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Literature / Blood of Elves

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The third book in The Witcher franchisenote  by Andrzej Sapkowski, originally in Polish but translated to English. It is the first full-size novel in the series, as well as the first installment of the "Blood of the Elves Saga"/"Geralt and Ciri Saga".

After the kingdom of Cintra was razed by The Empire of Nilfgaard in the previous book, the orphaned Cintran princess Cirilla is picked up by Geralt, her destined guardian. Safe at the witchers' stronghold Kaer Morhen, she receives combat training from the witchers. However, Ciri turns out to be even less ordinary.

The witchers call upon the sorceress Triss Merigold for help, who soon realises the cause of the problem: Ciri is a latent magician, a Source. As such, she has to be tutored by someone more competent — like Yennefer, Geralt's former lover. Meanwhile, prophecies linking Ciri to unimaginable destruction come to light, causing kings, spies, and magicians alike to seek her out.

Tropes found in the book:

  • Admiring the Abomination: Done by a biologist during a river cruise. Geralt tells him to name the creature after an annoying brat that traveled with them.
    "What a specimen, what a specimen," Pitt quickly noted, thrilled no end. "Prehensile cephalic limbs, four pairs of chelae... Strong tail-fan... Sharp claws..."
  • Academy of Adventure: How Kaer Morhen is treated despite the fact it's an empty ruin devoid of other students. Having nothing else to do, and, more importantly, being just a bunch of monster-slayers, the witchers kill time during the winter by putting Ciri through a gruelling training just because.
  • A-Cup Angst: Triss throws something of a What the Hell, Hero? fit over the fear that Witcher training will prevent Ciri from developing womanly curves. (The implications are that the witcher herbs function somewhat like anabolic steroids and can seriously screw up someone undergoing puberty, which is a fairly weighty matter.)
    Triss Merigold: "The mushrooms whose secrets you guard so carefully,” she explained, “do, indeed, keep the girl wonderfully fit and strengthen her muscles. The herbs guarantee an ideal metabolic rate and hasten her development. All this taken together and helped along by grueling training causes certain changes in her build, in her adipose tissue. She’s a woman, and as you haven’t crippled her hormonal system, do not cripple her physically now. She might hold it against you later if you so ruthlessly deprive her of her womanly… attributes. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
  • All for Nothing: Yarpen goes to extraordinary lengths to prove his loyalty to King Henselt and that not all nonhumans want to wage war against humanity like the Scoia'tael. A military commander assumes Yarpen is a traitor and thus sets up an ambush to test him—only to have the convoy hit by the Scoia'tael and Yarpen fight with them against non-humans. While the leader of the convoy is mortally wounded, Yarpen lost one of his men and then discovered that the secret cargo they defended and lost their lives for were just boxes full of stone. In the end, everyone is soured by the experience and full of - this time genuine - contempt.
  • All Men Are Perverts: All three Witchers take Triss' speech on A-Cup Angst very seriously with Lambert eyeing Triss' cleavage the entire time. Averted by the well mannered, socially adept Eskel who proceeds to scowl at Lambert.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Emhyr var Emreis, the Emperor of Nilfgaard, is hunting Ciri in hopes of taking her as a wife to legitimize his conquest of Cintra. At least, that's what the rulers of the Northern Kingdoms think, and they plan to have her assassinated or married off in order to foil it. In Lady of the Lake Geralt discovers that Duny was an alias: Ciri is Emhyr's daughter.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: The aforementioned biologist also dislikes the idea of killing rare animals (including rare animals that routinely eat people), which is pretty much a witcher's trade.
  • Artistic License – History: Played with In-Universe. Dandelion's epic about Cintra, Geralt, and Ciri is subject to a real-time debate which almost turns into a riot after its performance. Everyone loves the debate but its actual meaning is subject to intense disagreement. Everyone also thinks Dandelion took liberties with the story but no one can agree WHAT were the liberties taken.
  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Yennefer, who turns out to be a surprisingly sympathetic (though harsh) teacher.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Yennefer enters the story by saving Dandelion from Rience's Cold-Blooded Torture.
  • Bullying a Dragon: On a simply pragmatic point, the Scoia'tael are doing this. Geralt and Yarpen both know if all of the nonhumans in the world gathered together into a single military force, it would just mean humanity would kill them all.
  • Category Traitor: Yarpen is considered this by many of his fellow dwarves as well as other nonhumans because he wants them to coexist peacefully with humans in human settlements.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Ciri gets a diet of mushrooms and special leaves by the Witchers which don't give her super-strength but make her insanely strong and fast for a teenager. They also exacerbate her menstrual symptoms, and Triss worries about their effect on Ciri's "womanly attributes", given they are steroids in all, but name.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Baroness La Valette was retroactively made this as far as the second game is concerned. Queen Meve offhandedly mentions the affair Foltest is having with her, which becomes very relevant in the plot of Assassins of Kings.
  • Cool Big Sis: Triss takes the role of female role model for Ciri, who desperately needs it after a year with the slobbish all-male Witchers.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • The opening meeting is divided between Elven, Dwarven, Human, Commoner, and Nobleman listeners who all have something to say about each other. Many of them also hate Nilfgaard for various reasons relating to their mixed half-human/half-elven heritage.
    • The Witchers were subject to this due to an Expy of the Malleus Maleficarum.
    • And gets taken to a whole new level with the introduction of the Scoia'tael, a racially focused terrorist/freedom fighter group, who have made things so much worse for everyone.
  • Gender Is No Object: Deconstructed. The (until now) exclusively male witchers see no problem in giving a girl the same training and diet that they went through, but Triss points out that their methods don't take Ciri's menstrual cycles into account, and can potentially imbalance the hormones in her still developing body.
  • The Heavy: Rience is but a lackey to a much greater enemy, but he nevertheless serves as the main antagonist who Geralt spends the majority of the book hunting down.
  • Just Friends: Geralt, having no idea what to address Yennefer as due to their on-again-off-again relationship, calls her his "dear friend" in a letter to her. This, of course, backfires hilariously on him because her response ends up being a long, passive-aggressive rant at being his "friend" that especially calls him out on spending years not speaking to her. Geralt can only wince and curse uncomfortably as he reads the letter.
  • Loose Lips: Dandelion unwittingly reveals the survival of Ciri (who has many enemies) due to incorporating it into a ballad.
  • Man Hug: One is shared between Geralt and Eskel upon his return to Kaer Morhen, being brothers in all but blood who grew up together.
  • Mugging the Monster: A team of Siblings in Crime is hired to off Geralt. Three of them promptly get killed, and the maimed fourth gets a Coup de Grâce. It wasn't genre-blindness on their part, they just didn't know the target would turn out to be a witcher. Although one of them realized when they were given the job that the one who hired them agreed to an increase in price way too quickly - should they know, they would never take the job.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: King Henselt's men after the ambush on Yarpen's caravan. The realization they used a bunch of people genuinely loyal to the cause of peaceful coexistence as bait rather than collaborators shocks them out of their Fantastic Racism and leaves them aware of their own status as traitors.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Triss implicitly suffers from diarrhea when she falls ill, and needs to be frequently carried to the bushes to do her business.
  • No Periods, Period: Ciri suffers her first one, to Triss' outrage given the witchers weren't even aware of it. Triss also notes that the witchers were feeding Ciri their usual childrens' diet, which includes herbs that are known to promote muscle growth, but seem to be making Ciri's menstrual symptoms worse as a side effect. (This wasn't known before Ciri, since no one had ever tried to create a female witcher before.)
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Played with. The Witchers lost all of their experts on creating new Witchers with the attack on Kaer Morhen. The books, all the equipment and majority of ingredients are still there. It's just that they have no trained personnel to carry through the process, no real need to try and, more importantly, not a single mage they trust enough to allow access to their storage. And Triss, when contemplating the option to even try, quickly reminds herself that even people who knew what they were doing had a 60% fatality rate with their subjects.
  • The Purge: The Witchers suffered one of these somewhere in the past due to rumors about them and their wicked ways. It effectively destroyed them as a force and caused them to stop taking in new students. Or, more specifically, they lost almost their entire staff, with Vesemir, a mere fencing teacher, being the Sole Survivor, with none of the mages making it through. Even if they wanted to, they have nobody left to even try making new witchers.
  • Raised by Dudes: A cursory glance at the bruises on Ciri's body, as well as the fact that she was beginning to menstruate without them realizing it, make it clear to Triss that the well-meaning witchers of Kaer Morhen have no idea how to raise a girl.
  • Realpolitik: The four most powerful monarchs of the North can't decide what to do with the missing princess of Cintra when and if she turns up, and none of them trust each other with her since she would be such a powerful political tool. So they agree that killing her is the safest option.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: A surprising number of them throughout the book like Dijkstra, Wenck, Olsen the Customs Official, and Philippa Eilhart. However, they're not the ones who really matter.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Geralt meets all six members of Yarpen Zigrin's dwarven mercenary band in Sword of Destiny, but apart from Yarpen himself they're not given names or distinct personalities until now. Sapkowski even lampshades this by stating that Geralt couldn't remember any of them.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Triss was one of the fourteen mages reported to have died on Sodden Hill in the previous book. She explains that she was gravely wounded and suffered burns that were so severe, she couldn't be recognized, which is what caused the confusion in the first place.
  • Sex Starts, Story Stops: Geralt and Shani had to be alone for an hour, tops, before they were in bed together.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Triss Merigold suffers from this and has some truly terrible memories from the battle of Sodden Hill.
  • The Spymaster: Dijkstra of Redania is one of these, being the head of the intel agency of his kingdom.
  • Survivor's Guilt: Triss and Ciri are both suffering from this to various degrees.
  • Thicker Than Water: The local kings' favourite saying, apparently. Also applies in the case of Crach an Craite, for whom this is a reason to keep waging war on Nilfgaard: his cousin Eist Tuirseach was married to Queen Calanthe of Cintra, both of whom died in the Nilfgaard conquest.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Triss and Ciri have this kind of relationship despite their age difference because Ciri is being raised in the very masculine environment of Kaer Morhen and has been enjoying it (except for the issue of no help when her periods start). Triss, on the other hand, is a member of The Beautiful Elite Lodge of Sorcereress.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dandelion telling a grand ballad about the survival of the Princess of Cintra after her nation is subject to a genocide attempt is dangerous enough. It gets worse when he says who has her in their custody and they're close friends.
  • Training from Hell: Not only was a witcher's training meant for boys, not girls, but it was meant for mutation-enhanced boys who were tough enough to survive the mutation process. Ciri undergoes it only because that's the only way of raising children the witchers of Kaer Morhen know. It proves to be insanely useful later on.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Triss reads the Witchers of Kaer Morhen the riot act when she finds out they've been raising Ciri like one of their own trainees, despite the fact that said training is brutal to the extreme. The irony? Ciri actually enjoys it a great deal except for the No Periods, Period problems which have recently arisen.
  • Women Are Wiser: Lampshaded during the monarch's summit. When the kings find themselves stumped as to what they should do about Nilfgaard and the Scoia'tael, they all turn to Queen Meve to see if her "woman's intuition" can figure something out. She's annoyed by this, but nevertheless provides some wisdom that spurs the kings into forming a plan of action.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Ciri's only twelve years old, but the Northern monarchs conclude that she's too politically volatile to keep alive. Though Queen Meve admits to finding infanticide unnecessarily extreme.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters:
    • The Scoia'tael see themselves as fighting human oppression against non-humans. Humans mostly consider them terrorists and highwaymen. Geralt has a very unsympathetic view of them, believing that the only way to survive is live in peace with humanity.
    • Yarpen has similar sentiments. Not that they help him.