Blood Of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

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Rating 8.9/10
A breath of fresh air in a well-worn genre. Don't miss it!

Blood of Elves is chronologically the 3rd entry within The Witcher saga. Whereas previously all the short stories followed Geralt of Rivia working on certain monster assassination assignments, within Blood of Elves he is one of 3 or 4 main characters that we share the minds of. For the novels, you can start here but I wouldn't recommend it. I found that I completely loved the groundwork I'd put in with the previous narratives and then hearing about the past stories mentioned of which I'd already read such as recollecting thoughts regarding meeting the Golden Dragon and about the macabre events that happened at the downfall of Cintra. It was also an excellent feeling meeting familiar characters (often a bit too spontaneously) that we'd briefly crossed paths with within the previous books. I can't state it enough that this book is so much deeper and more enjoyable if you've read what comes beforehand. The important side characters from the recent stories are more prominent here, most notably Ciri and Yennefer. I'm gutted we don't see more of one of my favourite characters, the womanising troubadour Dandelion. 

The tale starts at a safe haven underneath a giant tree where Dandelion and his apprentice tell the epic poem of Geralt. We know the stories if we've read the previous entries but the poetry and the action is accentuated for the audience and is more picturesque, beautiful, and heightened in this form. Dandelion is the finest bard in the land who causes the ladies to swoon, the lords to be jealous and the brothel owners to panic! The ensemble of all assembled then discuss what happened at the end of the depicted action. Was Geralt murdered? Did the Child of Destiny, the Princess Ciri escape? Did her and Geralt meet up as was prophecised? It's a really intriguing beginning and sets the action up expertly. Geralt is an extremely famous Witcher whose name is world-renowned. Everyone claims to know him and his exploits but he's not been witnessed in two years so how much is a mere fabrication to attract the attention of revelers in a bar on a weekend evening? 

In this outing, Ciri, the child of Destiny is essentially the main character with Geralt being more of a shadowy father figure who aids her development as an upcoming Witcher although she also has magical capabilities she does not understand. He is the infamous Witcher, Yennefer is an enchantress and there is the "will they-won't they" love interest, and although she's not the biological child of the aforementioned she arguably seems like a perfect mix of the other two main characters. 

This tale was much deeper than what had come beforehand and as I've previously mentioned I wish to read all of these before the Netflix series is released. The first 30% is mainly focused on Ciri's training at the Witcher halls of Kaer Morten under the watchful gaze of the remaining handful of Witchers but also sorceresses Triss and Yennefer who are both former love interests of Geralt. Geralt does love Ciri as a father would and their relationship is complex, loving in a lack-of-emotion way from Geralt's perspective. He's a complex character as he's been genetically mutated to be a heartless monster killer but he has extreme morals and will not take sides in any sort of debacle. One persons' right is another ones' wrong and he shouldn't take sides and that's not what he has been manipulated for.

Honestly, there isn't too much action throughout this novel, but that's fine. This is the foundation of what will no doubt be an exceptional next five books. The main drama is caused by a fire-scarred magical-wielding individual who has an unknown vendetta against Geralt and wants Ciri. Imagine if the Queen on a chessboard was infinitely more valuable and in the eyes of the soon to be warring nations this (even though they don't know if she's alive) 12-year-old young lady has a very important part to play. Child of Destiny isn't a title that everyone is able to flaunt after all. 

Blood of Elves is very conversation heavy. Sometimes, with players having similar and confusing names it does get a bit over-bearing. Often a conversation will have eight contributors but it doesn't always make it obvious who is saying what so in these scenes I found my mind bouncing around thinking... "who said that?" - "who was that to?" etc? The vibe and the point of the scene are expressed well but it's not always easy to keep a perfect picture of progression. 

I loved the majority of the short stories and only a few remain weak and uninteresting in my mind. This seemed like a well constructed but quite safe progression to the novel side of things. It didn't really have an exciting finale. The only event that could be considered as such was a confrontation at the eighty percent mark and then we were gifted a Ciri training session to conclude. This series isn't perfect yet. However, I am really enjoying following this interesting and multi-layered cast. This could go on to be one of my favourite fantasy series. At this point, I believe I've only witnessed the tip of the iceberg and Ciri's destiny and the Witcher's influence is amazingly intriguing. I can't wait to read the next one.

James Tivendale 8.5/10

This review has been reproduced courtesy of Total Sci Fi. The review is by Alice Wybrew and the original can be seen here - Blood Of Elves Review - Total Sci Fi.

In a land where war is imminent and race relations grow ever more strained, Ciri, the prophesised child, must find her way under the protection of Geralt, the famed and feared ‘Witcher’. Holding the promise of incredible power, for good or for evil, it is up to Geralt to ensure Ciri takes the right path and remains safe from those who hunt her…

If, like me, you’ve never heard of Andrzej Sapkowski before, it’s about time that was rectified. Combining traditional fantasy with Polish folklore, Sapkowski’s Witcher series has been translated into seven languages, made into a TV series and most recently converted into a computer game. This is clearly not to be taken lightly. Blood of Elves is only the second book by the author to hit British shelves (The Last Wish was published in 2007) – it’s a pity it didn’t arrive sooner.

Sapkowski’s publicity rather boldly compares him to Tolkien, but it turns out that this is not an entirely unjust comparison. Sapkowski’s world, and the sense of depth, is reminiscent of Middle Earth. And while he includes all the traditional fantasy characters you would expect, Sapkowski also manages to revitalize the genre with energetic and compelling writing.

Moving effortlessly between moments of wrought emotion and staggeringly effective action, to lengthy periods of political discussion and war stratagems, Sapkowski addresses every aspect of a good fantasy novel eloquently and with ease. His style reads as easily as David Gemmel, but hits harder and deeper than his late fantasy comrade. Creating a world that is both familiar and comfortable, it is through his inventive use of character manipulation that he generates a new and realistic experience.

Geralt - the character who established Sapkowski in Poland - features strongly in the first half of the novel, making for a kind yet hard-headed and enigmatic protagonist. The story then shifts its focus onto the mysterious Yennifer, who up until then has been little more than a name. Initially coming across as your standard tough female archetype, Yennifer soon assumes a much more intriguing role. These involving characters, along with the promising young figure of Ciri, are what really keep the pages turning so fast.

As the first of a five-book series, Blood of Elves would benefit from a map and character index as Sapkowski’s sudden (and often fleeting) reference to various countries, territories and characters can become confusing at times. The plot also takes an unexpected leap forward in time around the halfway point that won’t pose a problem for fans of Steven Erikkson or Katherine Kerr, but may prove temporarily disconcerting for anyone else.

However, these minor oddities can be easily overlooked, as, on reaching the final enthralling chapter, you’ll be wondering how you got there so fast.

Alice Wybrew 9.3/10

This Blood Of Elves book review was written by and Alice Wybrew

All reviews for: The Witcher

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Blood Of Elves reader reviews

from USA

6-stars

Well I wouldn’t say it’s poorley written I read The Last Wish first and played the games so I love the story line and perhaps that has helped carry me through this book. Like I said it’s not the writing it’s the long chapters and lack of action. And I’m no fencer but every fight scene involves pirouette after pirouette if you are spinning that much in a fight something’s wrong. I liked this book but I feel like it focuses so much on philosophy and ideology when it should have started building the world that the characters are set in but hey what ever I’ve read way way worse and I’m still going to read the rest.

from UK

9-stars

I want to say only one thing. It is worth to read 2 volumes of short stories first, because one of the short stories is directly connected with the main plot and the ending itself. For me it was quite shocking when I found out what it was all about. Without reading short stories, especially the one I'm talking about, I wouldn't fully understand the ending and even if I did so, I wouldn't be as much surprised as I was, when Sapkowski finally revealed who's really behind all of this. It was quite shocking for me.

from USA

2-stars

I’m 250 pages in, really trying to finish it because I hate giving up on a book, but let me tell you. THIS BOOK IS BORING! Boring as all hell. In 250 pages there have been maybe 2 mildy interesting things that could have been summed up in 20 pages. The chapters are ridiculously long and drawn out. There is way too much dialogue. Pointless conversations and over descriptions of useless things that doing nothing to progress the story. If there even is a story here? I have figured out where this is going and why. I loved the Witcher games, I though they were great. But it pains me to know they were inspired by this writing, writing fit for a grade school student. Save yourself the time.

from United States

1-stars

Bought the whole series&really upset. Having trouble reading first chapter. Took me a month to get to page 5.this proved to be worst than a Terry something or another of the sword of Shanaranel series guy. I felt the author is too Wordy. He gotta drag out word of whatever in a sentence to its death.all I cared about I care about is what's going on&next.all I got were ghastly description of how the wind blown, etc.each characters came acrossed as underdeveloped. Its like I'm reading a Wikipedia description of how a character ought to be.very sorry to have spend my hard earned money on this silliness.

from Polska

10-stars

Witam was bardzo serdecznie ! Po pierwsze jest mi bardzo przykro , że wszelakie tłumaczenia Wiedźmina nigdy nie będą na tyle dobre byście mogli w stu procentach rozkoszować sie powieścią niczym my Polacy ,niemniej jednak niechaj broń Boże nie powstrzyma was to przed zapoznaniem się z cudownym tworem Sapkowskiego. Czytałem rozkoszując się bajecznie Tolkiena ,pokochałem Sandersona jednak Wiedźmin to coś więcej .. tutaj siłą opowieści jest bark wyraźnych szkiców przedstawiających dobro i zło .Częstokroć sami subiektywnie oceniamy postaci czy zdarzenia . Nikt nie podaje nam tego na tacy.Nie ma infantylnych ckliwości w stylu ,,Nie zostawię pana panie Frodo " Tutaj się broni przyjaciół dając w mordę czy rozpruwając trzewia. Świat wiedzmina nie musi się podobać ale zmusza by traktować go poważnie niemal czując smród uryny czy kału . Każda z postaci zostawia ślad , każdej brakuje kiedy mowa o kimś innym. Moim marzeniem jest by zrobiono ekranizację nie szczędząc pieniędzy a wtedy zobaczycie , że brawdopodobnie jest to najlepsze fantazy w historii. Obiecuję :)Thanks Przemek, here's a translation into English (thanks Google):I greet you very warmly! First of all, I am very sorry that all the translations of The Witcher will never be so good that you can enjoy the novel a hundred times as we Poles, but let God's weapon not stop you from acquainted with the miraculous creation of Sapkowski. I read relish Tolkien fabulously, I loved Sanderson, but the Witcher is more than that. Here the strength of the story is the bar of clear sketches of good and evil. We personally evaluate subjects or events by themselves. No one gives us this on the tray. There is no infantile cravings in the style of "I will not leave you Mr. Frodo." Here he defends his friends by giving murmuring or splitting his viscera. Each of the characters leaves a trail, each one missing when it comes to someone else, my dream is to make a screening without spending money and then you will see that it is probably the best fancy in history.

from Canada

1-stars

I've been reading fantasy for 40 years. I love the genre. This is the first time I have struggled to keep reading. Maybe it's really good in Polish and it's the translation that comes across stupid. Because it reads like a bad translation. The characters sound ridiculous. The writing is very immature. So disappointed. Yuck.

from UK

9-stars

Amazing read! Read it several years ago so cannot reflect on story as much now but I remember that getting the last two books of the saga was a must! Very well writen with everything you want from a good fantasy book.

from Israel

4-stars

Sapkowski's works certainly don't lack intrigue, and suffuse the genre with a fresh breeze. I mean, a world of moral grey areas (unorthodox in Fantasy) based on Slavic mythology. The characters are well thought-of and the spry pace of the add to the reading experience. But that's about all the good things I can say about this title. My critique could be summed up rather simply: Literary-wise, it's simply not that well written. There is no shortage of instances where characters suddenly feel contrived - mainly the parts where a character rambles on in thought for a page, or when Sapkowski suddenly drops a long narrative about a past event relating to some character (sometimes in the form of a flashback). Another issue that keeps nagging at me whenever I pick up a Witcher book is that every few pages there suddenly pops a long train of thought or speech that feels utterly unnatural. Here's an example: 'I tried to guide the conversation to the Child Surprise several times to no avail.' That's is Triss Merrigold thinking to herself. Characters don't narrate to themselves - especially not recollections. It never sounds right because no real person does this. There are plenty of better ways to relay to the reader the information in that thought (even dull narrative would have sufficed.) Also, the pacing of the dialogue and narrative (not the story itself!) is simply atrocious. Very few sentences in this book feel 'just right' - that is, not redundantly long or too short, or balanced satisfyingly on both sides of the comma. I don't know . Maybe the book reads better in its native Polish than in the English translation, but that's something I'll never learn.

from Poland

10-stars

My favourite book series. Witty humor, complex characters, convincing world... I just can hope that English transaltion is as good as the original.

from UK

10-stars

The prose is hard indeed, I understand some peoples complains, after all not everyone likes to think while reading. Sapkowki does not shove the obvious right into your face as he prefers to play with the words, avoid directness and overfocusing. Read between lines as you enjoy the breathtaking narrative and you will double your experiences as well as enjoyment.

from Poland

10-stars

I've red Sapkowski's books about 5 times. I've never been fantasy fan but ever since I read first chapter of Wiedźmin (Witcher) I fell in love with this story. I was 17 years old, now I am 30:) But still love these books. I'm Polish so I had a chance to read all the books and I must that when it comes to fantasy G. Martin "Game of Thrones", Tolkien and Sapkowski are the best! My favourite book is Swallow's Tower (Wieża jaskłki) and Lady of the Lake (Pani jeziora), the last 2 books. Amazing touching and breathtaking especially because this 2 books are dedicated more to Ciri, not only Geralt :) I love Sapkowski's cynical humor, I admire his wide knowledge of languages, history etc. Saga "Witcher" is amazing, sometimes brutal and sometimes surprisingly touching with swift plot and great characters. Even now after so many years I come back to Sapkowski's books (but this time I'm listening to audiobooks before bed time :) ) I wish Hollywood made move based on witcher books :) It would be a success like Game of Thrones :)

from Poland

10-stars

The second book, which isn't translated, explains who is Yennefer, what happend in Soden and few more things. I can't say in English but in Polish one of the most important advantage is beautiful language. It is claim part this story, later only is more action.

from Croatia

9-stars

This book is great, I would recommend it to anyone looking for something one. I only wish that they would release the second part in English already.

from Sydney

10-stars

Better than Tolkien!

from Poland

10-stars

One of my favourite books, and not because I'm from Poland! Just great.

from Berlin

10-stars

For me it's one of the best books ever written - great plot with great characters, and amazing world. Story definitely for mature people who can appreciate brilliant dialogues, sense of humor and surprising intrigues.

from Netherlands

9-stars

This book was amazing. The characters really adapt and connect to the amazing story. It's not just your classic good and evil it is the story of choices. With its rich fantasy world it kept me interested from the beginning to the end. The story needs understanding which some people might not have. But if you let the story suprise you and try to understand it you will find this book to be amazing.

from Greece

2-stars

I could hardly read 5 pages without needing a pause, especially during the first half of the book, which describes many scenes of the characters' everyday lives. Scenes about cooking, eating and dressing are just not that interesting to me. It took me two weeks to read the first 150 pages. Totally boring!

from DK

2-stars

My apologies to Alice Wybrew and the Witcher from Leeds, but this book was one of the biggest dissapointments in many years. Comparing Sapkowski's style, prose and worldbuilding to Tolkien, Erikson or Kerr is absolutely misplaced. The style is aimed for the young adult reader at best, even staggering toward the childish at times. Dialogue attempts humor, but approaches satire. I had definitely expected a lot more from such a hyped author.

from Leeds

10-stars

This book is a must! Probably the best fantasy novel I have read - and that means something :) Excellent psychology of characters, wonderful world, earth shattering story, monsters, love, war, politics, legends... World, which is not black and white, but every aspect of goodness and evil is rather in different shades of gray. Very clever and with fantastic use of humour. I went through all 5 books in this series and I wasn't able to catch my breath. Excellent! 10/10

7.3/10 from 21 reviews

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