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The Witcher Book 1: Blood of the Elves- Final Review

I just wrote a small review, but I was only about halfway through the book. Now, I’m done, and I can post a full review that is better informed.

The phrase “show, don’t tell” is a common one. If you’ve ever been confused as to what that actually means, read this book. Everything about it is told instead of shown. Constant strings of dialogue or narration to explain things instead of just having the story happen.

I was turned on to the series by the videogame The Witcher and it’s sequels. Unfortunately, I don’t have the correct system to play the game so I decided to check if there was any source material. There is a prequel book to setup the series called The Last Wish. I got that book, loved it, and then ordered the rest of the series. The Last Wish is a good book, it’s a collection of short stories connected by flashbacks as Geralt is healing from a job that went a little sideways. If you like the games, read The Last Wish, skip the other books.

The first 1/3 of the book is mostly dialogue and long stretches of narration to tell the reader what’s happening, how they feel, and what caused this to happen. Again and again there are just long stretches where nothing is really described. This portion of the book takes place in a ruined keep where the witchers train. That’s about as much as I can tell you about it. It’s a ruined keep, with a graveyard, possibly a wall, and training grounds that aren’t fully described. There are references to different equipment setup for exercise, but they’re just given names.

Once it moves on from the training section there is a couple of chapters that further explain what’s going on. This starts to get away from the constant barrage of someone telling you what’s going on and why, with some actual action and description. Alas, this is short lived. After a brief brush with a functional story it goes back to the dull march of exposition. The next little bit of story is Geralt on a barge protecting it from water monsters.

Sounds like a cool setup, right? You, like me, would be wrong. We learn about this creature from a long, drawn-out debate with a scholar, then we get a customs inspection, and some one tries to capture Geralt. Even that is just ho-hum.

For another thing, the setup it that witchers are societal outcasts, but Geralt isn’t treated with anything be respect. Oh, you’re Geralt the witcher, I’ve heard about you… you saved my village last year… remember that time we did awesome stuff together… Everywhere Geralt goes he just happens to run into someone who knows him by reputation or has met him previously and is wildly impressed with him. They stand up for him, they warn him of trouble ahead, and this, of course, leads to more exposition clumsily described as banter.

I guess if my table gets wonky I’ll have something to prop it up.

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Blood of the Elves: The Witcher Book 1

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski introduces the world of The Witcher via a collection of short stories told via flashback. Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, a monster hunter, who travels the land dealing with magical menaces. The twist on the idea is that the inspiration comes more from classic faerie tales and lore rather than just another angle of Tolkien or Dungeons & Dragons. I really liked this book. The characters were solid, the world felt alive, and it was a cool premise.

Guess what? There’s a series of books to go along after and this was just the introduction. Thanks to some Amazon giftcard from Christmas I was able to order all three books.

I’m about halfway through Blood of the Elves, which is book 1 of 3, and it’s disappointing. Instead of Geralt traveling the countryside fighting monsters the story revolves around the impending threat of invasion from a kingdom of evil dudes that invaded and failed a few years prior. Large chunks of exposition are just tossed out as dialogue and there isn’t a lot of action to break it up.

“Yes, duck that, now dodge.”
“Ouch. What did I do wrong?”
“Move faster.”

I’m going to stick it out to see if it gets better.


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