Blood Of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Rating 9.3/10
A breath of fresh air in a well-worn genre. Don´┐Żt miss it!

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.

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Blood Of Elves reader reviews

from Canada


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


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


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


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


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


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 jaskˇłki) 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


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


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


Better than Tolkien!

from Poland


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

from Berlin


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


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


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


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


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

7.8/10 from 16 reviews

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