The Proper Reading Order For The Witcher Books

It's always an exciting time when a popular book series is adapted into a television show, leading a new generation of fans to get acquainted with the source material. It's more exciting when Henry Cavill is leading it. The story of Netflix's Polish-American fantasy drama "The Witcher," starring the former "Man of Steel" star as a mutated monster-hunter for hire, first gained popularity thanks to the video games set in the same fantasy universe (think of it as a sequel to the books). 

But the stories set against the backdrop of the Continent initially began in the pages of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski's series of novels, which have sold over 30 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 20 languages. Thanks to Netflix's adaptation (which has earned a mark approval from Sapkowski himself), the books have grown extremely popular in the last few years. If you ever decide to experience "The Witcher" universe by its pages, you ought to know that it's slightly complicated — there are specific short stories that you must read before the saga begins. It can get overwhelming to figure out where to start (and trust me, I've been there), so we're compiling a guide with the proper reading order for "The Witcher" books to guarantee you have a stellar reading experience.

The Last Wish

Before writing "The Witcher" books, Sapkowski wrote a short story collection in the 1980s (that he entered into a competition) that was based on Eastern European folklore and set the very foundations of the adventures of Geralt of Rivia. Despite being published a year after "Sword of Destiny," "The Last Wish" is a prequel text that contains seven short stories following Geralt resting in a temple as he heals from an injury. While he regains his health at Melitele, he has flashbacks to various events in his life, including his deadly battle with a striga, an encounter with a man cursed to look like a beast, the tale of Ciri's parents, and his first meeting with Yennefer after an altercation with a djinn. "The Last Wish" is an excellent introduction to "The Witcher" universe and the events that follow, so you should read this one first!

Sword of Destiny

"Sword of Destiny" introduces a new group of characters that later become major players in "The Witcher" universe. The short story collection acquaints readers with Ciri, describing essential events such as the fall of Cintra at the hand of the Nilfgaardians. It serves as a direct prequel to the original novels and focuses on Geralt coming to terms with his destiny being tied to Ciri and Yennefer. "The Last Wish" and "Sword of Destiny" primarily comprise the events featured in Netflix's first season of Netflix's adaptation. The prequel also contains shorter tales that follow Geralt on a hunt for a dragon, his search for Ciri, and his ultimate reunion with his child surprise.

Once you've read "The Last Wish" and "Sword of Destiny," you're ready to move on to the rest of "The Witcher" saga — the novels!

Blood of Elves

The first book in "The Witcher" saga, "Blood of Elves," witnesses Ciri training as a witcher under Geralt's direction while a threat of war hangs over her land. Her relationship with Yennefer is also explored in the book, and several characters, including the Emperor of Nilfgaard, Emhyr (who seeks to find and marry Ciri to establish his rule over Cintra), are introduced. Despite the threat to Ciri's life, she and Geralt remain in Kaer Morhen, the old, remote keep where witchers used to live and train. The book also discusses a mysterious sorcerer who is trying to locate Ciri. The inhabitants of the Continent — main characters included — are soon embroiled in a state of total war as the Continent's political situation declines, with danger looming above them all. The second season of the Netflix adaptation covers most of this book.

The Time of Contempt

"The Time of Contempt" begins right where its predecessor left off. The conclave of Northern Kings still conspires to lure Nilgaard into war right when Ciri is expected to be enrolled at Aretuza to begin her study of magic. She meets with the most powerful conjurers on the Continent, but as war inches closer, Ciri finds herself on the run and is taken in by a group of bandits. On the other hand, Geralt finds himself caught up in a coup within the magical community after he attends a gathering of mages and meets with the sorcerer Vilgefortz.

Baptism of Fire

In Sapkowski's third, thrilling entry into "The Witcher" universe, the future of magic is under threat. Geralt is gravely injured after a dangerous coup shatters the Wizards Guild. Geralt has always been a guardian and a protector of the world against monsters that prey on the innocent, but this time, the witcher is left helpless until he recuperates from his injuries. To add to the impossible situation, war wages across the Continent, terrorizing men and children and endangering sorcerers determined to safeguard their magic. Geralt finds himself struggling to protect his child surprise — Ciri — who has disappeared. When rumors reveal the Princess of Cintra's location, Geralt assembles a group of ragtag characters and sets off on a rescue mission, disregarding his own safety.

Side note: This is the book where Geralt earns his "of Rivia" title!

The Tower of Swallows

When the fourth book in "The Witcher" series begins, war has engulfed the world. Ciri is being hunted by every key player on the Continent, while Geralt and his gang continue working towards rescuing her. At the same time, the Princess moves in with a man named Vysogota and shares her life story, including her recent run-in with a bounty hunter. Yennefer searches for the sorcerer Vilgefortz and the details of Ciri's prophecy become clear. That's pretty much all I can say without giving away too many spoilers ... because many things happen in this book that advances at breakneck speed.

The Lady of the Lake

In the concluding chapter of "The Witcher" saga, Ciri is transported to an Elven realm, where the elves reveal their grand plans for the Princess and the power that exists within her. A fellow sorcerer captures Yennefer for their own means, and Geralt still looks for a way back to the child tied to him by destiny. The war between the Northern territories and Nilfgaard continues (really, it never stops). "The Lady of the Lake" is teeming with political scheming, the uncertainty of living in a world torn by war, and the effort it takes to form order. The final book in the series asks meaningful questions about the nature of war and politics, gives us the perspective of multiple other characters, and makes massive revelations that can make or break everything you know about "The Witcher" universe. But is it a satisfying conclusion to the long-running series? That's a decision for the reader to make.

Season of Storms

Though "Season of Storms" isn't a sequel to "The Witcher" books — it is set between the stories in the first short story collection, "The Last Wish." If you want to read the story in a chronological order, you could read this one second in the series ... but mind you; there will be spoilers. I'd suggest you take "Season of Storms" as an action-packed companion story to "The Witcher" and stick to reading it at the end. Most of the plot follows Geralt's quest to retrieve his stolen swords and sees the witcher just killing it in general. Slaying monsters, clashing with influential political figures, forming odd allies — Geralt does it all. If you're still interested in his journey at the end of "The Lady of the Lake," then "Season of Storms" will be a pleasant surprise!

Netflix's third season of "The Witcher" is currently in production — the season's events will be inspired by "The Time of Contempt," and a coup will cause our beloved trio to separate again. It's expected to release sometime in 2023 (the streamer is yet to confirm), so it's probably a good time to get started on the books. Happy reading! Prepare yourself to experience one of the most epic fantasy stories of all time. Most of all, don't forget to have fun. And however you feel about it once it's done, just keep the gods out of it.