01/11/2010. Contributed by Izzy Kaminski
pub: Gollancz. 298 page enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-08318-9.
check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk
The news that ‘Blood Of Elves’ won the David Gemmell Legend award for fantasy in 2008 didn't in the least surprise Polish fantasy fans who saw one of their favourite authors attract prizes over a decade ago. Now that Andrzej Sapkowski's books are being translated and distributed on a serious scale, they should prove his talent on a world stage and show that dwarves-and-elves fantasy is not purely the domain of English-speaking nations.
Readers were first introduced to the main character Geralt in Sapkowski's earlier collection of short stories, ‘The Last Wish’, which was a good book turned into a much better and highly successful PC game, ‘The Witcher’. In both novels, we follow the 'witcher', a kind of warlock chosen as a youth to undergo painful mutations and rigorous physical training to become the ultimate fighting machine. Geralt has been trained to kill monsters and ghoulies but he's also one of the last of his kind. By the time of this book, the secrets of witchers and their mysterious potions have already been lost to history.
Against a backdrop of escalating racial tensions, ‘Blood Of Elves’ sees Geralt meet Ciri, a young princess of elven blood rescued from a bloody war who appears to control the witcher's destiny. Into this steps Yennefer, a brittle sorceress and Geralt's on/off lover who guides Ciri's development and interprets her mysterious prophesies.
Sapkowski’s novels have been described as Poland's answer to Tolkien but the comparison is deeply misleading. Despite the Elven/Gaelic-style language, his fantasy world is not as intricately realised as Middle-Earth and there are tantalising gaps in its mythology and history. But the narrative is much snappier, with flashes of dark humour, and whips you along smoothly and quickly to a terse ending. Geralt is a beguiling character, seemingly emotionless as a result of his strict training, yet there is a tantalising sense of another side of him waiting to break through.
‘Blood Of Elves’, the first in a five part series, is a cracking read that, barring the odd grammatical mistake and painful cliché, will have you desperate for the translation of next novel, ‘Time Of Contempt’. Either wait it out until next year (2011) or learn to read Polish very, very quickly.
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