, it only provides a glimpse at the problem. The books, however, go into great detail about the political and social climate that the non-human races endure, and so the motives of these characters become a lot more transparent.
As mentioned previously, the turmoil between and in countries like Novigrad, Temeria, and Cintra is also expanded upon in the books. If anything, the books go to great lengths to ensure that the readers understands exactly why the royalty and the sorcerer’s lodge commit the acts that they do. So if there is any possibility that the television series will struggle along the same vein as the video games, the books will do an excellent job filling in the blanks.
4. We still don’t know how faithful the adaptation will be
For all we know, the Netflix series may remain extremely faithful to Sapkowski’s literary vision, but the fact remains that this is still an adaptation. One of the big reasons that I go into most movie premiers having already read the book is because I want to judge the adaptation by the creative decisions that were made. I want to know what the book was like, and then I want to see what changes were made. Were those changes justified? Why? Do I (gasp) like the movie more than I like the story it was based off of? Or do I feel like adding in something else from the book might have helped? Ultimately, did the adaptation bring something new and interesting to the table?
I intend to watch this series with my hopes high, because I think that Sapkowski’s original books already presented a creative vision with an impressive breadth and magnitude to it, and I think that this adaptation has the potential to do the same. Hopefully this adaptation will provide enough steam for more fantasy books to be made into movies and television series.
5. The books are really interesting
At the end of the day, you should read a book because it intrigues you—and the Witcher books do exactly that. The references to Slavic folklore, the sword fights, and Geralt and Yennefer acting as parents to Ciri are elements that pulled me into the story and kept me reading. These books have multiple layers of political intrigue, interpersonal relationships, mythology, and did I mention sword fighting? The books, like a lot of fantasy literature, are also able to provide a social commentary through the interactions displayed between the inhabitants of the world.
If you would like to dip your toes into the Witcher universe and give it a shot, I would suggest starting with The Last Wish—a short story collection that reveals how Geralt got the nickname ‘The Butcher of Blaviken,’ and how he and Yennefer first met.
Featured image via Cnn
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