Blood of Elves is the first book in Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher trilogy. The book follows the adventures of Geralt and Ciri, who fans of Netflix's Witcher TV series and CD Projekt Red's Witcher games will be more than familiar with. The novel is set during an uneasy armistice between Nilfgaard and the Northern Kingdoms two years after Nilfgaard invaded the Kingdom of Cintra and slew its Queen.
The book follows Geralt and Ciri as they flee through a world that hangs upon the precipice of war, threatening to drown the world in a tide of blood and bodies. Geralt must contend with his unruly and naive apprentice and train her to become a witcher whilst avoiding assassins, elves and monsters alike.
Andrzej Sapkowski has an excellent grasp of character, and the characters of Blood of Elves are where the book excels. Geralt is his usual charming, roguish self, whereas Ciri is young, rebellious and curious. Both characters complement each other in ways that often lead to some genuinely hilarious moments. Their relationship moulds and defines them both as they must contend with the ever-growing danger around them and as Ciri approaches womanhood.
The side characters are also brilliant and often provide a sense of comical relief from the book's darker themes but also act as a medium for the reader to learn about the world these characters inhabit. Characters such as Triss Merigolf, Dandelion and Yennefer of Vengerberg are a thrill to read about, and the characters feel so real that, at times, it's just fascinating to see how they'll interact with one another. However, the book's primary villain, a shadowy rogue mage known as Rience, is the weakest component of an otherwise highly compelling cast. We only encountered Rience a handful of times. He never achieves anything of worth, and never puts Geralt in so much danger that you'd question whether he will make it out alive. I believe some of this weak character development is due to the book's fragmented plot structure, where its narrative bounces between different character viewpoints as they pursue their goals. As a result of this style of non-linear plot structure, even though the main characters are well fleshed out as they're given lots of time to develop on their own, the villain is sadly left to the wayside. Rience is left as an ambiguous foe that the reader never truly fears or cares about.
I found the prose to be a good combination of short, punchy sentences and longer, more drawn-out sentences, which I found to be an enjoyable blend that stops the book reading as too monotonous. The description utilised is subtle and appropriate without ever feeling like it's difficult to imagine the vast array of landscapes, places and people the reader encounters throughout its 320 pages.
Overall I would rate Blood of Elves 3 stars out of 5, and I eagerly await the next books in the series and the continuation of Geralt and Ciri's adventures.