Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The New York Times bestselling series that inspired the international hit video game: The Witcher.
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.

I actually played the video game Witcher 3: Wild Hunt before I even thought about picking up the novels that inspired the award-winning video games.  When I fell in love with the game and its rich mythology, political intrigue and vibrant characters I had to have more of Geralt and his world.  So I decided to give Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels a try.  Given my recent rash of disappointing reads, I was absolutely thrilled when it turned out that Blood of Elves completely exceeded my expectations.

Here in Blood of Elves, we have a fantasy world that is both familiar and alien to most North American readers.  There are witches, wizards, dryads and other such creatures while at the same time there are unique creatures Sapkowski has created like witchers (obviously) and aeschnas (aeschnae?).  At the same time, he has put a spin on old fantasy creatures like elves, dwarves, dryads and werewolves.  It’s a wonderful blend of the familiar and the strange and it makes me happy to see that there’s a lot of potential exploration of other fantasy creatures in the rest of the series.  In addition to the wonderful creatures Sapkowski has created, the world-building allows for quite a lot of intrigue and conflict.  On one hand, you have the expanding Nilfgaardian empire under the lead of Emperor Emhyr var Emreis.  On the other hand, you have the fractured Northern Realms that include kingdoms like Temeria, Kaedwen, Redania, Cintra and Aedirn.  Each country has its own unique leader, culture and history and while the main focus of the story is on Ciri and Geralt, it’s fascinating to catch glimpses of the vast world Sapkowski has built.

As for the characters, I was pleasantly surprised.  While Andrzej Sapkowski has a pared-down writing style that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to much description, all of the characters in the novel were well fleshed-out.  Geralt is of course fascinating because although he’s supposed to be this cold-blooded monster killer for hire, you can tell he cares about people deeply.  Ciri herself is wonderful and I loved seeing her interactions with Triss and, later in the novel, Yennefer.  She’s rough and tough being raised as a witcher at Kaer Morhen but at the same time, she’s vulnerable when it comes to the changes every girl goes through during puberty.  She really reminds me of myself at the same age so I do admit to having quite a bit of a soft spot for her.  Seeing her interactions with Triss who becomes a mentor and a big sister to her was really touching in contrast to Yennefer’s loving yet slightly cold relationship with her.

Although Blood of Elves is slightly under 400 pages long, you will hardly notice the length once you get going.  The aforementioned pared-down writing style really does move the action along quite quickly and the first chapter has you hitting the ground running so to speak.  However, Sapkowski does have enough description and backstory that you’ll quickly catch on like I did, whether or not you’ve read The Last Wish (I still haven’t) before beginning the main series.  I don’t speak Polish so I can’t speak to the faithfulness of the translation, but I can say that it was fairly well translated because the story flowed well and the style was consistent throughout the novel.

If you’re looking for a slightly different fantasy with some great characters, pick up Blood of Elves.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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