Book Review: The Blood of Elves

Happy belated Independence Day, readers! If you’re with us in real time, thank you for taking part of your holiday weekend to read a little blog about books.

Although I will definitely keep reading The Witcher series, in the interest of variety, this will be the last installment I review in this space for a while. There are other worlds to explore, and many tales to tell. Without further fanfare, let’s talk about the captivating third Witcher book and first to graduate from short-story collection to true novel, The Blood of Elves.

The Basics:

Title: The Blood of Elves
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Genre: Fantasy, action, mystery
Published: 1994 (superNOWA) (Polish), 2008 (Gollancz)

Spoiler-Free Summary:

Not Geralt. 🙂

Geralt is in over his head training Ciri, an orphan thrust into his life by seismic shifts of fate. There is more to this child than meets the eye. He begrudgingly leaves his mountain enclave to invite expert mages to help the gifted child realize – and control – her full potential. In addition to being personally awkward for Geralt – who likes coming to their ex for a favor? – this move exposes Ciri to a dangerous world on the brink of not one but several wars, and to violent factions who would love nothing more than to exploit the fated child for their own ends. 

If that sounds like the plot about a certain other grim anti-hero and his orphan ward who recently exploded onto the cultural zeitgeist, know that The Witcher did it first. 🙂

Why This Book is For You:

We have already discussed the general merits of the series and one of its notable strengths: leveraging shades of gray to evoke strong emotions. These features hold true for the third installment. What I want to highlight today is how Sapkowski navigates the transition from short story anthology to true novel. 

What’s this? More anti-heroes with orphans? Well, it’s a charming odd-couple archetype, and if it ain’t broke…

Longtime readers are rewarded with a more fleshed-out world. A battle that was a two-page allusion in the second book is fleshed out into a full-scale war. Nations that stood as background dressing don flesh and bone in the foreground. Sapkowski ties this extra exposition intricately into Geralt and Ciri’s adventure, adding a new layer of stakes to the challenges they face. 

With a longer format comes more character growth. Ciri, Yennifer, and other characters graduate from icon or archetype to fully fleshed-out, nuanced beings. Ciri is often used as an emotional foil to Geralt’s hardened stances. Through this tension, we begin to see Geralt change from outside observer and critic to reluctant participant in world affairs, signaling his growth from aloof nihilist to a sort of pragmatic activism. Children really do change everything. Monster-slaying mutants are no exception.

Where Can You Find More?

I found this article about Sapkowski’s career and the series’ influence fascinating. Orbit hosts this handy reading guide so you don’t get lost in the loose continuity. You can find the series on Amazon or wherever books are sold. 

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