How to Read the Witcher Books in Order (2023 Update)

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How to read the witcher books in order (2023 update).

How to Read the Witcher Books in Order (2023 Update)

Since the release of Netflix’s 2019 adaptation of The Witcher, everyone's been buzzing with the same age-old question: are the books better?

We're biased towards books ourselves, of course. But we'll let you decide for yourself — and we'll be here to help you the entire way with the best reading order for The Witcher books.

But first, for anyone new to the series, here's a quick refresher: the origins of The Witcher books actually go all the way back to the 1980s, when Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski entered a short story called The Witcher into a contest run by the magazine Fantastyka . Placing third, that entry spawned a collection of short stories that then inspired the publication of a five-novel series, the Witcher Saga — which then became an entire franchise.

The Witcher focuses on Geralt of Rivia, a man with supernatural abilities that enable him to fight beasts and monsters . The novels primarily revolve around his goal to protect Ciri, a young princess of a recently conquered country who has a great prophecy hanging over her head — but the series is also so much more than that. These are stories that hit hard , by turns sweeping you up in the adventure of slaying monsters, wringing you through the epic tragedy of war, and breaking your heart with the perfect redemption romance.

Here’s a quick look at the series in their recommended reading order, so that you know what you’re in for:

  • The Last Wish (2007)
  • Sword of Destiny (2015)
  • Blood of Elves (2008)
  • The Time of Contempt (2013)
  • Baptism of Fire (2014)
  • The Tower of Swallows (2016)
  • The Lady of the Lake (2017)
  • Seasons of Storms (2018)

Without further ado, let's dive in!

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1. The Last Wish

While it may be tempting to jump straight into the novels, you should really start here. This short story collection contains the roots of the Witcher books, and will provide you with background information and character details that will be important once you get into the full-length books.

The Last Wish contains seven stories. The first one serves as a framing device, showing an injured Geralt seeking shelter in a temple; as such, it’s actually broken up into smaller sections and scattered between all the other stories. The remaining six are memories that he flashes back to while recuperating, each one with its own narrative arc. Together, they allow us to really get to know Geralt in all his complexity. The stories are clever, epic, and daring — perfectly setting the stage for the novels to come.

2. Sword of Destiny

While the English edition of Sword of Destiny was published after the first few novels were released in English, the stories within actually take place before the events of the series. That’s why we’d recommend you pick up this one next.

Unlike the first collection, Sword of Destiny follows a much more straightforward timeline: we’re treated to six more amazing stories in roughly chronological order. Many of them provide context for major characters in the main Witcher Saga, including the introduction of Ciri. In fact, one of the stories serves as a direct prequel to Blood of Elves , showcasing events from shortly before that book begins. If you’re looking for a full picture of the Witcher storyline, this is a vital book to add to your list.

3. Blood of Elves

With Blood of Elves, the main saga begins in earnest. Blood of Elves is set about a year after the downfall of Ciri’s kingdom. This tragedy sets off a hunt for the missing princess, with factions on all sides vying to get their hands on her. Unfortunately for them, young princess Ciri has fallen under the protection of one of the most famous witchers alive.

Taken to safety to learn how to hone her skills, the rambunctious and headstrong Ciri wants nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of Geralt, the man she admires so much. But as her powers grow, Geralt is compelled to mend bridges with his long-lost love, Yennefer of Vengerburg, for help. Yennefer’s skills as a witch are exactly what Ciri needs to hone the power she’s destined to wield — but as Yennefer and Ciri’s bond grows, so too does the evil that seeks Ciri out.

After the breakneck pace of the short story collections, some readers might find this book a bit of a slow start — but don’t let that fool you. There is plenty of adventure to be found in Ciri’s struggle to grow up, and in the subsequent books, the payoff for all this setup will absolutely be rewarded.

4. The Time of Contempt

Time of Contempt picks up where Blood of Elves left off. Ciri and Yennefer set off for the city of Gors Velen. Yennefer hopes to enroll Ciri in a magical academy there — but of course, even the best-laid plans can go awry. Between an incident involving a Wyvern, Ciri’s own rebellious escapades, and a long-overdue reunion with Geralt, there’s more than enough for Yennefer to keep track of as she attempts to protect the wayward princess.

But the book is also much larger than that. Here, the pace of the series jumpstarts, as all the major plot threads in the rest of the series ignite. This huge book is a wild ride, with everything from spies and betrayals, to seductive sorceresses and unicorns, to the very real danger of a war erupting. It’s a story about vulnerability and control, about humility, about chaos breaking out across the world. The pacing leaves you breathless, unable to escape the need to find out what happens next.

5. Baptism of Fire

This is the midpoint of the series, and Geralt is certainly in the thick of things by now. In Baptism of Fire, war continues to rage on, and all sides are growing increasingly determined. In the aftermath of events from the previous book, Geralt is recovering from injuries — but how can a protector protect if he’s unable to fight?

Geralt’s determination drives much of this book, as he rallies and gathers allies in an effort to reach Ciri before the rumors of her impending marriage can come true. It’s a complex, nuanced book that explores what it means to be a “monster.” It tears old bonds apart as Ciri takes a turn down a darker path, and it throws Yennefer against terrible odds as she’s imprisoned and struggling to reunite with her family. The slow tension draws you along, never once allowing you to let your guard down.

6. The Tower of Swallows

Ciri returns to center stage in The Tower of Swallows. Everyone is hunting her, but she’s retreated into an anonymous life of banditry and killing... until fate intervenes, and her life is changed once again.

Much of Ciri’s recent story is told in recalled flashback, similar to the framing story of The Last Wish . Some of what she experiences at the hands of a chilling new villain may be difficult to read, but they’re important to understand the depths of her torment and the lengths she will later go to for exacting revenge.

Meanwhile, Yennefer and Geralt deal with situations on their own: she’s seeking out old allies in her quest to find Ciri, and he ends up seduced by someone he probably shouldn’t have allowed himself to fall for. The pacing here returns to the slower setup of a few of the previous novels, building for the payoff of the final book. But it’s still thoroughly engrossing, as Ciri processes her recent past and learns what she’ll need to in order to strike out at those who’ve caused her pain.

7. The Lady of the Lake

All good things must come to an end. For many authors, it’s a struggle to figure out how to write an ending to such an epic fantasy series, but Sapkowski is more than up to the task.

The Lady of the Lake finds Ciri trapped on an elven world, alone and cut off from the people she loves. But where others may fall into desperation, Ciri faces her challenge with the determination we’ve grown to expect from the former princess. Meanwhile, Geralt and Yennefer continue in their adventures as they search for the young woman they’ve grown to see as a daughter. Readers will ache to see if the “family” will ever be reunited and get the happy ending they so richly deserve.

We’re not going to say more for risk of spoiling the many surprises this concluding book takes. What we will say is that it’s loaded with cleverly plotted twists and turns, and features appearances by pretty much every character that’s been introduced so far. This book is a thrilling wrap-up to a beloved series.

8. Season of Storms

Although Season of Storms was one of the last Witcher books to be published, it actually takes place after most of the stories in the first collection, but before the novels.

So why did we list it last? Simple: although the timeline is earlier, it ties directly into a major conflict that takes place in the previous five novels. Reading it beforehand will be less interesting without the context — and it spoils several moments from the other books.

For those who have read the rest of the series, however, this standalone prequel will be a welcome dip back into the world of The Witcher , as we follow Geralt on a quest to regain his lost signature weapons. A satisfying dessert to follow the incredibly rich meal that was the rest of the Witcher books.

9. Bonus: The comics adaptations!

Last, in addition to the Netflix series and video game franchise, The Witcher has also been adapted into graphic novels. A couple of times, in fact! And while the earlier series have not been translated to English, Dark Horse Comics started a Witcher series in 2014 based on the storyline from the video games.

Written by Paul Tobin, with art by Joe Querio, this comic series has covered four different story arcs so far. They’re currently available in a trade pub bind up (as well as a single-volume collection of the first three arcs), and make the perfect addition if you finish the books and find yourself wishing to spend just a little more time in the Witcher universe.

The Witcher Volume 1: House of Glass

The Witcher Volume 2: Fox Children

The Witcher Volume 3: Curse of Crows

The Witcher Library Edition Volume 1

The Witcher Volume 4: Of Flesh and Flame

And there you have it — everything you need to know to dive into the rich and engrossing world of the Witcher books. Pick them up today, and you’ll be ready to laud your spoilery knowledge over all your friends as they wait for season two to drop on Netflix.

Can’t get enough fantasy stories? We’ve got you covered! Check out our list of the Best Fantasy Books of All Time , or find a new favorite with our guide to all the different Fantasy Subgenres .

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How to Read The Witcher Books in Order

Here’s how to read the witcher books that netflix's henry cavill series is based on..

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Now that Netflix’s The Witcher has arrived, this wild world of wonder and weirdness is being introduced to a whole new audience. However, executive producer and showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich’s adaptation of this beloved fantasy world isn’t tied to the massively successful Witcher game franchise developed by CD Projekt Red and which established its significance in the zeitgeist. Instead, the Netflix show is based on the books by author Andrzej Sapkowski. And maybe, just maybe, fans of the show are interested in giving the books a try as well now. Well, let us help you with that!

The Witcher Books In Order

  • The Last Wish
  • Sword of Destiny

Blood of Elves

The time of contempt, baptism of fire, the tower of swallows, the lady of the lake, season of storms, netflix's the witcher: cast vs. video game characters.

synopsis of witcher books

The Last Wish / Sword of Destiny

The Last Wish

  • See The Last Wish on Amazon
  • See Sword of Destiny on Amazon

Once you’ve read The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, you’re ready to move on to the saga. This is comprised of five novels, all of which tell the stories of Geralt, Ciri, Yennefer, Triss, Dandelion, and others. They also introduce a range of characters that don’t appear in CD Projekt Red’s adaptations, most of whom are great.

Blood of Elves

  • See Blood of Elves on Amazon

The first book in the saga, Blood of Elves, takes place after the short story collections The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. It introduces Nilfgaardian Emperor Emhyr var Emreis’ pursuit of Ciri, Geralt’s adopted daughter, in order to marry her and attain power over Cintra, the land that is hers by birthright. In an effort to thwart Emhyr’s plans, the Northern monarchs meet and decide to assassinate Ciri, but Geralt of Rivia watches over her in Kaer Morhen, the remote keep inhabited by Wolf School witchers. Meanwhile, a mysterious sorcerer is also trying to locate Ciri.

The Time of Contempt

  • See The Time of Contempt on Amazon

The Time of Contempt picks up where the previous novel finishes. The Northern Kings are still conspiring with one another in an effort to lure Nilfgaard into war, while Ciri is due to be enrolled at Aretuza in order to study magic. Ciri comes into contact with some of the most powerful sorceresses on The Continent. As war becomes inevitable, she finds herself on the run with a bandit group known simply as The Rats.

Baptism of Fire

  • See Baptism of Fire on Amazon

Geralt spends time in Brokilon forest recovering from events in the previous book, which is where he and Dandelion encounter an elven archer named Milva, who decides to join their group. People who have played the games will be glad to know that the dwarf Zoltan Chivay temporarily joins Geralt’s ragtag group too, as well as the vampire Regis. A Nilfgaardian knight named Cahir also tags along because he feels indebted to Ciri. Geralt officially receives his “of Rivia” title after an epic battle while Ciri begins to feel at home with The Rats.

The Tower of Swallows

  • See The Tower of Swallows on Amazon

Ciri is gravely injured after an encounter with Nilfgaardian bounty hunter Leo Bonhart, who was hired by the coroner Stefan Skellen to kill her. A kind old man nurses her back to health while Geralt’s party continues their search for Ciri and Geralt renounces his status as a witcher. The Lodge of Sorceresses attempt to gain control of a country called Kovir while Triss Merigold seeks information on Yennefer of Vengerberg. (Known as The Tower of Swallows in the U.S.)

The Lady of the Lake

  • See The Lady of the Lake on Amazon

Ciri encounters Arthurian knight Sir Galahad who believes she is the eponymous lady of the lake. The story cuts to a dream in which Geralt overhears Skellen and sets out to rescue Yennefer from a faraway castle. Ciri, meanwhile, tells Galahad about her time in the elven world of Aen Elle, home of the Wild Hunt. She begins to jump between worlds in order to escape them, but Eredin Breacc Glas persistently chases her, as she heads towards a final meeting with her surrogate parents Geralt and Yennefer.

Season of Storms

  • See Season of Storms on Amazon

Those are the eight books in The Witcher series — in English, at least. There are two anthologies consisting of Witcher stories penned by guest authors in Sapkowski’s world that were published in 2013 and 2017, but they’re in Polish. If you can read them, go ahead, but they aren’t considered canon and likely won’t have anything to do with Netflix’s show or the games.

However, this collection is also in Polish. You can check out a fan translation of the “Something Ends, Something Begins” story that’s apparently pretty accurate here, but “The Road to No Return” is a little harder to find. Also, it’s important to recognize that “Something Ends, Something Begins,” like the anthologies by the guest authors, isn’t considered canon, so it’s not indicative of any plot direction in the series at large. The rest of the stories in Something Ends, Something Begins have nothing to do with The Witcher series.

With all of that said, you should also check out The Witcher games if you haven’t yet. The series may not have anything to do with them, but some of the characters you meet also exist in the books, so the games could indirectly serve as a primer for encountering or hearing about some of those in the show. They’re also fantastic, with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, holding up remarkably well — even by 2019’s standards. Henry Cavill, who portrays Geralt in Netflix's series, told IGN even he has played through The Witcher 3 multiple times.

Also See: 3 Witcher Statues to Add to Your Collection!

Geralt Figure - Netflix The Witcher

In This Article

The Witcher

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Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher Books in Order

How to read the Witcher

Though Geralt kills many types of creatures, it’s the humans who invaded the Continent 500 years ago who are the real monsters. Victorious in their war against the elves and dwarves, the humans forced the non-human races into the mountains and forests, though small settlements exist among the humans.

As the series starts, an uneasy peace had existed on the Continent for a century, but now war has returned. Geralt is waiting for the birth of the prophesied child, who will have the power to either save or destroy them all. As Ciri, the child, is hunted for her powerful royal Elder blood, Geralt will risk his life to keep her and the Continent safe, eventually growing to love her like his own daughter.

Originally published in Polish, this internationally bestselling fantasy series is comprised of five novels, two short story collections, and a sidequel. The Witcher Geralt of Rivia’s adventures continue after Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels end in  The Witcher trilogy, with successful action role-playing video games developed by CD Projekt Red that have sold 33 million copies around the world. And as if The Witcher games aren’t exciting enough, there’s now a Witcher Netflix series starring Superman actor Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia with showrunner Lauren Hissrich.

To get started, here is a complete list of  The Witcher  series in order for people looking to read  The Witcher  books, whether it’s for the first time or because they want to brush up before they watch  The Witcher  TV series. These complex, magical fantasy novels are perfect for fans of Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien , The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan , and Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin .


The Last Wish

The Last Wish

by Andrzej Sapkowski

Translated by Danusia Stok

A collection of six stories with events that precede the main  Witcher  novels. In them, Geralt of Rivia is resting in a temple, recovering from battle wounds. He has flashbacks involving a bar fight, bodies in a forest, a party for a princess, and more.

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Sword of Destiny

Sword of Destiny

Translated by David French

A second collection of stories that occur before the main Witcher novels, but feature major characters from the series, including one that features Ciri, and a second story with Ciri that details events happening right before the first Witcher novel,  Blood of Elves .

  • ebook (Digital original)
  • Hardcover (Illustrated)

Blood of Elves

Blood of Elves

When the Empire of Nilfgaard attacks the Kingdom of Cintra, Ciri, granddaughter of Queen Calanthe, manages to flee the capital city. The Emperor of Nilfgaard sends his spies to find her, hoping to harness her magical potential and the elven blood in her veins.

Enter Geralt of Rivia. A monster hunter for hire, he's keeping Ciri safe at the Witchers' keep, Kaer Morhen. But with the Emperor's spies closing in, how long can Geralt keep Ciri hidden away?

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The Time of Contempt

The Time of Contempt

Picking up where  Blood of Elves  leaves off, the second book finds Ciri and Yennifer on their way to enroll Ciri in a magic school. But things don't work out quite according to plan, and Ciri will end up running away, and in her journey discover more about the prophecy involving her elven blood.

Baptism of Fire

Baptism of Fire

While Geralt of Rivia recovers from injuries sustained during the coup that broke the Wizard Guild apart, he must continue his search for Ciri before she is captured. Geralt is joined in his hunt by Dandelion, the bard; Milva, a master archer; Cahir, a mysterious figure previously seen in Ciri's dreams; and Regis, a vampire. Meanwhile, Ciri has joined a group of young rebels.

The Tower of Swallows

The Tower of Swallows

Ciri's freedom amongst the rebels is coming to an end as both friends and enemies search for her across the Continent. And Ciri isn't the only one being hunted: Geralt's group learn that a bounty has been placed on their heads. They'll have to employ crafty tactics to find out who is behind it. While they deal with their unknown enemy, Ciri is headed to the mythical Tower of Swallows...

The Lady of the Lake

The Lady of the Lake

Upon reaching the Tower of Swallows, Ciri walked through a portal to an Elven land, where she discovers she has no way of getting home. But Ciri has learned many things since the day she first fled her home, and she'll use all the strength she has to make her way back to Geralt and her friends in their war-torn land.

Season of Storms

Season of Storms

This is not a continuation of The Witcher book series, but a sidequel, using characters from the original books to portray a whole new adventure. In  Season of Storms , a contract goes wrong, and Geralt of Rivia loses the weapons he needs to kill monsters. He must work fast to get them back, before his enemies make use of his vulnerability.

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How to Read ‘The Witcher’ Books in Order (Chronologically and by Release Date)

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When Netflix announced in 2017 that they would be making a live-action adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski ’s The Witcher saga, it became clear right away that the streaming giant wanted their own Game of Thrones . An epic, mature fantasy adventure series that takes place in a dark world with a complex mythology, the Polish novel series seemed to be exactly what Netflix was looking for, with the high viewership of the show’s first two seasons proving them right.

With a third season on the way, some fans may want to further immerse themselves in the world of The Witcher by delving into the novels that started it all. Whether you want to see how Geralt and Ciri’s story differs from the show or want to be prepared for what’s to come in future seasons, the books are a great place for fans both new and old to expand their knowledge of the franchise.

Now the only question is, what is the best order to read The Witcher books? Well, see below to find out how to read the books in order of release or in chronological order.

Henry Cavill in The Witcher

Related: 'The Witcher': Was That Really Geralt's Mother or Just a Fever Dream? Here's Frida Gustavsson's Take

The Witcher Books in Order of Release Date

Note: Publication dates are of the original Polish language releases.

Sword of Destiny - 1992

The Last Wish - 1993

Blood of Elves - 1994

Time of Contempt - 1995

Baptism of Fire - 1996

The Tower of the Swallow - 1997

The Lady of the Lake - 1999

Season of Storms - 2013

The Witcher Books in Chronological Order

Henry Cavill as Geralt and Joey Batey as Jaskier in The Witcher

So now you have a roadmap to read each and every book in the series in the order in which they were introduced. However, the first two books in particular are structured in an anthological collection of short stories, and the timeline can get a bit jumbled with regard to what takes place when.

Those who would rather read everything as close to the chronological order as possible simply need to refer to the listing below:

The Last Wish (1993)

Though it's the second book to be released in the series, The Last Wish features events that come earliest in The Witcher timeline. It also ultimately functions as a much more accessible entry point into the series, with its introductions to the major characters of Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer of Vengerberg, and Dandelion (known as Jaskier to fans of the show). Rather than be a straightforward linear storyline, The Last Wish takes a more anthological approach with a series of seven short stories that tease a wider narrative. Fans will also probably recognize the title as being in reference to a critical point in the relationship between Geralt and Yennefer that will intertwine their fates for the rest of the series.

Season of Storms (2013)

Season of Storms is the most recent and most unusual entry in Geralt's story. Not only is it a standalone spinoff that doesn't relate to the wider storyline, but it's also a bit difficult to tell where exactly this takes place in the timeline. The general consensus seems to agree that it takes place sometime during or after the events of The Last Wish , but again, because it's an independent entry, its position in the timeline isn't super important. While not the most popular novel, it's still interesting to see Geralt in a situation where he doesn't have his monster-slaying weapons and has to use his wit and skill to succeed.


Related: 'The Witcher' Season 3 Adds Robbie Amell, Hugh Skinner, Meng'er Zhang, and Christelle Elwin

Sword of Destiny (1992)

The first book to be published in the series, Sword of Destiny , similar to The Last Wish is a collection of short stories following the many adventures of mutated monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia. It continues to chronicle Geralt's adventures but also introduces the character of Ciri, a young princess who is arguably the most important character in the entire saga. The concluding story of the novel perfectly sets the stage for the remaining saga to come.

Blood of Elves (1994)

Now is the point where things really start to get rolling in the story of Geralt and Ciri. A more traditional novel with one overarching story, Blood of Elves sees Geralt and Yennefer squabble over the training of young Ciri, whose awesome powers are becoming increasingly difficult to manage. It's a bit of a slower-paced tale that does take some getting used to after the breakneck pace set up by the shorter stories in The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny , but it still does a great job setting the stage for an epic saga.

Time of Contempt (1995)

The adventures of our protagonists continue right where Blood of Elves left off, with the tides of war between neighboring kingdoms and non-human races like elves and dwarves rising to a boiling point. While the previous story focused more on where Ciri's story was going to go , Time of Contempt gives more of a glimpse into the impact that the current political climate is having on the larger world. It plants the seeds for a difficult moral quandary for the main characters, with them having to decide whether it's better to pick a side or remain neutral.


Related: ‘The Witcher’ Season 3 Reveals First Image of Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri as Filming Begins

Baptism of Fire (1996)

Much like Blood of Elves , Baptism of Fire spends a good portion of its time setting up adventures to come. While this method of writing may be tedious to some, the halfway point for the main saga introduces some of the most unique and interesting characters so far, which is saying something given the already complex people that have already been introduced. Geralt this time around is once again seeking Ciri after the chaotic events in the previous story, now with a ragtag group of companions to accompany him.

The Tower of the Swallow (1997)

The penultimate chapter of Geralt's quest to protect Ciri sees the world around him in the middle of an all-out war. While Geralt's fellowship is out searching for her, Ciri has adapted to her new life as a bandit, with a taste for violence and bloodlust clinging to her like a malignant parasite. Seemingly not realizing how important both she and her abilities are to the rest of the world, Geralt may be Ciri's only hope to help her find her true destiny .

The Lady of the Lake (1999)

The Witcher saga finally reaches its conclusion in The Lady of the Lake , where the fates of practically every major character are ultimately revealed. With war tearing the world apart, with evil leaders and sinister sorcerers at every turn, Geralt and Ciri now face the outcomes of every decision they ever made, leading to a finale that's sure to make fans who were along the ride for this epic journey satisfied.

Related: How 'The Witcher's Daring Character Choice Changes the Show's Future

Geralt's Story Continues in the Video Games


When CD Projekt Red acquired the rights to begin a video game series based on The Witcher , they opted to do something a bit different by making the games a continuation rather than a direct adaptation. All three of the main games and the two spinoff games are available on Steam, and while the older entries are admittedly a bit dated, the stories are still so gripping that they're worth playing. Plus, decisions made by players in one of the three main games will carry over to the next game in the series, giving hardcore fans who have read the books an amazing opportunity to role-play as Geralt and try to make decisions he would make. Every game in the series can be found below.

The Witcher: Enhanced Edition Director's Cut (2008)

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings Enhanced Edition (2012)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)*

Spinoff Games

Thornbreaker: The Witcher Tales (2018)

Gwent: The Witcher Card Game (2020)

*Recommended version is the 2016 Game of the Year Edition as it includes all the DLCs for just ten dollars more.

Netflix Adaptations of The Witcher


The Netflix series starring Henry Cavill has seen some tremendous success, with The Witcher serving as a much more direct adaptation of the books. In addition to the main show, Netflix has big plans to expand the IP even further, with an animated spinoff following Geralt's mentor Vesemir titled The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf currently available.

If that wasn't enough, there is also a live-action prequel series starring Michelle Yeoh titled The Witcher: Blood Origin , which is scheduled to premiere sometime this year. Lastly, those who search for The Witcher on Netflix will find some educational lore-centric videos, including the two-part The Witcher Beastiary .

How to read The Witcher books in order

If you're a fan of the hit Netflix show, read The Witcher books in order and get all up to speed ahead of the release of Season 3 next year

Scene from The Witcher

Getting to grips with how to read The Witcher books in order will serve all you bookworms well as you endure the long wait for The Witcher season 3 to drop on Netflix in 2023.

By far one of the best Netflix shows so far, The Witcher books are just as outstanding, so if you're a fan of the hit series staring starring Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, then trust us, you're going to want to devour these fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.

The Witcher Season 2 was a huge hit for Netflix and although we don't know tons about The Witcher Season 3 yet, we're expecting it to bring more action as we follow the adventures of the witcher Geralt, a mutated monster hunter who struggles to find his place in a wicked world. But The Witcher existed for its fans long before it became a TV show. 

Sapkowski created monster-hunting Geralt of Rivia as part of a magazine's short story competition all the way back in the mid-'80s and would you believe he only finished third? Not to worry, Sapkowski ended up taking all those stories and turning them into his now highly successful and much-loved fantasy book series. 

When it comes to how to read The Witcher books in order, you've got a couple of options. The series includes five saga novels, two prequels and a standalone and while it's certainly not the most complicated fantasy series out there by any stretch of the imagination, and you can either follow along by publication order or by the order they come in the Continent’s chronology.

With the books falling anywhere in the region of 300 to 550 pages, you can either purchase them in paperback or hardback or, if you travel frequently, why not treat yourself to the best Kindle so that you can take the entire series with you wherever you go?

Below we talk you through how to read The Witcher books in order, as well as ranking them from best to worst based on their reader ratings on Goodreads. Let's take a look...

The Witcher books: reading order explained

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

When it comes to figuring out how to read The Witcher books in order, there are a few things you need to know:

The short stories of The Last Wish come first in the chronology of The Witcher universe, and provide the ideal introduction to Geralt of Rivia, sorceresses Yennefer of Vengerberg and Triss Merigold, and singing bard Dandelion (renamed Jaskier in Netflix’s The Witcher TV series). Indeed, events in the stories ‘The Witcher’, ‘The Lesser Evil’, ‘A Question of Price’, ‘The Edge of the World’ and ‘The Last Wish’ form the basis of Geralt’s arc in the first season of the Netflix show – we meet the Striga, learn how Geralt became known as ‘the butcher of Blaviken’, and see the origin of the ‘Law of Surprise’ that ties him to Princess Ciri. 

Although the standalone Season of Storms was published after the five saga novels, the events of the book take place around the same time period as The Last Wish. It’s not essential to the overall story arc, but completists may find hints of things that will later come to pass in the main saga.

The stories in Sword of Destiny , meanwhile, introduce the young Ciri. The book’s final tale, ‘Something More’, shows the fall of Cintra (a key event in the first episode of The Witcher TV show), and serves as a prequel to the quintet of saga novels.

The five saga novels, then, are Blood of Elves , Time of Contempt , Baptism of Fire , The Tower of the Swallow and The Lady of the Lake .

With much of season one of the TV series adapted from the two short story collections, the second season is where the Netflix show will get deep into adapting The Witcher saga novels.

How to read The Witcher books in release order

The first Witcher books debuted in the early '90s in Sapkowski’s native Poland, but the rest of the world was a little slow to catch on to Geralt of Rivia. It wasn’t until the English version of The Last Wish was published in 2007 – the year that the first Witcher videogame was released – that Anglophone readers got their first chance to read the books. Danusia Stok translated the first two English releases before David French took over for the remaining six.

We’ve gone with the original Polish publication order below to help you read The Witcher books in order, which differs slightly from the English-language releases – while Sword of Destiny was the first (still available) collection of Witcher short stories published in Poland, The Last Wish was the first release in English. (It’s interesting to note, however, that four of the short stories in The Last Wish had previously been published in a now out-of-print 1990 release, simply called The Witcher.)

These short story collections were followed by the five novels of the main Witcher saga, as mentioned earlier (Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of the Swallow, The Lady of the Lake), and standalone novel Season of Storms.

Short story collections:

  • Sword of Destiny (original Polish version: 1992/English: 2015)  
  • The Last Wish (Polish: 1993/English: 2007)  

The Witcher Saga:

  • Blood of Elves (Polish: 1994/English: 2008)  
  • Time of Contempt (Polish: 1995/English: 2013)  
  • Baptism of Fire (Polish: 1996/English: 2014)   
  • The Tower of the Swallow (Polish: 1997/English: 2016)  
  • The Lady of the Lake (Polish: 1999/English: 2017)  

Standalone novel

  • Season of Storms (Polish: 2013/English: 2018) 

The Witcher comics explained: are they canon?

If you still haven’t seen enough of the Continent after watching the Netflix show, reading Andrzej Sapkowski’s books, and adventuring your way through the games, there’s even more Witcher storytelling out there, as Dark Horse have published various Witcher comics and graphic novels. 

They’re not written by Sapkowski and although Fox Children is based on a chapter from Season of Storms, they’re set in the continuity of the games rather than the books. All are available to buy from Dark Horse as standalone comics, or collected together as graphic novels.  

  • The Witcher: House of Glass (by Paul Tobin and Joe Querio, published 2014) 
  • The Witcher: Fox Children (by Paul Tobin and Joe Querio, published 2015) 
  • The Witcher: Curse of Crows (by Paul Tobin and Piotr Kowalski, published 2016-2017) 
  • The Witcher: Of Flesh and Flame (by Aleksandra Motyka and Marianna Strychowska, published 2018-2019) 

The best Witcher books: ranking the source material

Going on the reader rankings on , The Witcher books are remarkably consistent in terms of quality. 

Season of Storms, originally published 14 years after Sapkowski had completed his saga, comes bottom of the pile, which hints that some of the author’s magic had dissipated in the intervening years. And the five books translated by David French come ahead of the two handled by Danusia Stok, suggesting that readers might prefer French’s style. 

But seeing as even the lowest-ranked title receives a highly respectable 3.95 out of 5, fantasy fans are unlikely to be disappointed by any of Sapkowski’s novels. 

  • Sword of Destiny – 4.35  
  • Baptism of Fire – 4.34 
  • The Tower of the Swallow – 4.32 
  • Time of Contempt – 4.26 
  • The Lady of the Lake – 4.24 
  • The Last Wish – 4.19  
  • Blood of Elves – 4.16 
  • Season of Storms – 3.95 

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Richard Edwards

Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.

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The Witcher books reading order: where to start with the short stories and novels

Reading order recs for starting your Witcher novels journey.

  • Reading order
  • Other books and comics
  • Should you read them?

Looking for where to start the Witcher books after watching the show? The Witcher season 2 has been out for a while and season 3 has finished filming . A few books have been covered so far, so it's time to look forward to what we can expect in the next season. We'll most likely be hearing a lot more from Phillipa Eilhart and Djikstra as they attempt to wrangle more control in Redania, and Francesca and the elves have already started their retaliation upon the north which won't end well for anyone.

The Witcher 4 : What we know The Witcher season 3 : Trailers and cast Witcher 3 mods : Good hunting

Generally speaking, the show changes plenty of details but takes the broad strokes of its plots directly from the Witcher stories written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which were also the basis for the CD Projekt Red Witcher games. If you want to read the story that The Witcher season 2 's first episode is based on, for instance, you'll find it in The Last Wish , the Witcher book we recommend you start with. 

It's not the most complicated fantasy series ever, but because the stories weren't released in chronologic order, release date won't be your best guide.The Witcher started in the '80s as a series of short stories written by Sapkowski for a fantasy magazine. In the '90s, the stories were published in two collections, which were followed by five novels, all published throughout the same decade. The books were released in English in 2007, with Danusia Stok translating the first two and David French taking over duties from the third book.

The Witcher books follow the story of the titular Witcher, Geralt of Rivia. A Witcher is a mutated human—most certainly a man—who possess supernatural abilities and has trained from childhood to battle monsters that emerged during the Conjunction of the Spheres. Many stories have been told in the Witcher universe, but the central arc follows Geralt as he protects Ciri, a princess whose country has been conquered and his child surprise. If you want sword-wielding action, romance, family ties and grotesque monsters, you're in the right place. 

Witcher books reading order

The witcher books reading order.

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Let's get down to business: what order should you read the books in? As previously mentioned, you'll want to ignore the release dates and instead read them in true chronological order if you want the story to make sense. So, here's your list:

  • The Last Wish
  • Sword of Destiny
  • Blood of Elves
  • Time of Contempt
  • Baptism of Fire
  • The Tower of the Swallow
  • The Lady of the Lake
  • Season of Storms (optional; explained below)

You'll want to start with The Last Wish . While it was published second, it's the start of the series, introducing Geralt and establishing the Continent as a backdrop. 

The Last Wish introduces everything you'll see in the games. Sapkowski sets the scene beginning with the importance of Geralt's silver sword with which he kills the monsters. He also depicts the often-corrupt governments that reside throughout the world, and we meet an ensemble of colourful characters many of us have come to know and love. These include Dandelion (aka Jaskier), a poet friend of Geralt who is hearing these tales we’re experiencing, and Yennefer, a sorceress with whom Geralt begins a turbulent relationship. 

The story, A Grain of Truth, which features in this collection kicks off the second season of the Netflix show, telling the story of Nivellen. The rest of the stories in The Last Wish make up most of the show's first season, though it also draws from the book you should read second: Sword of Destiny . It's in Sword of Destiny that we get to know Ciri, and each story takes place directly before the main novels.

A recent release, Season of Storms , takes place within the stories of The Last Wish. While its events aren't integral to the main arc, it's a lore-heavy entry that's worth reading.

Otherwise, read the books in the order they were released: Blood of Elves , Time of Contempt , Baptism of Fire , The Tower of the Swallow and The Lady of the Lake . 

Below are the best prices for these books individually, but they do get sold together on Amazon—the first six books all together on Amazon US and the first seven bundled together on Amazon UK .

How many Witcher books are in the series?

As counted above, there are eight books in the Witcher series—six novels, and two short story collections. Some lists will count the series at nine books, including  The Witcher , the original 1990 publication of the first five Witcher short stories. Because those stories were all republished in The Last Wish when the series jumped publishers, and because the original book is now out of print, it's not really worth considering as a separate title.

Other Witcher books and graphic novels

Are there other witcher books.

Away from the novels, it's also worth reading The World of the Witcher , which is a compendium of information created directly by CD Projekt Red. It's a beautifully illustrated addition to the series that contains everything you'll want to know about monsters, weapons, people and places. Be warned, though, it does feature spoilers for the games and the books.  Read it, and you too can call yourself Geralt of Trivia.

There is a designated Witcher 3: Wild Hunt art book but it is pretty rare as it was released only with collector's editions. One to look out for though; I know I always do. And there's yet more artwork available now following the release of the Gwent game, as it too now has its own art book: The Art of the Witcher: Gwent Gallery Collection . And to finish the art side of things off, there's a Witcher Adult Coloring Book that will keep you occupied long into the night, giving your favourite characters unique outfits and painting your own Witcher pictures.

The Witcher graphic novels

Aside from the short stories and novels, graphic novels from Dark Horse Comics have been released. While not written by Sapkowski, the comics do a great job of adding extras to already released stories, plus they look great as the art evokes the nasty themes of the books and games. Volume 1 , Volume 2 and Volume 3 all include several stories each, while a collated Library Edition packs everything in one. 

Should you read The Witcher books?

Why should i read them if i’ve played the games.

Because you are obviously desperate for more Witcher content, that's why! One joy I took from rereading the series was reading them with the voices of the games' characters in mind. I could hear Doug Cockle's dulcet tone every time Geralt spoke, which adds a greater depth to the stories. 

They are wonderful books to read with complex political narratives, plenty of backstabbing, magic and love. They aren't just for fantasy nerds, either; they are accessible to lovers of all genres who just want a good series to read. Once you've read them all, you can finally take part in the "What's better: the books, Netflix series or games?" discourse. Come with your notes prepared.

Reading the books will give you a better sense of the world, flesh out more of the cast and create a stronger bond between yourself and the situations in the lore. Characters are drawn with more depth, and although much of the plot will be known to you if you played the games, the books fill in small gaps here and there.

How faithful are The Witcher games to the books?

Very, though only so much of the books was directly brought to the games. CD Projekt Red went to great lengths to bring Sapkowski’s witty, wry and strong Geralt of Rivia to players of the games. Due to the branching narratives of the games, the plot is based on the books, rather than a direct retelling of every story. Everything you’ve seen in the games, however, from runes to weapons and monsters are featured in the series of novels. 

There’s an interesting divide between how Sapkowski sees his world and how it was translated to games, but readers will notice only small differences here and there. Coming to the books from the games brings a certain spark of life to the battles and fights.

It's worth noting though that the games, especially ones of such quality, are designed to bring excitement and danger. This can make some sections of the book—mainly the political discussions—rather dull in comparison. The games, because they deliver the story in bite-sized chunks between the killing and hunting, offer the most interactive way to experience part of Geralt's story.

How faithful to the books is the Netflix Witcher series?

A lot more than the games, by design. Officially, the Witcher show is based directly on the books, not the games. That said, the show takes some liberties, particularity with timing. To more naturally introduce viewers to Geralt and the world around him, Season 1's story is a combination of The Last Wish's short stories and the beginning of Ciri's arc in Sword of Destiny.

The first season was confusing for some folk, so Netflix put together a gorgeous timeline map to keep it all straight (spoiler warning for the books, obviously).  The second season is much more linear and easy to understand, with a few adaptations to stories here and there.

Where can I get all these books?

Since the profile of The Witcher series and books has been elevated to brilliant, world-famous heights, the books, on the whole, are available from all the major retailers, including Amazon . The only one that is a bit difficult to get, as mentioned above, is the collector's edition The Witcher 3 art book but it usually appears on eBay occasionally. However, for your ease and comfort, see the best prices currently going on all the books below. 

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The witcher books, games & show order: a beginner's guide.

The Witcher books, games, and show order can be confusing for newcomers, but we've put together a beginner's guide to all things witcher.

The Witcher books, games, and show order can be confusing for newcomers, so much so that many fans require a beginner's guide to best identify where to start in which medium - and how they interact with each other across different platforms. Andrzej Sapkowski's fantasy narrative began in the 1980s as a short story and has since evolved into a series of novels, a trilogy of video games developed by CD Projekt Red, and Netflix's  The Witcher , the latter of which has launched the property into a new level of popularity and ubiquity.

Unfortunately for those looking to dive straight in, the chronology of  The Witcher is a little complex , to say the least. Part of that is because of the way the series has evolved over the years, as Sapkowski began with short stories that didn't stick to a specific order or timeline before creating a series of novels that focused on a tighter narrative. In order to give characters their proper back story while also exploring their relationships as they unfold, Netflix's  The Witcher has to jump timelines frequently as its three leads each begin their journey towards each other. Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer of Vengerberg, and Ciri are all arguably the heroes of Netflix's  The Witcher , and that created the need to juxtapose multiple timelines. The games, unlike the books and the Netflix series, are actually fairly straightforward, each taking place in a specific time that follows its predecessor in a tight chronological progression.

Related:  The Witcher: Geralt's Last Wish For Yennefer Explained

Either way,  The Witcher books, games, and show order are all a point of confusion, and a beginner's guide is a must for those who want to experience the series in its proper order. Beyond just becoming a configuration of the most desirable timeline and consistency, consuming  The Witcher in the right order also dodges the most spoilers possible. With that in mind, here's our look at  The Witcher books, games, and show order in the form of a helpful beginner's guide.

The Witcher Books Reading Order

synopsis of witcher books

Chronologically, the short story collections of  The Witcher  books are the place to start for newcomers.  The Last Wish is the first short story collection and establishes the setting of  The Witcher universe, who Geralt is, how witchers operate , and introduce both Yennefer and Dandelion (or Jaskier, in Netflix's  The Witcher ) as main characters. After that, Sword of Destiny , the second  Witcher short story collection, is necessary because it introduces Ciri and her story as well, taking place before any of the main novels actually begin.

From there, fans can more or less tackle  The Witcher books in order of their release, with one key exception: Season of Storms , which actually takes place in between the short stories and the novels despite being a more recent offering from Sapkowski.  The Witcher 's short story collections comprise the bulk of what fans experienced in Netflix's  The Witcher , while the novels will likely be the focal point of upcoming seasons. Here's the official order for interested fans:

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

The Witcher Games

The Witcher Ciri trains at Kaer Morhen

The Witcher games from CD Projekt Red take place pretty far in advance after the novels. They follow Geralt of Rivia's adventures after he has interacted with the mythological Wild Hunt, a group of phantom riders who are said to usher in the end of the world. Geralt also links up with several characters from the books during his journey, and the games actually wrap up many plotlines that Sapkowski himself has yet to pick back up - if he has any interest in doing so at all. Ultimately,  The Witcher  games take place several years after both the books and Netflix's  The Witcher .

However,  The Witcher games are also incredibly faithful to the books in the way they represent Geralt's world overall. Everything regarding witcher lore, monsters, and the general political landscape that takes place over the games is true, more or less, to the way Sapkowski has designed it. Even still,  The Witcher 1 takes place after the novels wrap up, and thus don't contain a heavy amount of spoilers for those looking to read  The Witcher  books. The recommended order of consumption between those two mediums would be the books and then the games, but they're independent of each other enough that fans can go in the other order and still get a lot out of  The Witcher books.

The Witcher TV Show


Netflix's  The Witcher season 1 takes place roughly at the same time as the short stories from The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny , but certainly before the novels themselves. The chronology of Netflix's  The Witcher can make things a bit messy in terms of understanding exactly what is happening and when, but it's generally understood that the adventures Geralt is on are taking place roughly 100 years after he became a witcher. Ciri's age is still quite young as well, which precedes the novels, when she begins to train her powers and understand her place within the world. Netflix's  The Witcher definitively takes place at the beginning of the chronology of the property as a whole and is definitely  not a prequel or anything of the sort - it's the beginning of the three characters' journeys.

Moving forward, fans looking to get ahead of the show should look towards Season of Storms or Blood of Elves. Season of Storms is unlikely to be the basis of a second season of Netflix's  The Witcher because it operates pretty far away from the main point of the novels, which is what season one set up. That makes Blood of Elves the most likely candidate for the basis of a second season provided Netflix's  The Witcher remains as true to Andrzej Sapkowski's vision as it did in the first, so viewers who want to know in advance what Yennefer, Ciri, and Geralt get up to when they're together more often in season two can get a sneak peek by beginning  The Witcher books.

Next:  Netflix's The Witcher Season 1 Ending Explained: What's Next For Geralt

The Witcher books in order (and where to buy them)

By stefani munro | dec 18, 2021.

The Witcher season 2. Image courtesy Jay Maidment, Netflix

Almost two years since its Netflix debut, The Witcher season 2 has finally been released!

On Friday, Dec. 17 , the streaming giant treated its viewers to an early Christmas present with the second installment in the dark fantasy following the ever-brooding monster hunter – Geralt of Rivia, portrayed by  Henry Cavill .

While Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher  tends to share its tone, aesthetics and story with the video game series more than the books, the overall premise of the show is based on the books written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.

There are nine books in total in  The Witcher series and a specific order in which you should read the books to get the best Geralt of Rivia experience. If the TV production has inspired you to pick up the books, without further ado, here’s the order you should tackle them in:

The Witcher books in order

  • The Last Wish  – BUY IT HERE
  • Sword of Destiny  – BUY IT HERE
  • Blood of Elves  – BUY IT HERE
  • Time of Contempt  – BUY IT HERE
  • Baptism of Fire  – BUY IT HERE
  • The Tower of the Swallow  – BUY IT HERE
  • The Lady of the Lake  – BUY IT HERE
  • Season of Storms  – BUY IT HERE

Season one of Netflix’s The Witcher was based on the books The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny. A nd while it’s still unconfirmed, there are several rumors circulating that The Witcher series will end after season 4, which would, in theory, make sense, if each season is based on two books.

The official synopsis for The Witcher season 2 reads:

"“Convinced Yennefer’s life was lost at the Battle of Sodden, Geralt of Rivia brings Princess Cirilla to the safest place he knows, his childhood home of Kaer Morhen. While the Continent’s kings, elves, humans and demons strive for supremacy outside its walls, he must protect the girl from something far more dangerous: the mysterious power she possesses inside.”"

You can stream all eight episodes of The Witcher season 2 right now on Netflix.

dark. Next. When does Jaskier show up in The Witcher season 2?

This post contains affiliate links, where we may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability accurate as of the time of publication.

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All of the Witcher Books in Order

book on desk

The Witcher Books (Polish: Wiedźmin) is a fantasy series of short stories and novels written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The series is known as The Witcher Saga and has amassed a cult following in Poland as well as other European countries. 

It has been adapted into a graphic novel series, a trilogy of video games T he Witcher, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt , two television series The Hexer and The Witcher, and a film, The Hexer.

Who Is Andrzej Sapkowski?

Before Andrzej Sakowski became popular for writing The Witcher Saga , he first worked as a high-ranking sales representative for a foreign trade company after studying economics at the University of Łódź. 

His literary career started when he became a part-time translator of science fiction. His first short story, The Witcher, was written on a whim so he could enter a writing contest hosted by Polish science fiction and fantasy magazine Fantastyka.

Because of marketing knowledge and skills, he bagged the 3rd prize even though it’s his first time joining the said competition. After his short story was published in Fantastyka in 1986, it was met with wide and positive acclaim among critics and readers. 

Sakowski’s success with The Witcher compelled him to write a fantasy book cycle based on the original short story, earning him worldwide success. 

A Rundown on The Witcher Books

The Witcher Saga revolves around the series’ main protagonist, Geralt of Rivia. He is a witcher, which are beast hunters trained at a young age to develop supernatural abilities to hunt and kill monsters and wild beasts. 

He was trained at the stronghold of the Wolf School Witchers, where he endured numerous brutal physical and mental challenges to gain near-superhuman mental and physical abilities. 

After the first major war between the Northern Kingdoms and Nilfgaard Empire, Geralt travels across the Continent to kill monsters and protect Ciri, the prophesied child who is said to be born with the power to either save or destroy them all. 

The Witcher Saga is known to be one of the best internationally bestselling fantasy series of all time. Geralt of Rivia’s adventure continues even after the book saga. CD Projekt Red developed an action role-playing video game based on the book series, which has sold over 33 million copies worldwide. 

Netflix has also adapted the book cycle into an exciting series called The Witcher starring Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, and Lauren Hissrich as the showrunner.

The Witcher Books Complete Booklist & Summary

Here are all The Witcher Saga books in chronological order for anyone who wants to get started on the book series: 

1) The Last Wish (Book One in the Witcher Books Series)

the witcher books 1

  • Book Reviews: 

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2) Blood of Elves (Book Two in the Witcher Books Series)

the witcher books 2

3) Time of Contempt (Book Three in the Witcher Books Series)

the witcher books 3

4) Baptism of Fire (Book Four in the Witcher Books Series)

the witcher books 4

5) The Tower of the Swallow (Book Five in the Witcher Books Series)


6) The Lady of the Lake (Book Three in the Witcher Books Series)


7) Season of Storms (Book Seven in the Witcher Books Series)


Like The Witcher Books?

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CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!

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The Witcher, explained: All the backstory and characters you need to know

Learn more about the man called Geralt of Rivia.


Henry Cavill plays Geralt of Rivia in the upcoming Netflix series. 


Henry Cavill plays Geralt of Rivia in the upcoming Netflix series. 

Netflix's The Witcher , which made its debut Friday, will be the last big show for 2019 . And, according to CNET's review , it's worth a watch. 

It's also one of the few new shows this year that comes with a vast backstory. The Witcher is based on a series of Polish novels that started in 1992. They've since been adapted into a series of popular video games , multiple comic books and one poorly received film. 

This primer will help newcomers get up to speed with the Witcher universe. 

What is a Witcher?

The Witcher is not a person, but rather a profession. To put it simply, they're monster hunters. The Continent, the land where the Witcher takes place, has a variety of beasts and ghouls. Some notable examples include the walking spirit of a forest called the leshen that's made up of plants, animal pelts and skulls, and the bruxa, a powerful female vampire who has a deafening scream. 

Witchers are trained to dispose of these monsters using a variety of tools and weapons at their disposal. Their most useful is their silver swords because the metal is usually the most effective against unholy beasts. They also have a selection of simple magic spells called Signs that can be cast using a particular sign with their hands. Two commonly used are the telekinetic push Aard and the fire spell Igni. Witchers can use Signs quickly in a battle at the expense of a bit of their own endurance. 

One of the most important Witcher tools is a silver medallion. These magical neckpieces vibrate when monsters are nearby or if magic is being used, which makes them invaluable to a monster hunter. 

How does one become a Witcher? 

Witchers are not born, they're made. Orphaned kids make up many of the monster hunters, and they're trained at schools located in different parts of the world. Each one has their own specialties and is represented by a different animal:  

  • Viper 
  • Griffin 

Those training to become a Witcher learn magic, bestiary, weapons and herbalism. Once ready, a student will partake in a Trial of the Grasses where they're strapped to a table and are given different chemicals called Grasses. This process is what gives a Witcher several physical advantages such as improved healing, the ability to see in the dark and supernatural strength. The trial is painful and dangerous with most wannabe Witchers dying in the process. 

A student becomes a full-fledged Witcher once the trials are over. They will then travel across the land hunting monsters for money, being despised by others for their unique appearance. 

Witchers are a dying breed. There are far fewer monster hunters as the lands have become safer, so their services are less needed. The Witchers are also reluctant to train new recruits as they're all too familiar with the pain from their trials. 

Do not mess with a Witcher. 


Do not mess with a Witcher. 

Who is Geralt of Rivia?

Geralt, played by Henry Cavill in the series, is considered a unique Witcher. Because of his ability to withstand the Trial of the Grasses, he was subjected to additional testing, causing him to gain more abilities while also turning his skin and hair pale white. He was left at School of the Wolf as a child by his mother Visenna, who was a sorceress. It's presumed that his father is a warrior named Korin who once helped Visenna.  

Despite what his name suggests, Geralt is not from the land of Rivia. Witchers are taught to come up with their own surnames to appease potential clients. He originally wanted his name to be Geralt Roger Eric du Haute-Bellegarde, but after a bit of ridicule from his teacher, Geralt took a knife and picked a random spot on the world map, which ended up being Rivia. 

In the early novels -- Sword and Destiny was the first novel, though the second, The Last Wish, is considered the first canonically -- Geralt's adventures are split into short stories with a similar tone. He's often hired by someone wealthy, usually royalty, who asks him to deal with some sort of beast. He's a pragmatist when it comes to monster hunting, but he's also a cynic when it comes to humans. His jobs have him dealing with people who hide their true intentions and, at times, can be a monster in their own right. 

Do not underestimate this sorceress. 


Do not underestimate this sorceress. 

Who is Yennefer and what's her relation to Geralt? 

Yennefer of Vengerberg, played by Anya Chalotra, is a key character in the Witcher universe. She's considered Geralt's true love, but many times, she acts more like a partner-in-crime in his adventures. 

Like Geralt, Yennefer had a rough childhood, which contributed to her strong will. She was born with a humpback and is a quadroon, a person who is a quarter elven on her mother's side. Her father abused her over these differences and once he left, her mother continued the abuse. Yennefer was picked to join the Aretuza Academy to be trained as a sorceress. She was one of the best students and was able to heal her spine and use magic to give her a legendary beautiful appearance. 

The two met during one of Geralt's adventures involving a djinn, an air elemental most people would recognize as a genie from a lamp. When his friend was ill and could only be cured by magic, Geralt made his way to the city of Rinde where Yennefer was. After a standoff, they worked together to defeat the monster and fell in love. 

Ciri has many adventures coming her way. 


Ciri has many adventures coming her way. 

Why is Cirilla important?

Freya Allan will play Princess Cirilla, or Ciri, in The Witcher series, and is the third central character to the show. She's the heir of the Kingdom of Cintra and the granddaughter of Queen Calanthe. In the novels, her role shifts from a somewhat minor character to having entire books dedicated to her adventures. It appears the Netflix series will focus on Ciri during the war between Cintra and Nilfgaard, a powerful empire that will target her as she's the sole heir to the kingdom. 

Originally published Dec. 19, 6 a.m. PT. Updated, 9:02 a.m. PT: Adds more characters. Dec. 20: Adds more background info. 


Blood of Elves

57 pages • 1 hour read

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Summary and Study Guide

Blood of Elves is the first novel in Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher saga, but it is the third book in the series, following the short story collections The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny . Originally published in Polish in 1994, Blood of Elves was first translated into English in 2008 by Danusia Stok. This study guide uses the first trade paperback edition of that translation, published by Orbit in 2017. Several plot elements and character relationships in Blood of Elves inspired the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher series, starring Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia , Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg , and Freya Allen as Cirilla (Ciri).

The novel is deeply invested in themes of Monstrosity , Identity and Belonging , Family Relationships , and Racial Tensions between Humans and Nonhumans . These thematic elements, as well as the presence of magic and a medieval-inspired setting , place the novel firmly in the fantasy genre; however, Sapkowski upturns some of the genre’s most common tropes, expanding the bounds of traditional fantasy.

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Plot Summary

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Princess Ciri (first introduced in The Last Wish ) has a nightmare about the kingdom of Nilfgaard’s conquest of Cintra, her home kingdom, which resulted in the deaths of her entire family. The massacre took place about a year before Blood of Elves begins (it is first mentioned in Sword of Destiny ); after escaping, Ciri wandered in the woods, staying with various people until Geralt—an infamous witcher (a monster hunter with supernatural abilities)—stumbled upon her. The two knew one another, in part because Geralt had invoked the “Law of Surprise” to claim the then-unborn Ciri after saving her father’s life. Now Geralt intends to take Ciri to train as a witcher, and he comforts her when she wakes. They are camped in the woods on their way to Kaer Morhen, the witcher stronghold in the mountains of Kaedwen. Two weeks later, they arrive, and Geralt introduces Ciri to more witchers: Vesemir, Lambert, Eskel, and Coën.

A year later, a bard and friend of Geralt named Dandelion performs a concert at the great oak Bleobheris, a site protected by druids. A debate breaks out about whether the bard’s songs regarding Geralt, the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (first introduced in The Last Wish ), and Ciri are true, as well as whether there will be another war between the southern empire Nilfgaard and the Northern Kingdoms (of which Cintra is one). Unseen, Dandelion slips away to a brothel in a nearby town. The brothel owner introduces Dandelion to Rience , a mage, whose questions about Geralt and Ciri make Dandelion suspicious. He tries to flee, but Rience captures and almost tortures Dandelion for information before Yennefer—a sorceress who surreptitiously followed Rience—intervenes. She kills Rience’s men and burns Rience’s face with magic fire. Rience escapes through a portal. Yennefer urges Dandelion to stop performing the song about Ciri and tells him Dijkstra, a master spy, needs Dandelion to report soon. Yennefer, who was once Geralt’s lover, thanks Dandelion for being Geralt’s friend.

Around this time, a young sorceress named Triss Merigold arrives at Kaer Morhen to help the witchers with Ciri. Triss worries that the witchers want her help subjecting Ciri to the Trial of Grasses, the mutations that all witchers undergo as children to gain their enhanced abilities. In reality, the all-male witchers do not know how to raise a young girl, especially one who occasionally goes into prophetic trances. Triss also hopes to rekindle her former affair with Geralt, but he resists her advances. Triss realizes Ciri is a Source: a person with powerful but nearly uncontrollable magical potential. Triss helps the witchers better understand Ciri—to pause her training when Ciri menstruates and to decrease the herbs they give her so they won’t adversely affect her hormones.

While at Kaer Morhen, Triss gives Ciri an elixir, triggering a prophetic trance during which Triss forms a psychic connection with Ciri. A mysterious voice speaks to them in the Elder Speech (the language of the elves who were once the region’s dominant race), but the voice’s identity is concealed behind so many magic barriers that Triss, exhausted, is ejected from Ciri’s mind. As springtime approaches, Triss teaches Ciri the Elder Speech and helps her embrace her femininity. Geralt helps Ciri overcome her fear of the Pendulum, a training course obstacle she struggles with for months. At Triss’s advice, Geralt writes to Yennefer, a more powerful sorceress, to ask for help with Ciri.

In the spring, Geralt, Ciri, and Triss leave Kaer Morhen for the Temple of Melitele in Ellander, where Ciri will study with the head priestess. On the road, Triss falls ill and cannot ride her horse. They come upon a caravan led by Yarpen Zigrin , an old friend of Geralt’s, and he agrees to let them join the group until Triss is better. Yarpen, a dwarf, argues with Geralt about the racial tension between humans and nonhumans and whether one can stay neutral in the face of injustice. Yarpen’s caravan includes several human soldiers on a secret mission carrying special cargo for King Henselt of Kaedwen (one of the Northern Kingdoms). Their route leads them into known Scoia’tael territory. The Scoia’tael (“squirrels” in Elder Speech) are groups of nonhumans, mainly elves, who engage in guerilla warfare against humans. Yarpen believes the Scoia’taels are unknowingly being fed propaganda by Nilfgaard.

While scouting ahead, Ciri hides to avoid a procession of elves. Geralt shows her that the elves were visiting the ruins of Shaerrawedd. He explains that Aelirenn, the White Rose of Shaerrawedd , led an army in the elves’ last great war against humans. All of Aelirenn’s forces died in battle, causing the decline of the elven population; only young elves are fertile, and nearly all the young elves were in the army. A white rosebush at the ruins symbolizes Aelirenn and her army’s bravery but also a long history of violence and grief. Ciri plucks a rose as a remembrance and then has a vision of the caravan under attack. They rush back to help.

The Scoia’taels Ciri saw in the woods attack Yarpen’s caravan. Ciri pulls Triss to safety and is nearly killed by a young elf. The elf becomes distracted by the white rose pinned to Ciri’s shirt, and Geralt kills the elf. After the Scoia’taels are defeated, Yarpen realizes the “special cargo” spilled from the overturned wagons is ordinary rocks. The dying Kaedwenian commander tells Yarpen the mission was a trap to test the dwarves’ loyalty to humans. Yarpen is saddened by the unnecessary deaths of his men, the humans, and the Scoia’tael elves. Geralt places Ciri’s white rose, now bloodied, on a dead elf’s body and asks forgiveness.

Several months later, Geralt accepts a contract from a barge company in Oxenfurt in Redania (another Northern Kingdom). A monster in the harbor has been attacking the cargo barges. Geralt debates the monster’s taxonomy with another passenger, Linus Pitt, a professor of natural history at the university in Oxenfurt. Geralt reads a letter from Ciri about her progress at the Temple and a letter from Yennefer in which the sorceress agrees to help Ciri. Geralt learns from a Redanian customs officer that Rience is looking for him. The monster attacks the barge at the same moment a Temerian ship arrives to arrest Geralt for harboring Ciri (Rience has placed a bounty on them). One of the Temerian officers falls overboard with a young boy; Geralt saves the boy and wounds the monster, but the officer is killed.

Meanwhile, Dandelion travels to the university at Oxenfurt. He meets Shani , a medical student, and asks for her help locating Geralt. After, Dandelion walks into an alley and is confronted by two spies, who take him to see Dijkstra and Philippa Eilhart. Dijkstra is the head of Redania’s intelligence service, and Philippa is King Vizimir of Redania’s court mage. They press Dandelion for information about Geralt, but Dandelion reveals nothing. Later, Dandelion goes to where Geralt is staying, finding Geralt and Shani in bed together. As they discuss sneaking Geralt out of the city, Philippa arrives in the form of an owl. Geralt says he tailed Rience to Oxenfurt and took the barge contract specifically to lure him out. Shani claims to know who Rience is and how to find him.

At a secret meeting in Hagge, Northern rulers meet to discuss Nilfgaard, the Scoia’taels, and the rumors of Ciri’s survival. They agree to try a false flag operation so they can get the Brotherhood of Sorcerers (a political organization of mages) to support an attack on Nilfgaard. They decide to eliminate the Scoia’taels, even if it means treating all nonhumans as suspects. Lastly, they argue who should marry Ciri to get legitimate control of Cintra, but since they cannot agree, they decide that if Ciri is alive, the best solution is to kill her.

Marshal Menno Coehoorn brings news about the kings’ meeting to Emperor Emhyr of Nilfgaard. The Emperor tells Coehoorn to make sure the Brotherhood learns about the meeting, and he issues new orders for Rience: Kill Geralt immediately, but do not harm Yennefer. Emhyr speaks to a young knight in black armor, saying it is time for him to correct his failure in Cintra two years ago. Meanwhile, three members of the Brotherhood—Vilgefortz, Tissaia, and Artaud—agree to call a meeting of all court mages to plan how to convince their kings to avoid another war with Nilfgaard. Tissaia sees several things hidden in Vilgefortz’s workshop that make her suspicious the mage is searching for Yennefer.

Ciri, who has now been at the Temple for some time, wakes from a dream in which she saw Geralt, Shani, and Dandelion walking in Oxenfurt and discussing Rience. Ciri overhears a heated conversation in the next room between Yennefer and Mother Nenneke; the latter accuses Yennefer of being irresponsible and heartless. Ciri goes back to sleep and dreams of Yennefer leading her down a hallway through many doors.

Meanwhile, Shani leads Geralt, Dandelion, and Philippa to a reclusive man named Myhrman, and they use an amulet Rience left Myhrman to summon the mage. Geralt nearly defeats Rience but is badly wounded. Rience escapes through another portal.

Ciri recalls first meeting Yennefer at the Temple and how they did not like each other. Through their lessons and conversations, they have grown closer. Ciri struggled with magic at first, but Yennefer reassured Ciri of her abilities. Yennefer induced a couple of trances, and after one vision, Ciri woke in pain and called Yennefer “mama.” Later, Ciri accidentally drew too much energy from a strong magical pocket in the earth and fainted; Yennefer comforted her and called her “daughter.”

In the present, Ciri and Yennefer prepare to leave the Temple. Other young novices gossip about another war between Nilfgaard and the Northern kingdoms, and Ciri is troubled. She asks Jarre , a young scribe, what he thinks about the political developments. Jarre tries to kiss her, and Ciri rejects him. Later, Yennefer reminds Ciri to be careful around Jarre since he is smart enough to figure out who she really is. Ciri and Yennefer reminisce about their time together, and in the morning, they leave the Temple.

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Blood of Elves

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The UK edition was released on 16 October 2008 by Gollancz, and a 2nd edition was released the following year on 21 May 2009. The U.S. edition was released on 1 May 2009 by Orbit.

  • 2 Characters
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Summary [ ]

The Empire of Nilfgaard attacks the Kingdom of Cintra . Queen Calanthe commits suicide and her granddaughter, Cirilla, called Ciri and nicknamed the "Lion Cub of Cintra" manages to flee from the burning capital city . Emhyr var Emreis , Emperor of Nilfgaard, sends his spies to find her. He knows that this young girl has great importance, not only because of her royal blood, but also because of her magical potential and elven blood in her veins.

The girl is being protected by Geralt of Rivia , a witcher - a magically and genetically mutated monster slayer for hire, who takes her to the witchers' keep - Kaer Morhen . There, Ciri is being taught by the other witchers, including old Vesemir , Coën , Eskel and Lambert . She learns about monsters and how to fight them. She is taught to fight with a sword in the witcher style. But during her "education", the sorceress Triss Merigold comes to Kaer Morhen. She is called by Geralt to help with occasional strange and abnormal behavior he has seen in Ciri. Triss realizes that Ciri is a Source . She acknowledges that she does not have the power to control Ciri's talent, and advises Geralt to swallow his pride and seek help with Yennefer , a more experienced sorceress and his former lover.

At the same time, a mysterious wizard called Rience is looking for the girl. He is a servant of a more powerful mage , who remains unknown. He captures Geralt's friend, Dandelion the bard, and tortures him for information about Ciri. Dandelion is saved by the timely arrival of Yennefer , who engages in a short magic combat with Rience. Rience manages to escape through a portal opened by his master, but left with a prominent facial scar from Yennefer's spell.

In the spring, Geralt leaves Kaer Morhen with Triss and Ciri, intending to deliver Ciri to the Temple School in Ellander where she would receive a "normal" education from Nenneke . On the way, Triss falls ill, and they join Yarpen Zigrin's dwarven company who is guarding a caravan for King Henselt . Geralt tells Ciri about the roses of Aelirenn , an elf who died leading the elven youths to fight the humans . The caravan is attacked by the Scoia'tael , and it is revealed that the escort mission was a trap set by the kings who doubted Yarpen's loyalty.

Meanwhile, in Hagge Castle in the Pontar Valley , Vizimir II , Demavend , Henselt , Foltest , and Meve meet in secret to discuss the Nilfgaard army who are camped on the bank of the Yaruga river. It is concluded that Ciri must be found and killed "for matters of State" and none of the others in the room speak out against this; resolving to instead remain silent in agreement.

A while later, Menno Coehoorn informs Emhyr of this secret meeting of kings in Hagge castle. Amongst other things, Emhyr tells the governor to inform the Chapter of this meeting and that orders are to be sent to Rience to have him quietly assassinate Geralt, hide, and wait for further instructions. However, he was explicitly not to harm Yennefer.

Later at Ellander, Ciri thinks she is dreaming, but sees Geralt and his party on their way to find Rience but wakes to hear Nenneke scolding Yennefer for the way she interacts with Ciri. Her stay is still haunted by disturbing dreams until the arrival of Yennefer, who starts educating her in the ways of magic. From an initial antagonism, their relationship develops into a strong and deep bond, like that of a mother and daughter.

Meanwhile, Geralt does his best to track Rience and his mysterious employer. With the help of Dandelion and Shani , he forces a confrontation with Rience, during which both are injured. Rience's master intervenes again, opening a portal for him, and Geralt is prevented from pursuing the mage by Philippa Eilhart , who also kills the last surviving of the Michelet brothers so as not to provide Geralt any source of information which might eventually reveal the mysterious mage. Eilhart then leaves behind a wounded Geralt.

Yennefer became Ciri's mentor and teacher. As they are about to leave the Temple School in Ellander, Yennefer asks Ciri whether she didn't like her at first, leading to a series of flashbacks detailing Ciri's studies with Yennefer from the day they were introduced and back to the present as they are about to leave the Temple. And Ciri responds by admitting the she didn't like her at first, but it quickly changed, they both bonded together, afterwards they leave.

Characters [ ]

For a complete list of appearing and mentioned characters, see Category:Blood of Elves characters .

For a complete list of minor characters, see Blood of Elves minor characters .

  • Demavend III
  • Emhyr var Emreis
  • Geralt of Rivia
  • Michelet brothers
  • Philippa Eilhart
  • Sigismund Dijkstra
  • Tissaia de Vries
  • Triss Merigold
  • Yarpen Zigrin
  • Yennefer of Vengerberg

Translations [ ]

Flag czech

  • The UK edition cover features J.R.R. Tolkien's tengwar alphabet, even though Sapkowski's elves use runes not in any way similar to the tengwar.

Book Covers [ ]

Polish cover (1st edition)

  • The Witcher
  • 2 Geralt of Rivia
  • 3 Yennefer of Vengerberg


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    Blood of Elves is the first novel in Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher saga, but it is the third book in the series, following the short story collections The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny.Originally published in Polish in 1994, Blood of Elves was first translated into English in 2008 by Danusia Stok.This study guide uses the first trade paperback edition of that translation, published by ...

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    The Witcher is a fantasy drama television series created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich for Netflix.It is based on the book series of the same name by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski.Set on a fictional, medieval-inspired landmass known as the Continent, The Witcher explores the legend of Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer of Vengerberg and Princess Ciri.It stars Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, and Freya Allan.

  22. The Lady of the Lake

    The Lady of the Lake (Polish: Pani Jeziora), written by Andrzej Sapkowski and first published in Poland in 1999, is the seventh book in The Witcher series and the fifth novel in the saga. It continues the story from The Tower of the Swallow. The U.S. edition was released by Orbit on 14 March 2017, with the first U.K. edition by Gollancz following a few days after on 16 March 2017. The second U ...

  23. Bob Marley: One Love Review: More of a Celebration Than a Biopic

    That synopsis above is a more concise and focused measure of Bob Marley: One Love's story than the actual film delivers. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green ( King Richard ) and his editor Pamela ...

  24. Blood of Elves

    Blood of Elves (Polish: Krew elfów) is the first novel in the Witcher saga written by Andrzej Sapkowski. It is a sequel to the Witcher short story collections Sword of Destiny and The Last Wish, and is continued by Time of Contempt. The UK edition was released on 16 October 2008 by Gollancz, and a 2nd edition was released the following year on 21 May 2009. The U.S. edition was released on 1 ...