SWORD OF DESTINY BY ANDRZEJ SAPKOWSKI , THE WITCHER SERIES #2 (BOOK REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATION)

 Hello dear readers and fellow bloggers! In this post, I will review Sword of Destiny, a fantasy book by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Published in 1992, Sword of Destiny is considered the second entry in the Witcher series. Despite the fact that The Last Wish was published the following year, it is considered the first book in the series. In total, there are eight books in the Witcher series. 

Now, you might have heard of this Witcher series as there is both a popular game and TV series based on it!  In fact, this fantasy saga has become a part of modern culture, inspiring plays, songs, comic books, television series and video games.

 This saga is so popular that it has been translated into 37 languages, making Andrzej Sapkowski the second most translated Polish author after Stanislaw Lem. Speaking of translations, I really enjoyed my Croatian translation of Sword of Destiny. Kindle books are practical, but nothing beats regular reading, that is, holding a book in your hand. If the book comes with the pretty cover, it makes everything even better, doesn't it? 

Initially, I was surprised to find that the book consisted of short stories as I expected a typical fantasy novel.  However, soon into the book, I stared to appreciate the short story format. Sapkowski is a great plot writer. I didn't mind the short story forward at all. The Witcher series originated as a short story. Sapkowski wrote the first short story about Geralt back in 1986 to join a fantasy competition.  

The author won the third place in the competition and continued writing about Geralt. That is how the Witcher series came to be- it originated with short stories. As Geralt (and some of the other characters) live very long lives, the short story format actually makes perfect sense. 

The Witcher fantasy series focuses on Geralt, a mutant that specializes in killing monsters. I first heard of this series years ago. I think I became familiar with the basic concept of the story through  the video game adaptation. I haven't actually played this game, but it's so well known that I kept seeing references to it and I couldn't avoid reading about it. If I remember correctly, some bloggers I followed were fans of the game back in the day. 

So, let's say I was familiar with the basic Witcher concepts years before the TV series. I haven't seen the TV series either, but I've seen some trailers on YouTube and I really like the actress they have chosen to play Yennefer. So, I might have a look at the series. It would be fun to compare the books and the series. Although, I generally do more reading than TV watching, so I can't really promise anything.

OUTFIT : SKIRT, BAG AND TOP WORN HERE, SHOES HERE

SWORD OF DESTINY IS THE FIRST BOOK IN THE WITCHER SERIES THAT I HAVE READ

When did I read Sword of Destiny? It was at the very start of the Summer. I picked it up in my local library in Split city along with some books that I have already reviewed on my blog. Now, it's time to review this lovely fantasy book. 

This was the first book from the Witcher series that I have read, but it wasn't the last. In fact,  as soon as I finished this one (back in July), I immediately picked up more books from the Witcher saga from my local library.  Throughout the summer, I read four books in the Witcher series. The summer officially ends on Saturday 23rd of September. I hope I'll manage to review all of them before the summer ends. Having read four books from this saga, I can certainly see its appeal. Some books are worth the hype!

“I like elven legends, they are so captivating. What a pity humans don't have any legends like that. Perhaps one day they will? Perhaps they'll create some? But what would human legends deal with? All around, wherever one looks, there's greyness and dullness. Even things which begin beautifully lead swiftly to boredom and dreariness, to that human ritual, that wearisome rhythm called life.”


ANDRZEJ SAPKOWSKY- A LINK BETWEEN J.R.R. TOLKIEN  AND GEORGE R.R. MARTIN

If I were to compare A. Sapokowki with the other fantasy authors, I would place him somewhere between Tolkien , Guy Gavrial Kay and George Martin. Sapkowski is similar to Tolkien in the sense that he writes high fantasy. Sapkowski creates an entire new world,  relies heavily on mythology  and involves non human characters. For example, Sapkowski devotes space to dwarves and elves. 

The other races are not just side characters, casually mentioned, but an important part of the Witcher saga. Moreover, elves and dwarves are portrayed quite similar to  humans, as being capable of both good and evil.

One could argue that Andrzej takes an apolitical view of the world. The world depicted in this books is obviously unfair and at times quite cruel. Sapkowski's heroes are never ideal and they often wonder- what is the point? Indeed, Sapkowski characters are very human, especially his female characters. In that sense, Sapokowsky reminds me of Guy Gavrial Kay and George R.R. Martin. That being said, Sapkowsky is less graphic than George R.R. Martin both in descriptions of violence and more intimate matters. 

Tolkien's works, seemingly simple, were actually quite complex and subtle. Tolken's subtleness can make the reader miss some of his social observations and commentary. Moreover, because of their simplicity Tolkien's works can be enjoyed by children as well.  We couldn't say the same for the other authors mentioned. 

Kay and Sapkowski are more toned down than Martin when it comes to graphic description and thus more suitable for young readers (but not children). I have to stress how much I dislike it when people use Tolkien as a negative example when they want to hype other writers, especially since Tolkien basically founded the high fantasy genre. You can be different and still be good.  Sapkowski has managed to create his own style of fantasy writing.

I feel like the following quotes explain the general worldview of the Witcher saga quite well. 

“As you correctly observed, this isn’t a fairy tale, it’s life. Lousy and evil. And so, damn it all, let’s live it decently and well. Let’s keep the amount of harm done to others to the absolute minimum.”

“I consider waging war against other races idiocy.”

“Well, what can I say, it’s a base world,’ he finally muttered. ‘But that’s no reason for us all to become despicable.”

“Life is full of hazards, selection also occurs in life, Geralt. Misfortune, sicknesses and wars also select. Defying destiny may be just as hazardous as succumbing to it.”



SWORD OF DESTINYA FANTASY COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES BY ANDRZEJ SAPOKOWSKI 5/5

SWORD OF DESTINY IS COMPOSED OF SIX UNIQUE STORIES

Sword of Destiny consists of six short stories. All of the stories feature Gerald, the witcher as the protagonist. The stories are told by an all knowing narrator whose voice is often rich with irony and sarcasm. The writing style is simple and descriptive, but at times also poetical. The stories are generally chronological, but they are not tightly bound one to another. It's not exactly sure how much time has passed between the stories or what exactly happened in that time. So, the chronology of the stories is loose. In that sense, you could say that the stories are independent one of another. All the six stories feature at least some the recurring characters from the Witcher universe. Some of these characters will become heroes of the books to follow.

When it comes to reviewing short story collections, I like to review the stories individually. It seems the fairest way to do it. So, scroll do read a separate review for every story in this book.

THE BOUNDS OF REASON 5/5


This was one of my favourie stories in the collection. It was a great introduction to the Witcher world. Moreover, the story was so well plotted and thought through. I absolutely loved the ending. Speaking of that, this review might contain some spoilers. It's hard to avoid spoilers when it comes to reviewing a short story. The story opens with Geralt who is currently busy with a job. While Geralt is busy killing a monster, some local trouble makers decide to rob him. 

This is something that is repeated throughout the series. In general, people don't like witchers. Despite the fact that witchers kills monsters and thus save lives, they are not seen as heroes by the general population. In fact, Geralt is often attacked by people. No wonder Geralt has some inner insecurities. 

However, unexpected help arrives.  Geralt receives help from a wandering knight Borch aka  "Three Jackdaws". Borch's bodyguards Tea and Vea quickly and mercilessly get rid of local trouble makers. The Zerrikanian bodyguards Tea and Vea are described as fierce fighters throughout the story. Moreover, Geralt of Rivia seems to hit it off with Borch and upon invitation joins their company. He hits it off with the girls, as well.

“There are those,' Geralt said slowly, 'who prefer the company of lepers to that of a witcher.'
'There are also those,' Three Jackdaws laughed, 'who prefer sheep to girls. Ah, well, one can only feel sorry for the former. I repeat my proposal.'
Geralt took off his glove and shook the hand being proffered.
'I accept, glad to have made your acquaintance.'
'Then let us go, for I hunger.”

The three decide to enjoy a nice meal together that ends up being a steamy evening. Borch leaves an impression of an eloquent, worldly but discreet man, a sort  that keeps his business to himself. Borch's two female bodyguards don't talk much, but the little that say will become important later on.

It turns out that Borch is not he only one looking for a green dragon. Interestingly, Geralt states that despite being a skilled witcher and monster killer, he does not kill dragons because they do not prey on people. Thus we learn more about Geralt and his code of behaviour. 

Borch and Geralt (plus bodyguards) soon join a larger party hunting the dragon. One by one, new characters join the hunting group. Everyone seems to have their own agenda for trying to capture the dragon. Nobody is really interested in saving the people, and that is definitely not a reason why everyone is after this dragon. This saga doesn't take an idealistic view of human (or dwarf or elven)  nature. The characters are rarely black and white. 

Soon, a large hunting company is formed including Geralt's friend Dandelion (a recurring character); a loud group of dwarves led by Yarpen Zigrin; a merciless mercenary group known as the Crinfrid Reavers, and another led by Boholt. There is also a chivalry-obsessed knight Eyck of Denesle; a company of men-at-arms led by the mean underage King Niedamir; and the sorcerers Dorregaray and Geralt's ex-lover Yennefer.

 As it was implied in the conversation between Borch and Gerald, Yennefer might be the real reason Geralt of Rivia stayed with the company. The party is held together by practical reasons (safety in numbers) not sympathy. They don't necessarily like one another.

Geralt follows along but he declares he will not fight or try to capture the dragon. He does not in fact kill all the monsters, just those that are dangerous to humans. Despite of that, Geralt stays with the large party, all of which is interested in capturing and killing a dragon. Geralt has an interesting conversation about it with Borch:

Witcher,’ Three Jackdaws suddenly said, ‘I want to ask you a question.’
‘Ask it.’
‘Why don’t you turn back?’
The Witcher looked at him in silence for a moment. ‘Do you really want to know?’
‘Yes, I do,’ Three Jackdaws said, turning his face towards Geralt.
‘I’m riding with them because I’m a servile golem. Because I’m a wisp of oakum blown by the wind along the highway. Tell me, where should I go? And for what? At least here some people have gathered with whom I have something to talk about. People who don’t break off their conversations when I approach. People who, though they may not like me, say it to my face, and don’t throw stones from behind a fence. I’m riding with them for the same reason I rode with you to the log drivers’ inn. Because it’s all the same to me. I don’t have a goal to head towards. I don’t have a destination at the end of the road.’
Three Jackdaws cleared his throat. ‘There’s a destination at the end of every road. Everybody has one. Even you, although you like to think you’re somehow different.’
‘Now I’ll ask you a question.’
‘Ask it.’
‘Do you have a destination at the end of the road?’
‘I do.’
‘Lucky for you.’
‘It is not a matter of luck, Geralt. It is a matter of what you believe in and what you serve. No one ought to know that better than… than a witcher.’
‘I keep hearing about goals today,’ Geralt sighed. ‘Niedamir’s aim is to seize Malleore. Eyck of Denesle’s calling is to protect people from dragons. Dorregaray feels obligated to something quite the opposite. Yennefer, by virtue of certain changes which her body was subjected to, cannot fulfil her wishes and is terribly undecided. Dammit, only the Reavers and the dwarves don’t feel a calling, and simply want to line their pockets. Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to them?’
‘You aren’t drawn to them, Geralt of Rivia. I’m neither blind nor deaf. It wasn’t at the sound of their name you pulled out that pouch. But I surmise…’
‘There’s no need to surmise,’ the Witcher said, without anger.
‘I apologise.’
‘There’s no need to apologise.”

As the story progresses, we learn more about the world this book is set in. The world is medieval in nature, similar to the world described in the saga Songs of Ice and Fire. The general human population has no political powerful whatsoever and lives in rather poor circumstances. There are kings and lords who often go to war for one reason or another, but it all revolves around attaining power. So, is the case with the king who goes to hunt for this particular dragon- he does it because he wants to attain more power. 

“Wars aren’t waged to destroy. Wars are waged for two reasons. One is power and the other is money.”

 There's also a knight character Eyck that resembles Don Quijote character created by Cervantes. Eyck is an idealistic knight that fights monsters pro bono. Gerald seems to even admire him a little as he does a job of  a witcher without asking for a reward. Nevertheless, soon it is revealed that Eyck is quite fanatical in his beliefs. In other words, he's not as charming as Don Quijote. Eyck speaks negatively of sorcerers as he thinks of them as abominations of some sort.  This is not uncommon view. Sorcerers like Yennefer often have considerable political power and are not well liked. People fear rather than like them. There is another sorcerer in the party and he has an interesting discussion with Geralt:

 ‘To me, Witcher, calling killing a vocation is loathsome, low and nonsensical. Our world is in equilibrium. The annihilation, the killing, of any creatures that inhabit this world upsets that equilibrium. And a lack of equilibrium brings closer extinction; extinction and the end of the world as we know it.’ ‘A druidic theory,’ Geralt pronounced. ‘I know it. An old hierophant expounded it to me once, back in Rivia. Two days after our conversation he was torn apart by wererats. It was impossible to prove any upset in equilibrium.”

Geralt's meeting with his ex-lover isn't exactly friendly, either. It's obvious Yennefer is furious with him because he left her. Moreover, it's implied that Yennefer is the kind of woman one should not mess around with. 



“I believe you, why not?’ she finally said. ‘Men like to meet their former lovers, like to relive memories. They like to imagine that erstwhile erotic ecstasies give them some kind of perpetual ownership of their partner. It enhances their self-importance. You are no exception. In spite of everything.”

Geralt and Yennefer exchange increasingly icy words, as for example when he accuses the sorcerers for killing dragons because of the greed for their treasure. Yennefer talks about how dragons endanger cities and thus the future of mankind. 

Geralt  hints at how every time a dragon is destroyed, the market is flooded with gems and treasures, alluding that financial reasons are behind Yennefer's reasoning. However, it turns out that Yennefer wants the dragon because she believes it will help cure her infertility. Her reasons might be selfish in some ways, but they are not as base as some of the others. 

During their search, Geralt explains that gold dragons are myths and that they don't exist but what you know! Suddenly they happen upon a golden dragon that speaks. The group beholds in awe  Villentretenmerth, the golden dragon. This eloquent dragon promises a fair fight to anybody willing to confront him.  

Eyck volunteers quite stupidly and dies in a rather non impressive way. At this point, I didn't care much for him as a reader. He wasn't as neither charming as Don Quixote nor as noble. There was no tragedy in Eyck's death. Maybe that was the writer's intention, to ridicule fanaticism. There's a lot of humour in these stories and at times the humour is  quite dark. 

Anyhow, after the Eyck of Denesle's rather idiotic acceptance of challenge and not surprising subsequent loss and death, the party's commitment is weakened. They can see that the dragon is more powerful than they imagined. It's also another dragon altogether, not the green one they were after.  Soon the members of King Niedamir's cadre depart. This is where the story really becomes interesting. Twists and turns everywhere! The golden dragon that talks and he is there to defend another dragon. An interesting question appears. Who is the real monster, humans or dragons? As the golden dragon points out: 

“That is right,’ the dragon interrupted. ‘Well, it’s the times we live in. For some time, creatures, which you usually call monsters, have been feeling more and more under threat from people. They can no longer cope by themselves. They need a Defender. Some kind of… Witcher.’

THERE IS A FIGHT AND YENNEFER SHOWS BOTH HER TOUGH AND SOFT SIDE

“Stop staring at me this instant!" the sorceress shouted at Geralt. She writhed like a snake in her bonds in a vain attempt to conceal her naked charms. Geralt obediently diverted his eyes. Dandelion didn't.”

There is a scene where Geralt turns away his gaze, and Dandelion doesn't. 

A BABY DRAGON HURRIES TO YENNEFER

A baby dragon appears as well and hurries to Yennefer. I found it delightfully ironical. She wanted to kill the dragon in an effort to cure her infertility and how the dragonling is drawn to her :

“The dragonling, stumbling and dragging its bulging belly across the ground, scurried unsteadily over to the wagon, squealed, stood on its hind legs, stretched out its little wings, and then without a second’s thought clung to the sorceress’s side. Yennefer, with an extremely queer look on her face, sighed loudly. ‘It likes you,’ Geralt murmured. ‘He’s young, but he ain’t stupid,’ Dandelion twisting in his fetters, grinned. ‘Look where he’s stuck his snout. I’d like to be in his shoes, dammit. Hey, little one, run away! That’s Yennefer! Terror of dragons! And witchers. Well, at least one witcher....”

 I won't reveal the ending, but I will say that Borch is not what he seemed to be. After some unexpected events and plot twists, Gerald and Yennefer must work together to survive and they do. As the story ends, Gerald and Yennefer part their separate ways after hearing a bittersweet prophecy about their relationship from the golden dragon himself. 



A SHARD OF ICE 4/5

This story is mostly about Geralt and Yennefer relationship. We do get more details about the world they are in, but the focus is on them. In this story Geralt and Yennefer are back together. They are staying in  a town Aedd Gynvael. As the story opens, Geralt hunts and kills a zeugl that was dwelling in a waste dump outside of Aedd Gynvael. Once again, we see he is not well liked but Geralt is not particularly bothered by it. There is a warrior Cicada Gerald comes into conflict with and it's obvious they will clash later on, but as I said, that's not the primary focus of this story.

“The Witcher nodded to indicate he had heard of him. He also knew the price that had been offered for Cicada’s head in Vizima, Caelf and Vattweir. Had he been asked his opinion he would have said it was a low price. But he had not been asked.”

 Geralt returns to Yennefer at their inn and complains of the confusion and irritability that  the town's environment is causing him. Geralt is used to living on a road and he feels restless in the town. Moreover, his instincts might be telling him more. Yennefer is the one who is more knowledgeable, possessing the knowledge of magic, but Geralt's instincts are often on point. Yennefer wants to stay in the town as she is not only doing business but seeing her sorcerer friend Istredd. Moreover, she responds she enjoys the town and its history. So, Yennefer urges that they remain. 


“Elves can couch everything in pretty words,’ he muttered drowsily, running his lips over her shoulder. ‘It’s not a legend at all, Yen. It’s a pretty description of the hideous phenomenon that is the Wild Hunt, the curse of several regions. An inexplicable, collective madness, compelling people to join a spectral cavalcade rushing across the sky. I’ve seen it. Indeed, it often occurs during the winter. I was offered rather good money to put an end to that blight, but I didn’t take it. There’s no way of dealing with the Wild Hunt…”

Soon a confrontation between Istredd and Geralt follows but the aftermath is not what one would expect. At any rate, it is not what I as a reader expected.  The sorcerer Istredd and Geralt meet. Istredd throws the usual insults at Geralt, claiming how Geralt is incapable of emotions, being a witcher and all. Their animosity is to be expected. 

Istredd announces that he asked Yennefer to marry him.  Istredd seems honest in his feelings and there is even a feeling that the men understand one another even if they hate one another. Yennefer had asked Istredd for time to think and not surprisingly Istredd wants Geralt out of the picture. Geralt has no intention of backing down, though. However, so is the case with Istredd. When Geralt tells him that Yennefer and he made love in the evening, the sorcerer responses they made love in the morning. 

“For the reason,” he shot back, “that last night she made love with me, and not with you.”

What I found interesting is that when Geralt returns to Yennefer he tells her something along the lines of her not being an ordinary woman and thus not falling under ordinary sense of morals. At any rate, it seems that Geralt is ready to reserve his  judgement or even not to judge her at all. I thought that part was interesting as it reveals Geralt as a non judgmental type even if he naturally feels jealousy.



“Emotions, whims and lies, fascinations and games. Feelings and their absence. Gifts, which may not be accepted. Lies and truth. What is truth? The negation of lies? Or the statement of a fact? And if the fact is a lie, what then is the truth? Who is full of feelings which torment him, and who is the empty carapace of a cold skull? Who? What is truth, Geralt? What is the essence of truth?’
‘I don’t know, Yen. Tell me.’
‘No,’ she said and lowered her eyes. For the first time. He had never seen her do that before. Never.
‘No,’ she repeated.
‘I cannot, Geralt. I cannot tell you that. That bird, begotten from the touch of your hand, will tell you. Bird? What is the essence of truth?’
‘Truth,’ the kestrel said, ‘is a shard of ice.”


 Geralt and Yennefer have a pretty honest discussion. She tells him about Istredd and their relationship, elaborating on how the mag has been there for her, how friendship between sorcerers can benefit them and so on. 

Geralt and Yennefer also talk about their relationship but resolve nothing. Yennefer creates a magic bird in search of an answer but the bird returns with the message- the truth is a shard of ice. Its words are a play on a motif from the Snow White fairy tale and legend.  Meanwhile, Geralt and Istredd agree to the duel to the death.  I won't reveal how this story ends, but I will say there is a bitter-sweetness to it.


“For there are some… things… which there is no way of obtaining, even by magic. And there are gifts which may not be accepted, if one is unable to… reciprocate them… with something equally precious. Otherwise such a gift will slip through the fingers, melt like a shard of ice gripped in the hand. Then only regret, the sense of loss and hurt will remain…”

OUTFIT: 30 WAYS TO WEAR PLEATED SKIRT HERE & 20 WAYS  HEELED SANDALS


ETERNAL FRAME 4/5

This short story introduces an interesting character and a creature. Perhaps we could call them a separate race. A mimic is a creature perfectly capable of imitating any human creature. It seems that these creatures who were once living in the wild, have started moving to the cities as their habitat was lost to urban developments. Ecological themes are actually quite common in A. Sapokowi's saga.

 Anyhow, I just found the whole concept very interesting and I enjoy how the story was plotted. For such a short story, there were lots of twists and turns. Besides mimics, we are also introduced to another race and that's halflings. They seem similar to hobbits but in the Sapokowki's world they are more business savvy. Speaking of business mentioned in this story, with banks and so on, it seems that the world building in this one is more based on late medieval period and early Renaissance than medieval period as such. It seems that different parts of this fictional universe are developing differently, with cities being more developed and thus more Renaissance like.  

Eternal Frame also features Dandelion, a troubadour poet who is a recurring character in the Witcher series. When Geralt meets him in Novigrad, Dandelion is just being thrown out by his lover Vesbula.  Dandelion is an amusing character. He's always getting intro trouble of some kind. Gerald usually helps him out, but he benefits from his company as well for Dandelion is an honest friend.


“Now you’re lying, Dandelion.’ ‘Not lying, just embellishing, and there’s a difference.”

......

“For me,” mused Dandelion, “a mattress without a young woman isn't a mattress at all. It is incomplete happiness...”

The two go to enjoy a few drinks together in a nearby inn when they happen on somebody else.  Dandelion meets and then requests supper from his buddy, the halfling trader Dainty Biberveldt, in exchange for paying his unpaid tab. Geralt initially frightens Dainty, but the three soon end up chatting and relaxing with their drinks, until another Dainty appears.  This second Dainty is beaten up. He turns out to be the real Dainty. The creature they have been talking to is a mimic who introduces himself as Dudu. 

A mimic, also referred to as a vexling or a doppler, is a creature that can not only change into others, but mimic their personality. The Dainty that Geralt and Dandelion were speaking to is one of these mimics. It turns out that Dudu has beaten up Dainty and took his horses and wagon. Moreover, Dudu sold them to pay for what appeared to be worthless things under Dainty's name, leaving Dainty in debts.

 However, upon close inspection it will be revealed that the purchases were not so careless. However, at this point this is unknown. Dudu manages to escape and Dainty has to find  a way to catch him. What I found interesting is whole concept of mimics. They seem to be fully sentient beings but many regard them as monsters and hunt them. Obviously, Geralt isn't one of those and it is clear he doesn't regard Dudu as a monster.  Nevertheless, they have to find Dudu if only to save him from himself! This was really such a great story, very eventful and fast paced but at the same time it contained some deep messages. 

“I am you,’ he repeated. ‘No,’ the Witcher countered, ‘you are not. And do you know why? Because you’re a poor, little, good-natured doppler. A doppler who, after all, could have killed Biberveldt and buried his body in the undergrowth, by so doing gaining total safety and utter certainty that he would not be unmasked, ever, by anybody, including the halfling’s spouse, the famous Gardenia Biberveldt. But you didn’t kill him, Tellico, because you didn’t have the courage. Because you’re a poor, little, good-natured doppler, whose close friends call him Dudu. And whoever you might change into you’ll always be the same. You only know how to copy what is good in us, because you don’t understand the bad in us. That’s what you are, doppler.”


A LITTLE SACRIFICE 4/5

Geralt and Dandelion are again at the centre of this story. This story reveals a sweet side to Dandelion, as shown in his sincere friendship to his friend Essi. The story opens with Geralt working s a translator. Instead of his usual monster killing duties, Gerald is employed to ac as a translator between a mermaid and a duke who are in love. The duke doesn't speak the mermaid tongue, so Geralt translates. He isn't proficient in the tongue, but he will do. Duke Agloval proposes to his lover, the mermaid Sh'eenaz but it seems that the two cannot meet on common ground. Ultimately, the marriage proposal is unsuccessful because neither party agrees to transform themselves to live with the other. It doesn't help that duke is a difficult man and Sh'eenaz is not sure of his love. Duke Agloval even refuses to pay Geralt. This is something that happens a lot, it seems. Gerald is rarely paid well and he's sometimes not payed at all. Not a very profitable job he is in! 

Geralt is a bit cheered up when he meets up with Dandelion. In the evening, Dandelion and Geralt hear a well known singer Essi sing. Essi and Dandelion exchange some insults, but it turns out it's just a friendly banter as they are actually close friends. Dandelion views Essi as his little sister. The friendship between the two singers is so genuine and sweet. 

What to say about Essi, also  known as  "Little Eye"? She's young, kind talented and beautiful. Essi seems to take an instant liking to Gerald. The witcher seems to be shun by most people, but he seems to be particularly attractive to some women. More often than not, these women are mighty impressive women! 

The duke has a new job for Geralt  and is not embarrassed to ask for his help despite not paying him. It seems that a tragedy occurred, as a pearl-diving boat was found floating alone in the ocean, covered with blood,  with the crew presumably killed. This is possibly the work of a sea monster so it calls for a witcher and surely enough  Geralt accepts the job. Is it out of sense of duty or necessity? Who knows? Geralt and Dandelion are so utterly broke, they are actually starving. Someone might be starved for tenderness for that evening Gerald and Essi kiss.

The following day, Geralt begins his investigation but he fails to find volunteers to take him to the site of ship's location. Essi is by Geralt's side and most willing to help him. Essi speaks to Sh'eenaz in mermaid languge and sounds fluent in it. The singer, unlike Gerald, speaks the language beautifully and melodically

Sh'eenaz warns Geralt away, implying great danger but Gerald is compelled to continue his search, motivated either by his sense of duty or by an empty stomach or by both. Who knows? Essi's nautical advice helps Geralt to find the site. Dandelion and Geralt embark on the dangerous journey. Dandelion searches for a pearl along the way because it's Essi's birthday. The two are eventually attacked by undersea creatures and barely escape with their lives. The story does not end there, though. There is a whole subplot with the sea creatures, the mermaid and the duke that is only resolved at the end of the story. What I found more interesting was the story of Essi. I was genuinely moved by it.

Anyhow, with the mermaid's help, Geralt and Dandelion manage to make it back alive, much to Essi's relief. While dressing Geralt's wounds, Essi admits her feelings. As beautiful and kind as Essi is, Geralt doesn't return her feelings because he is in love with Yennefer. So, being with Essi is a sacrifice for him. I wondered a little bit why he would call it a sacrifice. It sounds a bit absurd. It's not like Gerald usually has a problem being with somebody else. Neither he nor Yennefer are particularly celibate. I think it's more about the feelings involved. 

Geralt feels insecure about himself because he is a witcher. He is afraid that what people say is true- that he is not capable of emotion. There's also the fact that he really wants Yennefer but is unable to find a way for their love to work. Like in our world, love in the Witcher universe, is a complicated emotion.

“I always thought it was a beautiful and noble state of mind, noble and dignified, even if it makes one unhappy. After all, I’ve composed so many ballads about it. And it is organic, Geralt, meanly and heart-breakingly organic. Someone who is ill or who has drunk poison might feel like this. Because like someone who has drunk poison, one is prepared to do anything in exchange for an antidote. Anything. Even be humiliated.”

 Moreover, Essi is not just some random one night stand. She is a kind girl who has genuine feelings. I think her love reminds him of his feelings for Yennefer. So, the moments of tenderness they share together are actually quite bittersweet for them both.

“A little sacrifice, he thought, just a little sacrifice. For this will calm her, a hug, a kiss, calm caresses. She doesn’t want anything more. And even if she did, what of it? For a little sacrifice, a very little sacrifice, is beautiful and worth… Were she to want more… It would calm her. A quiet, calm, gentle act of love. And I… Why, it doesn’t matter, because Essi smells of verbena, not lilac and gooseberry, doesn’t have cool, electrifying skin. Essi’s hair is not a black tornado of gleaming curls, Essi’s eyes are gorgeous, soft, warm and cornflower blue; they don’t blaze with a cold, unemotional, deep violet. Essi will fall asleep afterwards, turn her head away, open her mouth slightly, Essi will not smile in triumph. For Essi… Essi is not Yennefer.”



What I liked most about this story is how it revealed a soft side to Dandelion who is generally depicted as a bit selfish if charming, intelligent and talented. Here it's obvious that he is capable of honest and genuine friendship. He really loved Essi as a younger sister.

 I found it genuinely tragic when I read about Essi's death. There was a feeling of genuine sorrow there on part of Dandelion. In addition, Essi's death seems to match the atmosphere of this book. In the Witcher universe, it's often the innocents that suffer. This saga isn't exactly optimistic. I think it's what I like about it. This story is set in a fantasy universe, but it feels very realistic. The only thing I didn't like about this story was how cold Geralt was to Essi. I know that he couldn't help it, but still. She deserved better. 

The ending of the story with the ballad Dandelion wrote about Geralt and Essi was incredibly touching

“Dandelion, staring into the dying embers, sat much longer, alone, quietly strumming his lute. It began with a few bars, from which an elegant, soothing melody emerged. The lyric suited the melody, and came into being simultaneously with it, the words bending into the music, becoming set in it like insects in translucent, golden lumps of amber.
The ballad told of a certain witcher and a certain poet. About how the witcher and the poet met on the seashore, among the crying of seagulls, and how they fell in love at first sight. About how beautiful and powerful was their love. About how nothing - not even death - was able to destroy that love and part them.
Dandelion knew that few would believe the story told by the ballad, but he was not concerned. He knew ballads were not written to be believed, but to move their audience.
Several years later, Dandelion could have changed the contents of the ballad and written about what had really occurred. He did not. For the true story would not have move anyone. Who would have wanted to hear that the Witcher and Little Eye parted and never, ever, saw each other again? About how four years later Little Eye died of the smallpox during an epidemic raging in Vizima? About how he, Dandelion, had carried her out in his arms between corpses being cremated on funeral pyres and buried her far from the city, in the forest, alone and peaceful, and, as she had asked, buried two things with her: her lute and her sky blue pearl. The pearl from which she was never parted.
No, Dandelion stuck with his first version. And he never sang it. Never. To no one.
Right before the dawn, while it was still dark, a hungry, vicious werewolf crept up to their camp, but saw that it was Dandelion, so he listened for a moment and then went on his way.”


 SWORD OF DESTINY 5/5


“The Sword of Destiny has two edges. You are one of them. The other is... Death. ”

This short story focuses on Geralt's destiny as he meets Ciri, the child of surprise. Ciri becomes Geralt's adopted daughter and is an extremely important character in the saga. This story also introduces dryads, who are another sentient race in the Witcher universe.

 Sapkowki introduces an interesting moral dilemma in this story. How far should we go to protect nature? How far can we go to protect our culture and way of life?  Dryads have become cruel in many ways, shooting intruders, but do they really have a choice? Do they have the right to kill to protect themselves?

Dryads are an exclusively female (elder) race that lives in harmony with nature. They wear camo clothes that make them nearly impossible to spot and they are fiercely protective of their habitat. They mate with humans and elves, but they also sometimes abduct female children. The reader learns a lot about them by the end of the story. The situation is complex. As a human being that is also a mutant, Geralt seems to understand these female forest warriors better than most. 

As the story opens Geralt is on his way to see the queen of the dryads, Eithne who resides in Brokilon, as he has  message from King Venzlav to deliver. Gerald finds bodies left by the dryads and is horrified to see the victims, especially an adolescent boy. Gerald is uncertain will dryads spare him, but he must try.

Dryads have an unique culture and view of the world. They fiercely defend  Brokilon, the Last Forest. In the past, dryads would fire warning arrows to warn intruders.  After many years of wars and conflicts with humans, dryads shoot to kill. Their war with mankind has made them cruel.


“Geralt looked around, and quickly and easily found what he was hunting for. A second, identical arrow, lodged in the trunk of a pine tree, around six paces behind the corpse. He knew what had happened. The boy had not understood the warning, and hearing the whistle and thud of the arrow had panicked and begun to run the wrong way. Towards the one who had ordered him to stop and withdraw at once. The hissing, venomous, feathered whistle and the short thud of the arrowhead cutting into the wood. Not a step further, man, said that whistle and that thud. Begone, man, get out of Brokilon at once. You have captured the whole world, man, you are everywhere. Everywhere you introduce what you call modernity, the era of change, what you call progress. But we want neither you nor your progress here. We do not desire the changes you bring. We do not desire anything you bring. A whistle and a thud. Get out of Brokilon! Get out of Brokilon, thought Geralt. Man. No matter that you are fifteen and struggling through the forest, insane with fear, unable to find your way home. No matter that you are seventy and have to gather brushwood, because otherwise they will drive you from the cottage for being useless, they will stop giving you food. No matter that you are six and you were lured by a carpet of little blue flowers in a sunny clearing. Get out of Brokilon! A whistle and a thud. Long ago, thought Geralt, before they shot to kill, they gave two warnings. Even three. Long ago, he thought, continuing on his way. Long ago. Well, that’s progress.”


Gerald finally finds one survivor, who happens to be his friend Freixenet. His friend is wounded so Gerald helps him. His friend explains they have entered the forest looking for a little girl who got lost. Gerald knows the dryads, so he calls out to them, speaking in their tongue, hoping they won't kill them both.

Dryads spare Geralt and the dryad Braenn agrees to take him to her queen Eithne. It is not sure what will happen to his friend, but it is possible the dryads will spare him. Geralt notices that Braenn was not born a dryad but is in fact a stolen human child that was raised in their culture. However, Braenn  is as skilled as her sisters. Together they  encounter and kill a giant centipede who was threatening Ciri. This girl is the same child that the man were searching for. Ciri is a young princess that has wandered of the forest and she has an attitude to match. 

Orphan? Humph!’ she growled. ‘I’m a princess, not an orphan. And I have a grandmamma. And my grandmamma is a queen, so you’d better be careful. When I tell her you wanted to give me the strap, my grandmamma will order your head chopped off, you’ll see.’ 

‘Ghastly! Ciri, have mercy!’ ‘Not a chance!’ 

‘But you’re a good little girl. And beheading hurts awfully. You won’t say anything, will you?’ 

‘I will.’ 

‘Ciri.’ 

‘I will, I will, I will! 

Afraid, are you?’ 

‘Dreadfully. You know, Ciri, you can die from having your head cut off.’ 

‘Are you mocking me?’ 

‘I wouldn’t dream of it.”


 Ciri and Geralt take an instant liking one to another and the girl is eager to talk. Ciri elaborates that she is a princess and was going to be married off to Prince Kistrin, son of King Ervyll, that being the main reason why she ran away. Ciri doesn't like the idea of an arranged marriage. Ciri joins the party and they continue their path towards the heart of the forest. When they make camp, Geralt tells Ciri a good night story. Geralt notices that Braenn listens eagerly to the story and feels sorry for her, as it reminds him of his own childhood:

Little dryads fell asleep listening raptly to the wind blowing in the trees. Little witchers fell asleep listening raptly to their aching arms and legs. Our eyes also shone like Braenn’s when we listened to the tales of Vesemir in Kaer Morhen. But that was long ago… So long ago…

Geralt is an orphan of sorts, raised by the Witchers. So, is Braenne. She was once a human girl, before she was abducted by dryads. The Witcher can relate to Braenne as they are both outcasts in a way. Moreover, they were both trained to kill. However, Geralt was taught to kill monsters, but Braenne was taught to kill human beings.  Geralt sees that dryads are becoming increasingly cruel as their war with humans continues. Are dryads becoming what they oppose? Geralt realizes that some day Braenne might be haunted by nightmares and guilt about the lives she has taken. Especially, since it seems that the dryads are fighting a losing battle. 

“It is easy to kill with a bow, girl. How easy it is to release the bowstring and think, it is not I, it is the arrow. The blood of that boy is not on my hands. The arrow killed him, not I. But the arrow does not dream anything in the night.”


In the morning they continue on their way. With Braenn as their guide, Geralt and Ciri arrive safely to  Duen Canell, the heart of Brokilon. Geralt's eyes are bound, so he cannot see the way.  Geralt is worried because Ciri's eyes are not bound. It means that Ciri won't be let out of the forest, that is, the dryads want to keep her. 

Geralt responds with a melancholy answer to Ciri's descriptions of the path to Duen Canell. Even if Geralt is saddened by how cruel the dryads have become, he understand why it is so. Moreover, he  must also admit they are saving numerous animal and plant species.

Dryads love the nature and would never hurt even a tree. They never light fires, instead they use lights of their own, perhaps some variant of natural light that occurs in some species like fireflies or lighting bugs. Dryads have a way of making the trees grown in the direction they choose.  In some sense, Geralt is often a bridge between different cultures.  As Ciri describes the beauty of the forest, Geralt is sad that nobody really understand it. 

“Oh, Geralt,’ he heard Ciri’s voice. ‘How delightful it is here… Pity you can’t see. There are so many flowers. And birds. Can you hear them singing? Oh, there’s so many of them. Heaps. Oh, and squirrels. Careful, we’re going to cross a stream, over a stone bridge. Don’t fall in. Oh, so many little fishes! Hundreds. They’re swimming in the water, you know. So many little animals, oh my. There can’t be so many anywhere else.’ 

‘There can’t,’ he muttered. ‘Nowhere else. This is Brokilon.’ 

‘What?’ ‘Brokilon. The Last Place.’ 

‘I don’t understand.’ 

No one understands. No one wants to understand.”


It turns out that Geralt's friend Freixenet is alive and well if captive. Dryads have treated his wounds, as they plan to keep him to impregnate some of them. About this matters they are entirely practical and not romantic at all.  Nevertheless, there are always exceptions. It is revealed that Geralt once loved a dryad and she loved him back. She is no longer alive, but it explains the mix of warmth and coldness with which dryads treat Geralt. He is neither their friend nor their enemy. 

You, the Elder Folk, like to say that hatred is alien to you, that it is a feeling known only to humans. But it is not true. You know what hatred is and are capable of hating, you merely evince it a little differently, more wisely and less savagely. But because of that it may be more cruel.”

Soon the clever little Ciri figures out that the dryads plan to keep her. As I said, the dryads abduct and  raise young girls into their culture. Their numbers are falling down and they need a constant supply of archers to defend the forest. Geralt talks with the queen Eithne. It is revealed that it is her daughter that Geralt loved and Eithne seems to hold him responsible for her death in some indirect way. The queen and Geralt converse with a strange mix of seriousness, tenderness and bitterness. Geralt delivers message from the king, but Eithne sees through it. She wants nothing to do with kings, even if it seems that she is somewhat aware of the fact that she is fighting a losing battle.  The two talk of many things, but in particular they discuss destiny, the "doubled-edged sword". Geralt hopes that the queen will let Ciri go, but he knows there is nothing he can do to change her mind. I won't reveal the ending of this story, but I will say that nobody can escape his destiny. 


“You've taken everything from me..."
"No," she interrupted. "Me, I take nothing. I only take by the hand. So that no-one must be alone and lost in the fog... Goodbye, Gerald of Rivia. Some other day.”



SOMETHING MORE 5/5

This story also focuses heavily on destiny. Geralt saves the merchant Yurga from monsters that had attacked Yurga's cart. Geralt does it after exacting the Law of Surprise from him. In this way, the witchers get people to hand children to them. Children that will be raised as witchers. 

Geralt  fights and ultimately defeats the monsters. However, he barely escapes with his life and is seriously wounded. Yurga helps him, puts him in his cart and gives Geralt one of his healing potions. This knocks out Geralt. He then  dreams of his memories. When he wakes up, he is surprised that Yurga helped him. Geralt even implies that he is what he expects from people, to be left to die like a dog.

“The merchant, lowering his head, said nothing. ‘Well, what can I say, it’s a base world,’ he finally muttered. ‘But that’s no reason for us all to become despicable. What we need is kindness. My father taught me that and I teach it to my sons.”


Geralt dreams two memory dreams. In the first memory dream, he revives a change meeting with Yen. Geralt spends a night with Yennefer during a festival night. They part as always. In the second dream, Geralt visits Cintra and notices children playing outside. Queen Calanthe tells him to guess which child is Pavetta's but Gerald doesn't want to claim by the Witcher's Law of Surprise. Queen Calathe plays a trick on Geralt by hiding Ciri away from him and claiming that her daughter had a son instead, but it doesn't matter as Gerald wasn't planning on taking the child anyway.

Eventually, Geralt wakes up and to his surprise he find that the young looking woman who is curing him is in fact his mother who abandoned him. His mother doesn't answer his questions, though. There is no teary reunion between mother and son. The whole episode is bittersweet, much like Geralt's relationship with Yen. Perhaps Geralt suffers from fear of abandonment. Perhaps Yen does do. After helping Geralt his mother leaves on his way. 

Geralt continues his travel with Yurga, who wants to honour his promise and give him one of his sons. The two have an interesting conversation:

'I don't know,' said Geralt with effort. 'I don't know, Yurga. Sometimes it seems to me that I know. And sometimes I have doubts. Would you like your son to have doubts like that?'
'Why not?' the merchant said gravely. 'He might as well. For it's a human and a good thing.'
'What?'

'Doubts. Only evil, sir, never has any. But no one can escape his destiny.”


Geralt is reluctant to take Yurga upon his promise and take his son to be a witcher.  However, when they arrive to Yurga's home, he finds a  child that Yurga's wife has adopted and saved from the war. That child is none other than Ciri, his destiny. So, it turns out that what Yurga said was wise indeed. No man can escape his destiny. 

“Geralt!’ the little girl repeated, clinging to the Witcher’s chest. 

‘You found me! I knew you would! I always knew! I knew you’d find me!’ 

‘Ciri,’ said the Witcher. 

Yurga could not see his face hidden among the mousy hair. He saw hands in black gloves squeezing the girl’s back and shoulders. 

‘You found me! Oh, Geralt! I was waiting all the time! For so very long… We’ll be together now, won’t we? Now we’ll be together, won’t we? Say it, Geralt! Forever! Say it!’ 

‘Forever, Ciri.’ 

‘It’s like they said! Geralt! It’s like they said! Am I your destiny? Say it! Am I your destiny?’ 

Yurga saw the Witcher’s eyes. And was very astonished. He heard his wife’s soft weeping, felt the trembling of her shoulders. He looked at the Witcher and waited, tensed, for his answer. He knew he would not understand it, but he waited for it. And heard it. 

‘You’re more than that, Ciri. Much more.”


All in all, this was a wonderful story that tied the whole book really nicely. 

MEMORABLE QUOTES ABOUT  WITCHER AND DANDELION

Dandelion is a character that has grown on me. He comes off as selfish, but they are layers to him. Dandelion and Geralt are two very different people, but their friendship is very genuine. 

THE WITCHER 

“Do you know what your problem is, Geralt? You think you're different. You flaunt your otherness, what you consider abnormal. You aggressively impose that abnormality on others, not understanding that for people who think clear-headedly you're the most normal man under the sun, and they all wish that everybody was so normal.”

“Do you want to break Roach’s back?’ ‘

Is it Roach? Roach was a bay, and she’s a chestnut.’ 

‘All of my horses are called Roach.”

DANDELION

“Geralt knew that bonnet and that feather, which were famed from the Buina to the Yaruga, known in manor houses, fortresses, inns, taverns and whorehouses. Particularly whorehouses.”

“Dandelion,’ the Witcher sighed, now genuinely tired. ‘You’re a cynic, a lecher, a womaniser and a liar. And there’s nothing, believe me, nothing complicated about that. Goodnight.”

“You would do better not to attract attention, O poet. Your fiancee is here. There could be trouble.'
'Fiancee?' Dandilion blinked nervously. 'Which one do you mean? I have several.”


SUMMER READS: 

NOWHERE IN AFRICA: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL BY STEPHANIE ZWEIG  / FABLES FOR ROBOTS BY STANISLAW LEM /THE LATHE OF HEAVEN BY URSULA K. LE GUIN




Thank you for reading. Have a nice day!

Comments

  1. Your Drawings are beautiful. I read the Book from Stefan Zweig long Time ago. Thank you for the reminder of that. Happy Weekend

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  2. Es un genial libro te mando un beso.

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  3. Wow! What a review. I have friends who love this series. And usually, it is checked out at our local library. Thanks so much! Thanks for all your artwork you included in the piece too. As always, you are so inspiring. Thanks for being here (✿◡‿◡)

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  4. It does sound like some very interesting characters in this series. I am glad you have found it worthy in science fiction. Some fantastic outfits you have too and so great to see your artwork in the collages too. I hope that is going well for you. (✿◕‿◕✿) Thanks so much for your comments. All the best to what inspires your Autumn.

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  5. I don't think I've ever read such an eloquent and detailed set of reviews on a series of short stories before! Bravo to you! I'd heard of the series mainly because of Who cosplayers who I follow on insta also cosplaying Yennifer and talking about Witcher. I was interested what you wrote about Tolkien. I read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings first when I was 9 and as you say, it is very approachable for children whereas others would not be. I think I like the sound of A Little Sacrifice best.x

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. It was a beautiful story for sure.

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  6. i love this series! It has a magic !

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  7. I must confess I've never heard of the author ... but what an amazing, in-depth review you have given this collection of short stories, Ivana! xxx

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    Replies
    1. Thanks dear. I like to write long reviews. If I had the time, I'd always opt for long reviews.

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  8. My husband became curious about this book series after watching the television series. It would be interesting to see how the show differs from the books.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Rowena. From what I heard, there are some differences but the adaptation isn't bad.

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  9. Hello dear, I had heard of The Witcher series although I did not know that it was based on this book and author, fantasy is a genre that attracts me a lot and keeps me entertained, so I will look for the series and the book because I have been left wanting After reading your review, I loved seeing your illustrations and looks again, kisses from Peru!

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  10. Your reviews are so detailed, they must take an absolute age to write and illustrate. I struggle with the fantasy genre, I prefer my books and TV more like real life. xxxx

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  11. Hello, Ivana,
    This post is a treatise on fantastic books. I have to tell you that it's not my favourite genre, I've never heard of the game or the TV series, sorry about that! I can tell from the way you write that you're a fan and a connoisseur of the main writers in this genre! I love seeing your art together with fragments of the book's story! I admire these writers just for the fact that they recreate worlds so different from ours!
    xoxo

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  12. I love the drawings you have to accompany this review! We love The Witcher series on Netflix, but I haven't read the books. They sound awesome!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

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  13. This sounds like an amazing book
    Thanks for share your detailed review with us

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  14. Although I have not read these books, I still appreciate you sharing some of them.
    Sustainable Kloisonne bags

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have heard alot about this book
    https://www.melodyjacob.com/2023/09/how-to-style-draped-sleeve-line-sweetheart-tulle-wedding-dress-for-christmas.html

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  16. This book sounds so interesting. Love all your drawings! Beautiful photography as well.

    https://www.chicnpink.com/

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  17. A part of me is shocked that you liked this one! It's great to read your review. Thanks for the presences of your beautiful art too! All the best to your creativity!

    ReplyDelete
  18. What an amazing review Ivana. You look lovely in your photos

    ReplyDelete

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All your comments mean a lot to me, even the criticism. Naravno da mi puno znači što ste uzeli vrijeme da nešto napišete, pa makar to bila i kritika. Per me le vostre parole sono sempre preziose anche quando si tratta di critiche.

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