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How to Read The Witcher Books in Order

Monsters and murder, witches and warlocks! The Witcher Season 3 is coming, but you've still got time to devour all the Witcher books.

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Dive into the world of The Witcher

Fantasy fans, unite! The Witcher Season 3 is coming to Netflix soon, so there’s no time like the present to catch up on Witcher-related content. Even if you haven’t binge-watched the series, you’ve probably glimpsed trailers for what many are calling one of the best shows on Netflix. You might know that the series is based on a video game, but did you realize that the game spawned from one of the best book series? Most of the Witcher books were written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski in the 1990s, but the English translations hit American bookstores years later. Since then, these fantasy books have sold like hotcakes.

Looking for a good book recommendation based on the TV show? You’ve come to the right place. There are eight Witcher books in the stack: two short story collections, a series of five and one stand-alone novel. There’s no single correct order to read the Witcher book series in, but we certainly don’t recommend diving into the Witcher world midway through. Based on character chronology (instead of publication date), we’re laying out the best order to read the Witcher books before Season 3 premieres.

Are you ready to read some of the best books to hit the shelves—and streaming—in decades? Here’s how to read the Witcher books in order.

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The Last Wish

First published in Polish in 1993, The Last Wish is a collection of short stories that serve as a prequel to the Witcher books. This is the best place to start because these pages introduce readers to Geralt of Rivia, the pivotal character in Netflix’s first season of The Witcher. While not the very first thing author Andrzej Sapkowski wrote about the Witcher world, the stories provide a solid framework for all that is to come. And, of course, the stories are delights on their own too. It’s the foundational tale of Geralt and how his intense training and natural powers have turned him into the calculated killer in everyone’s Netflix queue. The Last Wish is a great introduction to the Witcher world, especially if you love short books.

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Sword of Destiny

This 1992 short story collection is also a prequel to the Witcher books. But instead of maintaining a laser focus on Geralt, Sword of Destiny broadens the scope to include Ciri, princess of Cintra. In one of the stories, readers get a glimpse at what happened to Ciri just before the first official Witcher book, Blood of Elves. Another story, “The Bounds of Reason,” became the template for episode six (“Rare Species”) of The Witcher‘s first season. Though you could certainly read this collection before The Last Wish, reading it second gives you the best experience of cumulative world-building and lends color and imagination to the rest of the fantasy series.

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Blood of Elves

Meet the first of five core novels in the Witcher series. Now that you’ve gotten the lay of the land with The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, it’s time to dive into the fateful meeting of Geralt and Ciri. When the Emperor of Nilfgaard sets his sights on the elven princess’s magical powers, she must rely on Geralt to protect her. Despite his powers and killer instincts, the question remains: Can he keep her safely hidden from the Emperor? With themes of war and fate, this 1994 epic thriller will keep you turning pages into the wee hours of the morning.

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The Time of Contempt

This 1995 installation of the Witcher series begins where Blood of Elves ends. The Time of Contempt follows the fantastical journey of Ciri and Yennefer as they travel to install the princess in a magic school. Of course, this is a world of monsters and elves, so nothing is as simple as it seems. The journey is upended when Ciri goes rogue and forces Yennefer to trail after her. But all’s not lost. The detour gives Yennefer and Geralt a chance to meet again before escorting the princess forward on her journey. Through dangerous portals, blistering heat and kidnapping by bounty hunters, the heroes continue onward through worlds to discover that Ciri’s elven blood might be even more potent than they’d realized. It’s a surefire hit for fans of everything from sci-fi books to vampire books.

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Baptism of Fire

The third of the Witcher books (published in 1996) finds Geralt injured and Ciri teamed up with a collective of young rebels. Yennefer remains mysteriously absent through most of the book, but readers will hardly notice amid the fast-paced plots of the other two protagonists. Themes of friendship, loyalty, magic and destiny pervade. It would be easy for a series author to grow complacent in the third novel, but that’s not the case with Baptism of Fire. Sapkowski digs deep into character development and questions of good versus evil—all while maintaining a page-turning pace.

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The Tower of Swallows

The world has been turned on its head. While Baptism of Fire details Ciri’s growth through rebellion, The Tower of Swallows (1997) begs the question of what will happen to her when her independence ends. The action-packed fantasy novel shows both Ciri and Geralt on the run—her from both enemies and allies, and him from a mysterious villain who has put a bounty on his head. The race for good to triumph over evil grows tenser and tenser in this fourth installment of the Witcher books. More and more books are becoming movies and TV shows, and this is one you need to read.

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The Lady of the Lake

Published in 1999, the fifth and final of the Witcher books follows Ciri after she walks through a portal into a mysterious elven land. Unfortunately, she gets stuck there, with no clear way to return. This finale plunges readers into the princess’s most daring, dangerous mission: finding her way back home. Will Ciri get back to her land? And will Geralt survive to see her again? When you’re finished, add more monster books to your shelf with our roundup of the top horror novels of all time.

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Season of Storms

The Witcher books were written as a series, but Season of Storms, published in 2013, is a highly anticipated stand-alone novel. It offers new and compelling glimpses of Geralt of Rivia, who’s on a quest to retrieve stolen and precious goods. Think of this novel like The Horse and His Boy in the Chronicles of Narnia series. While not necessary to the main plot of the Witcher books, it adds color and depth to the fantastical world. Technically, it takes place around the time of The Last Wish. Despite that, many readers prefer saving this one for last.

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Other works of The Witcher to read

Once you’ve read the Witcher books in order, you might crave more stories set in the Witcher world. Here are some graphic novels and companion books (and even an adult coloring book!) for fans to enjoy.

Still hankering for more great fiction? Check out some of the best time travel books, Stephen King’s greatest masterpieces and some banned books it’s about time you read.

Leandra Beabout
Leandra is a lifestyle writer covering health, travel, and literature. A former high school English teacher, she covers books, words, and grammar for RD.com. When she’s not on deadline, you can find her curled up with a new library book or road-tripping through Europe or the American West.