Did you know The Witcher games and TV show were based on books? Yes, yes, you probably did or you wouldn’t be here asking the question: How do I read The Witcher books in order?
I’m a huge fan of The Witcher 3 on PS4.
I’d never played the first few games, but when I discovered Andrzej Sapkowski’s world a few years ago, I was immediately hooked.
Now, I’ve never seen The Witcher TV show. As I understand it, it’s rather graphic, like Game of Thrones, and that sort of thing isn’t for me.
But the games are phenomenal so I thought I’d dive into the books.
Then I discovered there’s a whole bunch of books and The Witcher reading order was not immediately apparent.
In fact, there are 2 ways you can read The Witcher books in order.
But before we dive into how to read the books, let’s go into the successful adaptations of this series.
The Witcher Adaptations
As we’ve already mentioned, The Witcher books have inspired both games and a TV show.
The video game series features 3 main games, 2 expansions, and 3 spin-offs. In the first 10 months following The Witcher’s PC release in 2007, it sold 800,000 copies worldwide. Collectively, the games have now sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and expanded into console and handheld platforms as well as PC.
The Witcher was the first game CD Projekt Red developed and it has obviously received tremendous success. The third game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, sold nearly 10 million copies in its first year alone.
But if you didn’t first discover the character of Geralt through the video games, you might be more familiar with the Netflix TV show.
Are The Witcher Adaptations Similar to the Books?
So, you may be asking yourself how similar are the games and TV show to the source material?
Despite Cavill’s dedication to the cause, there are some heavy deviations from the books in the second and third season of the TV adaptation. While the first season primarily stuck to events from The Last Wish as the show conducted its world-building, changes really became apparent in the second season for where the creative team would like to take the show.
While the games were merely inspired by the book series and the TV show is an adaptation of the books, it is clear Netflix is pulling some inspiration from the games.
In the second season of the show, there are subtle changes to character appearances to become more similar to the game’s character portrayal. Notably, fans of the games will notice that Triss’s hair is considerably redder in the second season versus the first.
Regarding how similar the video games are to the books, it is important to note that the games, and the changes, are not canon in The Witcher universe. That is in part because the games take place after the conclusion of the last book in The Witcher series. This allowed CD Projekt Red to take more creative liberties without the confines of a strict adaptation.
A notable, albeit small, change that won’t reveal any spoilers is the name of the loveable bard. Fans of the books and subsequent TV show will immediately recognize Jaskier, whose name became Dandelion for the games.
All that said, you should read and find out for yourself just how similar — and different — these three iterations are from one another. At its core, the lessons to be learned from The Witcher stay true throughout all of its mediums.
Why is Henry Cavill No Longer The Witcher?
Those deviations from the source material is what many fans speculate is the reason for Henry Cavill’s departure as Geralt of Rivia. However, it is important to emphasize that this is all speculation. Neither Cavill or the production team elaborated on the reason for Cavill’s departure.
But fans were quick to sift through previous PR and found a November 2021 interview. In that interview, Cavill said he was absolutely committed to portraying Geralt for seven seasons under the condition that the show honored Sapkowski’s source material.
With the clarity of hindsight fans found multiple instances in which Cavill and the creative team seemingly clashed over Cavill’s love of the books. Also in 2021, Cavill said that what he pushed for was a more book-accurate Geralt on screen and a faithfulness to the source material.
Adding to the sting over Cavill’s departure as Geralt is that author Andrzej Sapkowski gave his nod of approval to Cavill’s portrayal of Geralt and the appearance of the character in 2019. More recently in early 2023 Sapkowski said that he’s seen better and he’s seen worse when talking about the Netflix adaptation.
The third season of The Witcher premiered in June 2023. It was Cavill’s last season as Geralt. Liam Hemsworth will portray the iconic character in the fourth season.
Many fans were vocally against the recasting. Cavill’s portrayal of the character was iconic because of his love for the books and the games. This made some fans uncertain about the direction the show was heading, while others adopted a wait-and-see approach.
However, seven seasons of The Witcher is becoming much more unlikely. When Cavill was the lead the vision was for at least seven seasons of the show, but there are already reports that the show will likely end after five seasons.
The Witcher Books in Publication Order
Now, let’s get into the books.
Reading The Witcher books in order by publication date is the way that the original fans had read it.
But it’s not the way most English speakers have.
If you didn’t know, the books were originally written in Polish back in the 1990s. The English translations didn’t take place until the late 2000s when the video games began to rise in popularity.
To keep things simple, this Witcher reading order is based upon the Polish publication dates.
For the English translations, one of the books was published first, even though it was written later on originally. More on that in the next section.
Until then, here’s The Witcher books reading order by publication date:
- Sword of Destiny (1992) (Story Story Collection)
- The Last Wish (1993) (Short Story Collection)
- Blood of Elves (1994)
- The Time of Contempt (1995)
- Baptism of Fire (1996)
- The Tower of Swallows (1997)
- The Lady of the Lake (1999)
- Season of Storms (2013) (Stand Alone)
Which Witcher Book to Read First?
Out of the 8 Witcher books, there are 4 of them that you should be aware of in particular. This will help you decide which Witcher book you should read first as well as other important pieces of information to know before beginning the series.
The Last Wish
While The Last Wish was written second according to publication date, the stories contained within its covers take place chronologically before Sword of Destiny.
I’d recommend you read it first as it provides a good introduction to the world of the Witcher, what being a Witcher is, and why Geralt of Rivia carries two swords.
It also introduces you to many of the supporting characters like Yennefer and Triss.
Season of Storms
Season of Storms was written last, some 14 years after the final novel in The Witcher Saga.
Many consider Season of Storms to be optional reading. In fact, it has the lowest rating out of any of the Witcher books.
It felt, to me, like Sapkowski regained interest in his long finished series as his world began to pick up steam across the pond thanks to the video games.
Indeed, Season of Storms publication comes two years before the launch of the epic Witcher 3 game. Probably right around the time that development would have begun in earnest.
But the fire just wasn’t there like it was in the previous books. You can decide for yourself if you’ll read it.
It is a stand-alone after all, meaning it won’t affect the story of the main series.
Two English Translators
Danusia Stok translated The Last Wish and Blood of Elves into English. With the translation of Time of Contempt, David French took over.
I don’t know the reason for the switch, but if ratings and reviews are any indication, fans prefer the books translated by David French.
That being said, if you follow The Witcher reading order below, you’ll be first reading a book translated by Danusia Stok, then be switching to two translated by David French, back to Stok, and then on with French for the rest.
That makes a difference you might notice a slight difference in tone. Even though the story is all Andrzej Sapkowski, the English word choice is either Stok or French.
The Witcher Books in Chronological Order
Normally, I’d recommend against reading chronologically for first time readers. That’s because there are inherently spoilers in books there were written later, but take place earlier in the timeline.
And while reading The Last Wish first is not perfect, it is the better option here.
So here is your Witcher reading order by story chronology:
0.1 The Last Wish (Short Story Collection)
0.2 Sword of Destiny (Story Story Collection)
– Season of Storms (Stand Alone)
1. Blood of Elves
2. The Time of Contempt
3. Baptism of Fire
4. The Tower of Swallows
5. The Lady of the Lake
Have The Witcher Books Finished?
The storyline of The Witcher books has reached its conclusion and Andrzej Sapkowski has no desire to change the saga’s ending. This means the series is finished, but Sapkowski has been teasing a return to the world for years.
Sapkowski wrote the end of Ciri and Geralt’s saga in The Lady of the Lake, which was published back in 1999. Since then, he has already returned to the world once with Season of Storms in 2013. Season of Storms is a standalone novel that takes place between some of the Witcher short stories.
More recently, in early 2023, Sapkowski did confirm that he has plans for more books within the Witcher universe. He did not divulge any more information, but back in 2018 Sapkowski was firm in his decision not to expand the beloved storyline beyond the ending in The Lady of the Lake.
At the time he said that if he wrote anything else within the universe it would be a prequel or a sidequel, like Season of Storms, but not a sequel.
The Witcher Books
0.1 The Last Wish
As previously mentioned, The Last Wish is a collection of short stories that introduce the world of The Witcher.
It begins to divulge the lore as well as the characters that you’ll become very familiar with throughout your journey.
0.2 Sword of Destiny
Sword of Destiny is another collection of short stories.
Don’t feel like you’re being cheated, though, this book has 400 pages which makes it rival any full length novel.
The events in this book immediately precede Blood of Elves and introduces Ciri, another main character fans of the video games and TV show will know.
Season of Storms
In Season of Storms, Geralt finds himself in a precarious situation.
A contract doesn’t go as planned and he finds himself without his signature weapons.
He’ll need to quickly get them back if he hopes to face that which is to come.
1. Blood of Elves
Book 1 of The Witcher Saga, Blood of Elves, begins our journey in the main series.
Tensions rise and the peace that had been is no more. Geralt has been looking for the prophesied child who can save them all, and now it’s his job to protect her.
The Witcher never accepts defeat.
2. The Time of Contempt
In Book 2, The Time of Contempt, Geralt still needs to protect Ciri from the dangers of the world.
There’s not much a of description for this book online, and the one I did find very nearly ruins the ending, so I’m not going to put it here.
Safe to say there’s more Geralt fighting monsters and protecting Ciri.
3. Baptism of Fire
I started to type what Baptism of Fire was about and realized it contained spoilers.
Don’t read if you don’t want to know!
Geralt was gravely injured at the end of the last book and Ciri is missing. As war ravages the land, Geralt has little choice to press forward and protect his ward.
4. The Tower of Swallows
It goes without saying, if you’re still reading my descriptions, there’s spoilers here. If you don’t want to know, don’t read.
Ciri is still missing.
Surprise, surprise. This sounds a lot like The Witcher 3 plot. Always chasing her, and taking forever and a day to do it.
Reminds of the like 20 episodes it took Goku to fight Frieza in Dragonball Z.
Anyway, Geralt needs to get to Ciri before her enemies do.
5. The Lady of the Lake
Is it over? Is it over? Nope. Geralt still hasn’t found Ciri, and she’s still on the run from her nemesis.
This is the last book in the series, so we know Geralt finally saves her…