The Witcher is a series that I learned about from CD_Projekt Red the same as many other Western fans. We played the games that were non-canonical Expanded Universe sequels to the books well before the books became available in the English language. I've read those as well and was excited about the Witcher series being based on the original Andzej Sapkoski stories.
However, after Game of Thrones, I had the worry that the series would be as schizophrenic as the latter seasons. Very often, television programs invent new stories to fill time for actors and these are often the weakest parts of the story. So is The Witcher any good? Yes, as long as it's following Sapkowski's material. It goes off the rails every time it deviates.
|Great action scenes.|
In addition to Geralt's adventures with Jaskier, there is the story of Yennefer of Vengerburg (Anya Chalotra) who is a deformed young woman who discovers immortality and power at the mere cost of the life she could have had before. Rounding out the protagonists is Ciri of Cintra (Freya Allan), a young princess who witnesses the extermination of her kingdom and finds that her family was hated as tyrants.
|The best witch is the coldest.|
The biggest alterations are expanding on Yennefer's backstory and giving a completely new series of adventures for Ciri to engage in. In the Witcher short stories, it's mentioned that Yennefer was a deformed young girl that had her body repaired by the Brotherhood of Sorcerers only for her to be sterialized by her mentor Tissaia (MyAnna Buring). She spends decades after mourning the lack of a chance to be a mother and working to discover a way to achieve it.
Here, we see her sterialization is a result of her magical plastic surgery and it undermines the character of Tissaia a bit. In the books, she believes in the supremacy of magic above all things and that women should not be distracted by mundane concerns like family (showing her internalized misogyny and callousness).
|Yennefer is gorgeous and enchanting - as she should be.|
There's also a weird attempt to grimdark up some of the stories. The Last Wish and The Sword of Destiny are somewhat humorous collections despite seriously dark moments. The show adds some horrible villainy to characters like Calanthe (Jodhi May). She's inexplicably shown to be engaging in pogroms of elves for no reason. We also have the Brotherhood of Sorcerers turning failed candidates into eels.
Ciri's adventures are the weakest part of the narrative as she basically wanders from tent to forest to tent to forest on a pointless joirney that tells us very little about either her character or her relationship with her mother. We see none of the snarky young badass-in-training that we'll see in the later books. Basically, she's an obnoxious child and that makes her much more entertaining than the mostly silent one we meet here.
|Cavill can sometimes channel Geralt VERY well.|
Anya Chalotra's Yennefer was exceptional and despite the fact her original material was weaker than Geralt's stories, I felt she did an excellent job. So much so that I felt that were this an original series, I'd still be watching it for her. She's also a great beauty and while the sheer amount of nudity on display is gratuitous (she seems like to casting spells topless for some reason), its a small distraction from serious acting chops. I've seen some people complain about the fact a biracial woman was cast in the role but phooey on them.
The action is good, the special effects are excellent, and the writing (the original writing that is) is great. It's just when they color outside of the lines of Sapkowski's original work that I think the show suffers.