Blood of Elves is the first novel in the Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. I read the English translation by Danusia Stok.
Finished on: 28.2.2022
[Here are my reviews of the short story collections preceding this book.]
After Cintra was conquered by Nilfgaard, Princess Ciri only barely made it out of the city and was finally found by Geralt of Rivia who took her to Kaer Morhen, the Witcher’s castle. There, she starts the witcher trainig herself. But this training isn’t enough – there are magical powers in her that need more attention. Attention by a sorceress. At first, Geralt and the other witchers ask Triss Merigold for help with that. But even Triss is a little overwhelmed with Ciri’s education. There is only one person who can help, though her history with Geralt doesn’t make things easier: Yennefer. So, Geralt, Ciri and Triss make their way across countries that are teetering on the edge of war towards a safe place for Ciri and Yennefer. Their trek is made more dangerous because more than one person is looking for Geralt and Ciri as Ciri is the key to ruling Cintra.
After a rather mixed reaction from myself regarding the first two short story collection, I finally delved into the series proper and I rather enjoyed reading it, though there were still some elements of it that didn’t jive with me.
I was very happy that I read the two short story collections that came before the series, especially Sword of Destiny (despite the fact that I liked The Last Wish a lot better) – so much of Blood of Elves makes more sense with the background established there. I don’t know how confusing it would have been to read this without that knowledge, but I imagine it would have been confusing.
Unfortunately, Blood of Elves does not return to the heights of The Last Wish for me. The dudebro elements are also very present here. There is a particularly harrowing scene where it is made sure we know that the woman Geralt just slept with is not really a woman at all, but a girl of 17 years (description of her breasts, and ogling by Dandilion included). Generally, the male gaze is strong in this one. There is also a lot of “women have to teach women because men can’t possibly know about stuff like menstruation”, which is just heteronormative and cissexist.
But I did enjoy reading the book overall. What I liked were the (racial) politics and Geralt’s perspective on it. Not saying it’s flawless, but it is interesting and thoughtful and has a very human core. And I do like Ciri a lot (I was hoping to see more of her and Geralt together). I also liked that, through her, we get to see another, more human side of Yennefer (although it still doesn’t come without the male gaze). Triss, too, I liked, though she was a little shortchanged by the story and the fact that all women have to have the hots for Geralt. (On the one hand, I understand. On the other, sigh.)
The book is busy with setting up the rest of the story and not particularly heavy on the action. But there are a couple of rather clever scenes that unfold entirely through dialogue and make the time pass very quickly (while also giving a lot of information). Those stood out to me the most from the novel.
In short, I’m not completely in love with it. Things are definitely good enough to keep me curious though.
Summarizing: I am looking forward to continuing the rest of the series, despite some issues.