Blood of Elves: I thought I was tired of elves and dwarves

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski fantasy book reviewsBlood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Based on internal chronology, Blood of Elves (2008) is the third book in Andrzej Sapkowski’s WITCHER series. Its format differs slightly from the previous two books, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which are actually story collections. (But don’t think that just because they’re not novels they aren’t necessary; to have the requisite background information you really do need to read both of them before reading Blood of Elves.)

As much as I loved The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, I thought I’d prefer a WITCHER novel because it would stay more focused on the progressing story of the Witcher and Ciri, his young protégé. This was not quite my experience, though. I enjoyed Blood of Elves, but I thought its pace was a little too languorous and rambling in some spots. I preferred the shorter WITCHER stories because, while they progressed the main plot in a patchy episodic way, they each also featured a self-contained story that was tighter, more exciting, and introduced a greater number of amusing new characters and situations. I missed this in Blood of Elves but, I repeat, I still enjoyed the book, just not quite as much as the previous two.

Blood of Elves begins two years after the Battle of Cintra (which occurred at the end of Sword of Destiny). We find the bard Dandelion in a tavern singing about the battle and its lost princess while the folks who are listening debate about the accuracy of his tale. It’s clear that the city of Cintra fell to the elves, but it’s not clear what happened to princess Ciri, or if she’s even dead or alive. A lot of people seen to be looking for her, almost certainly for nefarious purposes, but Geralt, who found her in the touching final scene of Sword of Destiny, is hiding her so that she can grow up in safety, learn to use her magic powers, and become the world’s first female witcher.

Much of the story focuses on Ciri’s development as she trains with the witchers, learns from two sorceresses, and goes to school. Other scenes show the rising tensions between the elves, who used to possess the land, and the humans and dwarves who displaced the elves generations ago. I’m assuming that there will be a war in the future and that Ciri, who is a human with some elvish blood, will play a major role in it.

I thought I was tired of high fantasy stories starring dwarves and elves, but Sapkowski’s tales feel totally fresh. The language isn’t heavy and ornate, the story is dark while the tone feels light, the characters are vibrant, there’s a touch of dry humor, and there’s a lingering feeling that Sapkowski is being slightly irreverent to the genre. Sapkowski’s stories also have modern sensibilities. They’re not about good vs evil — that’s much too simplistic. Blood of Elves is about concepts we’re dealing with and debating now in our own world — concepts such as racism, immigration, assimilation, and alienation.

Peter Kenny is the brilliant narrator of Hachette Audio’s production of the WITCHER series. I am sure that a large part of my enthusiasm about these books is due to Kenny’s performance. He’s just so good and you’re missing out if you don’t try the audio. Find a sample here. Blood of Elves is 11 hours long. I’m happily moving on to the next book, The Time of Contempt.

Published in 2008: 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. Blood of Elves is the first full-length Witcher novel, and the perfect follow up if you’ve read The Last Wish collection.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I really like the WITCHER video games, but I haven’t read any of the related materials. Guess I should change that, especially since you’ve been enjoying them so much!

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