Review: Blood of Elves (The Witcher #1/#3)

Synopsis: For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world – for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt’s responsibility to protect them all – and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

The Witcher returns in this sequel to The Last Wish, as the inhabitants of his world become embroiled in a state of total war.

Title: Blood of Elves
Author: 
Andrzej Sapkowski
Pages: 
400
Genre: 
Fantasy
Published:
Originally published in Polish in 1994, translated in 2008.
This Book on Goodreads
This Review on Goodreads

The Witcher series reading order
The Last Wish (short story anthology)
The Sword of Destiny (short story anthology)
Blood of Elves
The Time of Contempt
Baptism of Fire
The Tower of Swallows
The Lady of the Lake

For anyone who’s played The Witcher games, or anyone who has not but is interested in dark fantasy, I encourage you to consider reading The Last Wish, which is the first of The Witcher books, an anthology of short stories. Read it before this, and Sword of Destiny too. They’re good, and you’ll thank yourself for it later when you’re not trying to decipher the backstory behind this one. The Blood of Elves is the first full-length novel in the series, and I was not disappointed. It’s even made it onto my “favourites” shelf.

The general concept is that Geralt, a Witcher created through elixirs and brutal mutilation as a child, hunts and kills monsters for pay. This volume is about the child Ciri, who we meet in the short stories of The Last Wish and The Sword of Destiny, and her training in both magic and witching (I don’t know if that’s what the Witcher craft is called but hey I used it). The other part of this is the brewing war between the Nilfgaardians and the countries on the other side of the river.

Character relationships are complex and full of history. They’re so tied together by destiny, yet so emotionally stunted towards each other that at some point it’s just sad. Poetic and lovely, and not pathetic enough to become angsty and melodramatic. Ciri is kind of the light in the dark, probably to her detriment. She’s the one to which Triss’s longing for Geralt, and Yennefer’s pain over him, is actually put into words. This is the first book in which Triss appears and while I was geared up to immediately feel bitterness towards her, none of Sapkowski’s characters end up deserving that. All that said, this isn’t a sappy romance love-fest, and is very much story-oriented.

Sapkowski’s sense of humour is exactly within my tastes too: cynical and quippy, as well as a little mean. Yennefer and Triss both have that sharp tongue that made me laugh out loud a few times, and Ciri is just comical by nature.

And here’s a less reviewy part and more of a collection of my thoughts. At this point, I’m not sure if Ciri being “destined” for Geralt means she’s meant to eventually be his partner, or more of a daughter, and I have not played the games to know. Also no spoilers, please. Yennefer’s initial resentment towards Ciri would be justified either way, either as a woman with a past with Geralt, or as a woman unable to bear her own children. In this volume at least, Ciri is his ward, and he trains her in Kaer Morhen to be a witcher. Her early training in magic (and how to survive puberty, let’s be honest) is carried out by Triss Merigold, whom I adored for being one of the only characters who just said what they were feeling, and later by Yennefer. Yennefer’s interactions with Ciri were my favourite part of the book, ultimately. In my opinion, Sapkowski writes the relationships between a young girl and her older female mentors with sincerity and impressive believability.

I usually struggle with fantasy not making me truly feel things, but there’s plenty of heart torture for me in these!

5 Star5 Ships- favourite

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