Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

“Well, we’re afeared. And what of it? Do we sit down and weep and tremble? Life must go on. And what will be, will be. What is destined can’t be avoided, in any case.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 375 pages.
Read from October 1, 2019 to October 13, 2019.

Anyone else confused on the order these books are supposed to be read in? Some of the books are published at later dates but fit earlier into the series. I’ve done a bit of research and I decided to go off this order:

The Last Wish
The Sword of Destiny
Blood Elves
Time of Contempt
Baptism of Fire
The Tower of the Swallow
The Lady of the Lake
Season of Storms

So far it’s working out well in terms of the timeline as I am three books into the series. If you’ve found a different order for the books or don’t know where to start I would still highly recommend starting with the short stories before starting with the full-fledged novels as they add a lot of depth to the world and the characters. I’ve also managed to work my way through the first Witcher game and I am looking forward to making my way on to the other two soon.

Sword of Destiny follows the same formula as The Last Wish, in that it is a series of short stories that related closely to each other. From dryads to dragons, the world that Geralt lives in really starts to take shape in this novel. Geralt starts to take on quests that are for more than just money as the Sword of Destiny focuses more on Geralt’s character rather than on action scenes, which actually adds to the novel rather than take away from it. You start to learn about Geralt’s personal moral code and how he tries to fight the destiny laid out for him that connects him to a child princess named Ciri. You learn of Geralt’s complicated romance with an enchantress named Yennifer, as the two are more similar than they realise.

Was this book better than The Last Wish? No, but it was still a great read that expanded on the world and added character depth. I think it will be actually pretty difficult to top The Last Wish going forward in this series but I hope I am wrong.

The Secrets of Evil by Robert Bolaño

“This story is very simple, although it could have been very complicated. Also, it’s incomplete, because stories like this don’t have an ending.”

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 144 pages.
Read August 31, 2018.

Should books be published posthumously? Books like Go Set A Watchman changed the way fans looked at some of their favourite characters and its publication created a lot of controversy about whether or not it should have been. With this particular book, many Bolaño fans seemed thrilled for another chance to read the last remains of a brilliant writer. I for one, am also glad. Robert Bolaño died in 2013, at the age of fifty, of liver disease. This book is a compilation of stories that were discovered on his computer after he died.  Despite having not read anything by Bolaño beforehand, this book was given as a very thoughtful gift and reminder that even the most talented of writers have a process and that not everything that they write is going to be palatable right away. Knowing these small details about this short story complication allowed me to really appreciate its contents, albeit even unfinished.

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Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño. Source: The Globe and Mail

One of my favourite stories in this compilation is “Colonia Lindavista”. This dream-like narrative involves a young teen writer who often listens to his neighbours having sex. late at night. The narrator is curious about their acts but is more intrigued by the silence that follows. The narrator, like many of us, wonders about the private lives of other people.  Many of the stories are brief and offer a glimpse into the private realm of a character but don’t mistake this brevity for lack of depth, Bolaño’s writing style is more than equipped to deliver a full immersion into a character or story.

I read this novel in one sitting, and I would recommend the same for any readers looking to approach it as if you read the stories individually you may not be able to fully appreciate the stories as some are more ‘finished’ than others. The biggest take away I got from this novel is a reflection on my own writing and enforcing my ‘never-give-up’ attitude. It has also instilled a desire to read more by Bolaño to get a better taste for his work as I sense a genius lurking in between the pages of this short compilation.

 

I Am No One You Know by Joyce Carol Oates

There are some real gems in this book if you enjoy something a bit more on the dark side. 

“I had forgotten that time wasn’t fixed like concrete but in fact was fluid as sand, or water. I had forgotten that even misery can end.”

3/5 stars.
190 pages, Hardcover.
Read from Oct 13, 2017 to Oct 24, 2017.

This book had been sitting on my shelf for way too long. I was only vaguely familiar with the author and unsure what the stories might be like it so I avoided it. I guess I was expecting some thought-provoking literary fiction as I was not prepared for the morbid and fascinating content that this book contained. Or for the cliffhangers. God damn, nearly every single story left you hanging.

The book is broken down into four parts and seems to carry similar themes: Part one looks at inward conflicts and decisions in relation to others; Part two delves into life-changing interactions with others; Part three looks at the intricacies of human relationships. Part four is the least morbid of the parts and focuses on kindness and strength in relation to the bigger world of human interactions. In fact, one of my favourite stories is in this section, Three Girls. The story starts by following two girls in a bookstore who recognize Marilyn Monroe, who is clearly attempting to keep her identity a secret, and the two girls decide to not approach her and allow her to keep her privacy.

The majority of the stories, especially the suspenseful and morbid ones often left you with a cliffhanger ending. Sometimes this approach worked and other times I found it aggravating and annoying. Just as some of the stories highly successful while others were completely unmemorable.  The story that stuck with me the most is The Instructor. A new teacher at a college teaching a composition class has an unusual and strange student who leaves her intriguing but highly personal and disturbing poetry for his assignments. He was a former prisoner who now appears to be stalking her, which, she strangely does not seem to mind.

The abrupt cliffhangers and the occasional boring story was just enough to stop me from giving this book four stars. However, there are some real gems in this book if you enjoy something a bit more on the dark side.