Which Book Series Came First: ‘The Witcher’ or ‘Game of Thrones’?

Fans trying to fill the void left by Game of Thrones don’t have to look far for a different flavor of serialized fantasy TV. Amazon alone has The Wheel of Time and a Lord of the Rings prequel. There is even a Game of Thrones prequel coming to HBO called House of the Dragon.

However, the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher might be the best place for fans of George R. R. Martin‘s fantasy series to find their next binge-watch. There are plenty of familiar features. From the brutal tone to the class-focused storytelling, the Netflix show doesn’t shy away from the realities of feudalism.

That said, it may be the case that The Witcher helped set the precedent for A Song of Ice and Fire, which inspired Game of Thrones.

Fans of ‘The Witcher’ don’t mind comparisons to ‘Game of Thrones’

Freya Allan, Henry Cavill, and Anya Chalotra pose at the World Premiere of "The Witcher: Season 2
The Witcher stars Freya Allan, Henry Cavill, and Anya Chalotra | Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

While some controversy surrounded Game of Thrones‘ final season, it could hardly be seen as an insult for a new fantasy series to be christened the next big genre show to watch. Indeed, viewers have spotted more than a few similarities between it and The Witcher. And it must be said: Netflix probably wouldn’t put up major funding on a series like this without seeing HBO dominate television for a decade.

Both shows feature strong female main characters with long, white hair (Daenerys and Ciri). Geralt of Rivia has the same brooding outcast vibe as Jon Snow. Both men are members of a secretive order meant to keep monsters at bay. The two series share the usual fantasy elements, albeit more pronounced in The Witcher: dragons, feudal intrigue, and brutal violence.

It’s enough to make one think that The Witcher is a bit of a knock-off of the HBO show. But on closer examination, even if the Netflix series exists in part thanks to HBO’s megahit? It’s clear that it was more a case of parallel thinking between authors Andrzej Sapkowski and Martin.

‘The Witcher’ book series actually predates ‘A Game of Thrones’ book series

Sapkowski’s work came first by several years. The Witcher began as the Polish fantasy author’s entry in a 1986 short story competition. Fantasy-lit magazines picked up the tale after positive responses from readers. By 1990, Sapkowski had enough stories for a collection. He added a few more in 1993, which serves as the material for the first season of the Netflix show, reports Barnes and Noble.

The series was a major hit in Poland, culminating in an eight-book epic that completed its chronological run in 1999. Sapkowski returned to The Witcher and the Geralt character in the 2013 standalone adventure, Season of Storms. It’s a pace greatly unlike Martin’s.

A Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, was published in 1991, with a shift toward darker fantasy lit in full swing. Still, the historical fiction tone, sprawling setting, and deeply cynical take on feudalism shocked many readers.

Unlike The Witcher series, the books that became Game of Thrones have yet to complete their run. Originally planned as a trilogy, the now seven-book cycle has yet to finish. The latest, A Dance with Dragons, is nearing its 10-year anniversary, and The Winds of Winter, book six, shows no signs of publishing anytime soon.

‘The Witcher’ separates itself from ‘Game of Thrones’ despite some obvious similarities

The Witcher showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich is well aware of the comparisons between her series and Game of Thrones. She insists that her show separates itself in broad terms.

Drawing on Sapkowski’s richly detailed narratives, Hissrich’s structure zooms in focus on just a few characters. She claims that by the time it’s finished, she’ll dive much deeper into her characters than her HBO competition did. Game of Thrones fans who have watched The Witcher might protest, given how good the former show was at all of these qualities.

The real difference between the two is more thematic, with magic and fairy tale-esque creatures running wild from the start of Geralt’s adventures. And adventure is a crucial keyword here. While Game of Thrones was deeply entrenched in often convoluted feudal and class politics, The Witcher leans in harder on the feeling of adventure.

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