This review of the The Witcher: House of Glass novel by Paul Tobin is of the spoiler-free variety. Be sure to check out The Novel Post for all of our licensed intellectual property reviews.
CD Projekt RED is going for the year of The Witcher. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been the critical darling of RPG fans starved for the gritty, mature world of The Continent since the last entry in 2009. It’s rare that gamers see such a dark fantasy world, one that doesn’t shy away from anything adult oriented. Sexual encounters, recreational drug use, violence, there’s little off limits to Geralt and the people he fraternizes with. In House of Glass, Paul Tobin continues to spread his creativity expanding from his early all ages works to the very mature tellings of Geralt, a lone hunter and his estranged wife.
Tobin opens the story the way most of Geralt’s missions begin, random happenstance. Traveling through the dangerous Black Forest, the Witcher comes across a widowed hunter. A man of the land that offers the mutated stranger dinner, which quickly degrades into drink and trading war stories. Melancholy sets in when personal tragedies are exchanged. The hunter remains in the Black Forest to be near his not-so-dead wife, whom was taken by the Bruxae and turned into one of them. As they meander through the Black Forest Geralt’s magical medallion tingles, alerting him to danger. And his mind to intrigue.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of House of Glass is Tobin’s ability to weave in the world of Geralt of Rivia without the reader needing any back story. Told in the style of Geralt’s introduction to the world via short stories detailing his escapades in The Last Wish, Tobin is able to explain the world and expand on Geralt’s view of it without being hamfisted. There are no flashbacks, retellings or calculated fan references. It’s an all-new tale in the world that Sapkowski created and CD Projekt RED has brought to life. It works. And works well.
That is to the credit of artist Joe Querio as much as Tobin. The team combine to bring the more horrifying aspects of The Witcher to the forefront. Geralt exists in a dark, depressing world. He’s constantly surrounded by danger, death, destruction. The human condition is thick in all his form, short or novelized. House of Glass focuses on a core emotion, fear. Querio elicits the primal emotion through his art. Backgrounds are purposefully left washed out. “Is that a humanoid form in the trees?” the subconscious may ask. Rooms in the house alter their form. This isn’t a continuity slip, but a disorienting reality of the world. Even with sense as sharp as his Silver Sword Geralt is deceived by his senses. Querio paced the story in a subtle artful way. Until it turns into foreshadowing and the present.
Tobin’s interweaving of deep fantasy and mythological terrors horrifyingly depicted by Joe Querio offer a collection fully capable of standing on its own despite being tied to an intellectual property. If you’re looking for a new world to get addicted to House of Glass is a great starting point before diving into the novels or video games. If you’re already hooked then the weaving story of the Black Forest and its inhabitants shouldn’t be missed.
Here’s to hoping CD Projekt RED and Dark Horse Comics have more to come. After all, Hearts of Stone, the first full expansion comes out next Tuesday, October 13. It’ll be followed by Blood and Wine in early 2016. Our run through of Wild Hunt can be seen as part of our Instance Gratification live stream or follow the playlist to catch them after they air.