The edition that I read had 280 pages; I tore through 205 of them in one day.
‘The Last Wish’ is on the Robert Heinlein side of fantasy, meaning it is snappy, dialogue- and action-driven, full of plot and conflict, and has very little time for subplots, exposition, or world-building.
However, this does not mean the novel is simple, or missing something. It is a masterclass in this school of fantasy, and each short story (the novel is a collection of events that Geralt is recounting to an old friend) contains an overarching fable or commentary that sticks in your mind afterwards; one character appears to have been made into a murderous monster solely because society told her that was what she was, whilst the desperate and murderous efforts of the elves to save their civilisation from being wiped out by the humans raises some questions about the moral nature of humanity as a whole, and its tendency to cause upheaval and destruction wherever it spreads.
The key theme of the novel is that Geralt, who is hated and ostracised by everyone, is usually the key figure in fixing the problems that other people have created and then been unable to solve. He is a noble figure who is used and spat out by those in society who are worse than him but more respected and accepted. This means there is a thread of bitterness that weaves its way through the whole novel, which can be depressing at times.
However, there are moments of humour and hope, too, and we meet people along the way who genuinely care for and respect Geralt, providing some much-needed relief. And by the end, Geralt’s life has been turned upside-down by a chance encounter with someone who inexorably sets him on the path towards his destiny, expanded upon in the sequels.
If you’re looking for a fantasy epic on par with The Wheel of Time, then this isn’t the book for you; it doesn’t have time for that. But it is more than just a bloodthirsty fantasy romp – there is a message in this book, and you only love Geralt even more as you see him shoulder his societal burdens with stoic silence, moving ever onwards in search of the next town to save.