Paul Tobin and Joe Querio’s The Witcher: House of Glass is a murder mystery set in the Black Forest of Angren. It begins with a chance encounter between Jakob, a hunter, and Geralt, the titular Witcher. The two share a campfire and a meal, as well as a lot of expensive Evreluch wine, and then Jakob explains that he’s figuratively haunting the edges of the forest because his unfortunate wife Marta has literally been haunting the land in the form of a Bruxae Vampire for the last nine years. After further commiserations, the two depart into the Black Forest under the pretense that Jakob would like to seek out a new life as Geralt’s traveling companion.
The first act feels a bit like a safari, as Geralt pauses to point out the various monsters and demons that bedevil their progress, but things become less didactic and more intriguing when the pair arrives at a seemingly abandoned mansion. Their exploration of the mammoth abode leads to startling encounters and unexpected revelations, delivered at a pace that will keep readers satisfied with the entertaining — if convoluted — plot. As the story draws to its end, the reader is presented with an interesting study of the human psyche and how trauma and heartbreak can confuse the mind in mortifying ways. All in all, The Witcher: House of Glass is an interesting, character-driven piece with a satisfying resolution.
However, there are some noteworthy criticisms. This is an extremely wordy tale. Characters often speak without motivation, or in ways that belabor an already established point. This is particularly relevant in the first and second acts, where the reader will encounter a great deal of small talk. Throughout, the artwork is entirely subservient to the prose and only used to expand upon the dialogue. This is a major shortcoming, especially because there are a number of instances where the panels are simply inadequate to even that task. For example, mid-way through I actually thought a new character, a nameless old woman, had been introduced into the mix. It took me several moments to realize that this new character was actually only a poorly detailed Geralt.
Frustration sets in during the opening pages, as so much of this mysterious world seems to be relevant to our hero’s journey — yet the drab green and black tones that flow from panel to panel obscure the world the reader is yearning to experience. If this decision was made as an effort to create tension or establish a gothic tone, it was made in error.
Fine details only appear in the artist’s close examinations of particular subjects, and most of the images in the book are rendered at some appreciable distance. Consequently, you don’t actually get to see much of the Black Forest. These stylistic choices make the prose all the more significant to the reader’s experience — and as so much of the prose is essentially redundant, the reader will often find him or herself wishing that things would hurry up and move forward.
There are also some comments that can be aimed at the character of Geralt. In this text, he comes across as a poor man’s Roland Deschain; however, where Deschain’s Dark Tower adventures reveal the size and scope of the Gunslinger’s plight, Geralt’s superficial responses to his immediate environment convey very little about the man, besides his physical prowess. This is not to say that he is uninteresting; however, like the landscape he inhabits, Geralt is only refined and detailed at key moments, and the rest of the time he comes across as a generic storytelling trope on horseback.
While these criticisms are significant, they are to a certain extent balanced by the structurally sound story. Tobin does an excellent job of introducing and making use of a number of narrative elements — various monsters and characters. There is little waste in his plotting; once something is introduced, it is utilized in a significant way later in the story. This is one hallmark of quality genre writing. The Witcher: House of Glass is a good, if not accomplished, work, and it can be recommended to fans.