War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – Book Review

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - Book Cover

Tolstoy’s monumental work titled “War and Peace,” widely regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature, looms before the average reader like a distant, unconquered peak. Many are daunted by its page count, others are plagued by fear, wondering how they will grapple with the profound thoughts of the great bearded philosopher. And surely, there are those (including the author of these lines with a holey memory) who fear they will constantly mix up Dmitry Ivanovich with Ivan Dmitrijevic. (Or with Timofey Polikarpovich.)

But everyone, please calm down!

Firstly, like many other things, the thicker the book, the better. Secondly, “War and Peace” is surprisingly easy to read. Thirdly, considering its length, it moves relatively few characters, perhaps barely a dozen main characters, if that many.

It Involves Russia!

However, “War and Peace” is not the most accurate title. Actually, it should be this: Peace, peace, peace, war, and war. This means that after the surprisingly vivid descriptions of the battles of Schöngrabern and Austerlitz, about 7 years pass before Napoleon’s campaign against Russia in 1812.

The story of these 7 years constitutes the vast majority of Tolstoy’s work, from the perspective of several aristocratic families whose fates are more or less intertwined. (The lower classes didn’t have a say in matters in Russia for about another hundred years. So it goes in this novel too.)

“I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”

Woody Allen says.

And how right he is!

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The Witcher – The First Three Seasons – Series Review

The Witcher series poster

Andrzej Sapkowski, the Polish fantasy author, has incredibly good luck. Actually, he has two strokes of luck. His overwritten, rambling, and disjointed “Witcher” series first inspired a successful role-playing game, and then Netflix decided to give a shot to the magic-supported, mutant monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia. Sapkowski and the subscribers of the streaming platform couldn’t have been luckier. (Maybe just a tiny bit luckier.)

Because the claim applies to Sapkowski just as much as it does to the renowned sci-fi writer Kilgore Trout*: his ideas are good, but his style is terrible. However, the Netflix series cleverly pruned away what was unnecessary and kept the rest. “The Witcher” builds a twisting, exciting, and unique medieval world, full of great heroes, magic, adventures, and plenty of emotional highs. At least in the first season.

Season 1: The Witcher Starts with a Full Swing

The books’ occasionally fairy-tale-like twists barely make an appearance here; the striga reverting to human upon hearing a rooster’s crow, and the genie fulfilling three wishes remain, but let’s not be greedy.

The series, however, excels in many aspects where the Polish author falls short. The perpetually mournful Geralt, constantly sulking in the books, is nowhere to be found; instead, we have a laconic, endlessly cynical yet still feeling hero. Henry Cavill was truly born to play a Witcher. The paper-based version’s silly and dim-witted Dandelion, whom you’d rather smack with his own lute incessantly, has transformed into a charming and lovable rogue. And Yennefer… well, we all know what powerful sorceresses are like. Yennefer in the series is just as arrogant and insufferable but also a sexy beast. Moreover, some of the most emotional scenes in the early episodes are tied to her. Of course, this required the creators to thoroughly and perhaps somewhat unjustifiably alter the timeline of the books’ plot.

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