The Witcher Franchise Guide
Many of you may be familiar with the Witcher series through the games, or the TV show which released at the end of 2019. The franchise has seen a huge gain of popularity because of the show. Since its release, the show has spawned numerous memes and even seen the song “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” go viral with covers in every genre from metal to Russian folk choir. Because the franchise has books, a show, and games, however, it may be difficult to know where to start. Hopefully this article can provide some guidance to anyone looking to get into the franchise or branch out and start reading the novels.
If you’re wondering where to start, you should first consider three things, which medium you prefer, how much you expect to care about spoilers, and if you’re okay with waiting for a while to find out how it ends. If you really want to dig into the series, the books are the best choice for where to start. The show follows the books closely, but has a few major differences in plots, and a lot left out from the first two books. The books, first written in Polish and released from 1993 to 1999, have seen English translations since the games became popular. The author, Andrzej Sapkowski, originally created Geralt over a series of short stories for various publications. For this reason, the first two books, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, are collections of short stories with only slight links. There are stories in these books which are basically essential to the main series, even though they don’t seem so important at first and so these are essential to begin with. There is also the added benefit of getting more character development for Geralt and Dandelion (Jaskier in the show). From there, move on to the main series which abandons the short story structure for a continuous narrative. The order for the main series books is Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of the Swallow, and finally The Lady of the Lake. I highly recommend the books which have a very unique tone and structure for a fantasy series. There is also Season of Storms, another short story collection which was released after the main series, but takes place roughly in between the first and second short story collections. Another hidden benefit of starting with the books is that you don’t have to wait for the ending.
If you don’t feel like reading, the Netflix show is probably the next best place to start. It can be a little cheesy at times, but should appeal to anyone who is a fan of shows like Game of Thrones but want more monsters and magic. Still, many people tend to go from show to games, or start with the games. The games are not canonical, and take place after the main series. For this reason, there are major spoilers in the games for both the books and the show. If you don’t mind the spoilers, the games are quite good, but the first two feel a bit dated. Skipping to the third game is likely the best option, because the games’ story isn't continuous enough to require playing the first two first. I would recommend starting with the third, and only going back to the first two if you really can’t get enough.
Finally, there is Gwent, the beloved card game from The Witcher 3, known as barrel in the book series. The standalone version of Gwent is a great way to pass the time, and is available on iPhone and Android. The card game features characters from the books, games, and show, but doesn’t really have any obvious spoilers. If you like Gwent, but don’t care for the multiplayer aspect, there is also Thronebreaker, a beautiful single player RPG which features Gwent as its primary mechanic.
If you’re looking for an engaging franchise to dig into during quarantine, The Witcher franchise has all of the content you need.