Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski is the second novel in the re-issued editions of the Witcher series by Gollancz Press. It is preceded by The Last Wish, a collection of short stories written after Blood of Elves but which take place chronologically before the events of that book. There have been many editions of the Witcher books, and with new books in the series continuing to come out, some of which are set before, some after, and some in between other books in the series, it’s a difficult task keeping the exact order straight. In any case, here we have Blood of Elves, the book that really gets the overarching Witcher storyline started.
The fact that there even is an overarching storyline was a bit of a surprise to me. Coming into this series, and given what I know from the various Witcher RPG’s and video games, I was expecting something that focused on our main character, Geralt of Rivia, monster hunter extraordinaire, doing what he (presumably) does best: hunt monsters. Instead we are introduced to a small cast of supporting characters who somehow take on the roles of main characters, as if this series is not principally about the Witcher at all. There’s the beautiful and powerful sorceress, Yennefer, who is also Geralt’s love interest; Ciri, who is your basic Chosen One; and Dandelion, a bard who survives by his wit and charm and only then just barely at times. There’s also Geralt, of course, but—and herein lies the single biggest problem I had with Blood of Elves—we hardly get to see him. The story is really about Ciri and the various political and other machinations which come into play because of her importance. Geralt pops in here and there, but his contribution is surprisingly minor. It’s almost as if he’s really just a supporting character and not the main hero of our series at all.
Geralt’s absence is not the only aspect of Blood of Elves that doesn’t work. There’s also the somewhat disjointed story itself, which jumps back and forth from Ciri and her Witcher training to the mounting tension between the different races to Yennefer and her plans to tutor Ciri. If only Mr. Sapkowski had featured Geralt more prominently, I think this second book in the series could have earned a higher rating from me. As it stands, I’m giving Blood of Elves two rockets. Not a bad read if you’re interested in reading the entire series but nowhere near a must-read for fantasy fans in general. I do want to thank Gollancz Press once more for providing the complete series to me in paperback format as a surprise Christmas time giveaway last year. I’m continuing with the series, so look for my review of Time of Contempt soon.