Title: The Witcher: Blood of Elves
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Translator: Danusia Stok
Published by: Gollancz
Publication date: 1994/2008
Source: Personal Collection
For more than a hundred years, humans, dwarves, gnomes and elves lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over and now the races are fighting once again – killing their own kind and each other.
Into this tumultuous time is born a child of prophecy, Ciri, surviving heiress of a bloody revolution, whose strange abilities can change the world – for good, or for evil…
As the threat of war hangs over the land, Geralt the Witcher must protect Ciri from those who are hunting the child for her destructive power.
But this time, Geralt may have met his match.
A few weeks ago I published a review for The Witcher: The Last Wish a short story collection that is a precursor to The Witcher: Blood of Elves. Since finishing The Witcher: Blood of Elves, I have discovered that there is another short story collection that is meant to come before it so I’ll pick up a copy of this book (The Witcher: Sword of Destiny) and review it soon.
The Witcher: Blood of Elves starts off a long-term story spanning eight books in total – but the reading order is something of a confusion at times, so while this might not be chronologically correct, I feel that starting with a book that has a one on the spine is a good a place as any to start!
The story of The Witcher series focus’ on two central characters, Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher (Professional Monster hunter, for lack of better terms) and Princess Cirilla of Cintra, referred to as Ciri; a young woman who has, through destiny, become Geralts ward. The Witcher: Blood of Elves follows Ciri through the stages of her destiny, showing the time she spends with the Witchers in their dangerous, fortress home of Kaer Morhen and the training she undergoes there as well as her time spent with supporting character; Triss Merrigold, a magician whom the Witchers have enlisted the help of to help the young, developing Ciri who has been developing strange powers that the Witchers do not understand. To complicate matters further there seem to be unsavoury characters trying to get their hands on Ciri for their own gains, thus, the plot thickens and Yennefer of Vengerburg – Geralts ‘lover,’ friend of Triss Merrigold and another magician – becomes involved with Ciri and her magical training.
The plot of The Witcher: Blood of Elves was a lot more diplomatic than I was originally expecting, especially after the short stories of The Witcher: The Last Wish being more combat driven. Although I found that this diplomatic approach came across well and enhanced the overall direction of the story; everything happened for a reason and these reasons are seen behind the scenes more often than not. We’re introduced to the many, many nations that reside on The Continent – no other name for the world in which The Witcher series is set exists – each having their own individual style and flair. How they are all working with and against each other. I am sure we’re only just scratching the surface of the political intrigue within the series in The Witcher: Blood of Elves, just as we’re only just getting to know the ins and outs of Ciri and her complications and her entanglements with Geralt of Rivia.
It took me a while to get used to the writing style of The Witcher: Blood of Elves, the chapters themselves are rather long and each one seems to be written in a broken narrative format. So there isn’t a solid, linear structure that is the norm with novel writing. The plot jumps within each chapter, having a starting point, broken narrative and then the chapters conclusion which leads onto the next chapter. It’s a little clunky and until I understood the style of it, I struggled to keep up with the events as they were unfolding.
Within this broken narrative there are offerings of back-story, history and world building, which help to give the setting credibility and make the world in which The Witcher series is set feel so much richer. These are often given in the form of dialogue, which makes them rather lengthy, but give the politics and characters opinions of their own and elevates them from being flat. Each character has their own thoughts to their place in the world; even Geralt despite his adamant ‘neutral’ standing.
The Witcher series of novels has also become a series of video games and some of the readers picking up the books due to the games might be a little disapointed with the lack of monsters and action within The Witcher: Blood of Elves, especially from Geralt himself – who is the playable character in the video games. There isn’t much reference given to Geralts profession, considering it plays such an important role in the video games and not much monster slaying happens – one incident I believe – and I hope that this aspect of the books comes to the fore in future instalments.
The Witcher: Blood of Elves, as already mentioned, is the first in a larger body of work and my only real criticism of the book is how it ends. It’s abrupt. There is no conclusion to what has been written here and I can only assume, and hope, that the next book The Witcher: Time of Contempt is a direct continuation of the story within Blood of Elves.
The Witcher: Blood of Elves is a solid starting point for the long-term plot of The Witcher series and offers an in depth overview of the political intrigue that should develop in future instalments of the series. The characters are all unique in their own right and diverse enough from one another to make them stand apart; even from those within the same ‘class.’ Their complicated relationships with one another bring a welcome change of pace against the political background and are often entertaining.
There is an element of broken narrative with the writing style that could be somewhat confusion, but the translation from Polish to English is well accomplished and doesn’t detract from the story as a whole; but there are some instances where sentence structure doesn’t feel quite ‘right.’
The Witcher: Blood of Elves, gives enough strength to the story but ends rather suddenly with no conclusion so I can only hope that the next instalment, The Witcher: Time of Contempt, is a direct enough continuation to the foundations set down within The Witcher: Blood of Elves