This is a series of blogs I have decided to write to help people (re)familiarise themselves with the wonderful world of The Witcher. After playing the first game, I decided to read every book, where I then proceeded to play the second game. Since the very first moment, I absolutely fell in love with the universe and I’m hoping with these blogs I can share that love.
Apologies for the long read...
WARNING: THIS BLOG WILL CONTAIN HEAVY SPOILERS FOR ALL THE WITCHER BOOKS AND GAMES. IF YOU WANT TO AVOID THESE SPOILERS AND EXPERIENCE THE STORIES (INCLUDING THE SUBLIME FAN TRANSLATIONS) ON YOUR OWN ACCORD I HAVE COMPILED A GOOGLE DOC EXPLAINING HOW YOU CAN DO SO HERE.
The Witcher universe is insane. Starting way back in 1992 with The Last Wish there’s a total of 7 books that detail the adventures of Geralt and company. It wasn’t until 2007 however, that the first game from CD Projekt Red came out. For many people, myself included, this was their first encounter with the universe and whilst I feel it’s an excellent introduction to the series, in the grand scheme of the Witcher universe, it doesn’t explore any stories or issues any other entry in the series does. As a result, jumping into the second game from the first must have been incredibly daunting for those unfamiliar with the big picture. This unfamiliarity is going to feel more daunting for those when they get the third game, which is going to attempt to tie up all of Geralt’s adventures, books and all. Hopefully, with this blog’s help, I can help alleviate that confusion and provide a greater appreciation for the universe.
Part 2: Elven Blood
Hello and that you once again for reading my blog aiming to prepare you for The Witcher 3, by exploring what happened in the previous entries in the series. In our first part last week, we talked about the first 2 books in the series which helped establish the unnamed world these tales reside in. In part two of this blog we’re going to look at the first novel in the series, The Blood Of The Elves.
Set shortly after the events of Sword Of Destiny, The Empire of Nilfgaard attacks the country of Cintra. The battle is over as quickly as it starts, and upon realising all hope is lost, Queen Calanthe commits suicide, rather than let the enemy get a hold of her. Young, Princess Cirilla (Ciri) manages to escape from the chaos. Upon learning of the girl’s escape Emhyr var Emreis, Emperor of Nilfgaard, sends his best men to find her, knowing she is of great importance, not only because of her royal lineage but also because of her magical potential and elven blood in her veins. During the escape, Ciri is almost caught by a knight with wings on his helmet. So frightened she passes out, Ciri awakens to find herself all alone with no knight in sight.
Living with a merchant (who is unaware of who the girl really is) for short while, just as it looks like she will be unable to live there any longer, Geralt Of Rivia so happens to find her. As luck (or destiny) would have it, Geralt has just saved the merchant and once again invoked the child of surprise law, not being able to imagine that the child he would receive is one he had already been promised and given away.
Geralt takes Ciri to the Witchers’ keep - Kaer Morhen. During her stay, she is taught by other witchers, including Vesemir, Coën, Eskel and Lambert. She learns about monsters and how to fight them; she is taught to fight with a sword in the witcher style. She runs gauntlets daily and, despite their toughness, she proves resilient. During one of these trials, Ciri bumps into the sorceress Triss Merigold, who has been invited to Kaer Morhen by Geralt, to help with occasional strange and abnormal behavior he has seen in Ciri. Triss realises that Ciri is a Source, a person with an incredibly strong (and dangerous) bond with magic, which is causing her to black out and sprout prophecies regarding those around her. Triss admits that she does not have the power to control Ciri's talent, and advises Geralt to swallow his pride and seek help with Yennefer, who is far more powerful than herself.
Meanwhile, a mysterious wizard called Rience is looking for the Cirilla. He captures Geralt's friend, Dandelion, and tortures him for information about Ciri. Dandelion, revealing nothing, is saved by the timely arrival of Yennefer, who engages in a short magic combat with Rience. Rience manages to escape through a portal but is left with a prominent facial scar from one Yennefer's spells.
In the spring, Geralt leaves Kaer Morhen with Triss and Ciri, intending to deliver Ciri to the Temple School in Ellander where she would receive a "normal" education from the headmistress Nenneke. On the way, Triss falls ill, and they join Yarpen Zigrin's dwarven company who is guarding a caravan for King Henselt.. The caravan is attacked by the Scoia'tael, a group on non-human “freedom fighters” who seek to reclaim their spot in higher society. After a tense battle. it is revealed that the escort mission was a trap set by the king, who doubted Yarpen’s loyalty and wanted to ensure he was loyal to the king.
Ciri's stay in Ellander is haunted by disturbing dreams of the knight in the winged helmet. Yennefer arrives at the temple and starts educating the girl in the ways of magic, whilst the two of them don’t get along at first, after a while the two start to develop a deep, mother and daughter like relationship.
Geralt is doing his his best to track Rience with the help of Dandelion. It’s at the school of Oxenfurt that the bard runs into the Redanian head of intelligence, Sigismund Dijkstra, who also appears to be searching for the young princess with the aid of of the powerful sorceress, and advisor to the King of Redania, Philippa Eilhart. Not saying anything to Dijkstra, Dandelion returns to Geralt, who is enjoying the company of student Shani, unbeknownst he has been followed by Philippa.
With advice from the sorceress's and aid from the bard and student, Geralt tracks down and forces a confrontation with Rience. After an intense battle, which leaves both the witcher and wizard badly injured. Once again, the wizard escapes via a portal and it becomes apparent there is a far greater threat behind the scenes aiding him. Geralt is prevented from pursuing the mage by Philippa, who also kills the last surviving of the Rience’s party, so Geralt cannot obtain any source of information which might eventually reveal the mysterious mage and his master behind the scenes. She leaves Geralt gravely wounded and non the wiser as to the people pursing the girl he is trying to protect.
The final chapter of the book, focuses on Ciri’s teachings at the hand of Yennifer. The two develop a strong bond and much to Ciri’s dismay, Yennifer will be taking her to the wizards school on Thaneed island, where she will be able to learn more about the ways of magic, become a sorceress herself and control her prophetic powers.
The Blood Of The Elves is a good book but it also clearly the weakest in the whole series. Transitioning from two books of short stories into a fully fledged novel, it sometimes feels like Sapkowski was challenged a bit too much to create a cohesive narrative throughout, where events are often compartmentalised a bit too much and play little into happening in the rest of the story.
It’s also a book with very little major threat and resolution as it’s obviously the author’s intention to turn this into a larger series. Sure, it’s a necessary evil to create a plotline that will span several books but all the best examples of this type of storytelling has a challenge the protagonist faces in one book that plays into the greater story of them all. Sure, Reince makes a great threat in this book but the final confrontation provides few answers and poses far more questions.
Thankfully, the books become far greater from now on, with the next, Times Of Contempt being arguably the best in the series. We’ll look at the events in that book in the next part but until then, thank you for reading, I look forward to your comments below.