Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski book review

Blood of Elves (The Witcher, #3)Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Considering how well-written and quick-paced the short story prequel collection The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski was, this was ridiculously disappointing and underwhelming. We have the same characters as was to be found in The Last Wish, and we had their personalities expanded and explored further, but we had none of the excitement or fantasy that was found there.

Blood of Elves is very slow and very closed-off. We spend far too much time in one place alone, and we follow conversations at a snail's pace to the point where what they're saying is no longer important but pointless chit-chat. It takes over half the book for us to leave Geralt and Ciri, who have taken up most of the book doing pretty much nothing in one place. The narrator is supposed to be omniscient, but it feels more like first-person narrative with just one or two dips elsewhere to move the rather vague plot along.

It's such a huge disappointment because the inclusion of our own folklore and fairytales in The Last Wish was a very good idea and following Geralt as he went about the countryside tackling monsters and demons (which is the job of the Witcher) was exciting, refreshing and kept the stories moving along. In Blood of Elves we meet one monster and little else.

It is mostly full of political intrigue, none of which is that interesting, nor does it deviate from the generic fantasy trope of races warring with races, crossing borders and sacking cities. But even then, with the generic fantasy tropes, we barely even get in to them because the characters are too busy having inane conversations whilst, presumably, just standing about being targets.

There was, however, a better set of female characters in this, though it was a bit too James Bond-esque how they all seemingly dropped their knickers are the mere sight of Geralt of Rivia. If one can get past this obvious High Fantasy trope and author-projection, we see some female characters that are developed beyond their breasts, but only just.

It's a relatively fun fantasy day-out. A quick read, won't challenge you much and will give you a good dose of non-YA fantasy goodness if that's what you're looking for (it's why I gravitated toward it) but it is by no means anything brilliant or ground-breaking. I will, however, finish the series, maybe pick up the other short story collection I haven't gotten around to and possibly play the game that was inspired by it.

(It's worth pointing out that this book is the first of a series, despite GoodReads naming it the third. This book is the first full-length novel and makes up the trilogy, with two anthologies of short stories taking up 1st and 2nd in the series.)




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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski book review

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I used to read pretty much nothing but High Fantasy, with a dash of Dickens here and there, and the occasional other classic, but High Fantasy was where I mostly lived. Deciding that there was more to reading than High Fantasy (which I absolutely and truly believe) I moved away and left it alone for a little while. Magician was really the first book I read that broke the High Fantasy drought, but it wasn't very good and I was disappointed. But it did make me hunger for some fantasy again...

And so we come to The Last Wish. It being one of the 1100+ books on my kindle, I didn't go out of my way to read a blurb or find out what it was about. All I did was find out which book in The Witcher series was the first book and started on it.

It was confusing at first, as very well it should be. The Last Wish is a collection of short stories that are set in the world of the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia and they follow his trials, from battling monsters to falling in love. I went in thinking it was the first book of a series-a general High Fantasy Trilogy that are so prevalent in that genre. That was wrong and it knocked me off my stride. But once you figure that out, you find yourself reading something pretty special.

The writing was pretty good, though how much of that is original author and how much is translation is something I don't wish to get in to. The action was fast, the pacing was good even for short stories. I dislike short stories as a rule but still read them if I don't have a solid reason not to. These short stories are different in that there is one story that runs throughout and the rest act as flashbacks.

The mingling effect of having re-written well-known fairy tales from our own world was really effective and very enjoyable. It was fun to see these stories almost set in a time and place where they actually belong-a world that has actual magic and monster, as opposed to our world where these things are only metaphors. It was fun to see how these tales were mingled, twisted and done and they were done really well, but they weren't really changed in to anything that very different and that let it down a little.

The humour was often times lacking and felt forced most of the time. I enjoy humour in what would be considered as serious books, but it wasn't particularly great here. I'd describe it as generic fantasy humour. I also thought the dialogue was fairly pathetic in most cases and let the stories as a whole down. Whilst I like people to speak normally instead of "thee" and "thou", this went too far and each character was a potty-mouthed arsehole most of the time.

And finally, to keep this short (it's getting longer than I intended it to be) I'd like to re-iterate some things. These stories are probably more of a 4-5 star read for what they are. High Fantasy, sword slashing, myths, magic and Mordor. They're fun and just what Fantasy is perceived to be. But for me, and why they're only 3 star, is that they only conform to the standards of High Fantasy and aren't breaking the mould. There's a minimal effort to create really good female characters. Having one female character who is in charge of her own destiny isn't good enough, particularly considering she's used magic to make herself "beautiful" and ends up being just a Vagina in the end anyway. The other women are mostly naked, whores, or victims, or mysteriously beautiful beings with magic powers but little else. Or old wise women who just sit and be wise. Magic powers and wisdom alone does not make a strong, interesting character. Strong, interesting characters do not need only be the protagonists.

And, similarly, male characters who are solely obsessed with tits and big swords is getting a little old, too.

For me, I need to see more progress made in this area. Sure, that might not be why you read High Fantasy and for you this book will probably be 4, no, 5 stars. But I realised how much I loved High Fantasy, and how much I still love it, and I want to see it change for the better and the only way to do that is by expressing my own opinion only and not letting populism get in the way.





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