When I got married I married a gamer. He was a gamer, I was a reader and I never thought that the two genres would intersect (let alone that I would become a gamer too, hubby still isn’t a reader though). The third installment of The Witcher video game series released earlier this year and it had my full attention prior to release. Something drew me to the books however and for whatever that something was, I am eternally grateful.
Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski was released in the author’s native Polish in 1994 and translated into English in 2009. The version I read was translated beautifully by David French. There are two prior books in the series but they are a collection of short stories and Blood of Elves is the first novel. The novel can definitely be classified as fantasy but it is clearly fantasy set in Poland and based on the Slavic myths and fairytales the author was exposed to as a child.
Geralt of Rivia is the hero of the story and he is one of the last witchers in Temeria. Witchers are specialized humans that fight the monsters of the land when contracted by villages, nobles, and kingdoms. They have a bad reputation, mothers scare their children with stories about how the witcher will come to take them but somehow when there are monster problems even the poorest village will scrap together the funds to hire a witcher. Our hero rescues a little girl, named Ciri, and raises her as his own in the witcher stronghold. Little does Geralt realize who Ciri is or that together they are the subject of an ancient Elven prophecy.
The story is beautiful but violent. There are no knights in shining armor riding in to save the day but rather our intrepid hero must raise Ciri and save the day in a world that hates him for what he is and a land riddled with monsters. There are battles to be won, friends to be made, ballads to be sung, sorceresses to encounter, and navigation of the ever complicated political waters. There is a clear political undertone to the writing that when viewed through the eyes of a writer behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War is unmistakable. That political viewpoint never interferes with the story, rather it adds to the drama and intensity.
The video game and the book are different, completely independent but deeply complementary of each other. I loved this novel and it is an easy five out of five stars. It is beautifully written and translated, the story is compelling, the characters are relatable and believable, and most of all, the conclusion sends you racing for the next installment.