Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski Review

The book begins two years after the war with Nilfgaard, Geralt has been keeping a very low profile and keeping Ciri safe. Yennefer and Dandelion haven’t set eyes on him during this time. They are all in trouble because they know what most of the world does not, that Ciri is still alive. She is important, dangerous people are looking for her. Dandelion was captured and tortured, he would have died had Yennefer not come to his aid. I was immediately drawn in at the beginning, it’s very atmospheric and I felt that the whole way through, the writing is much more detailed than the collection of short stories that come before it, I like this style much more.

“The Time of Contempt will come, when the trees lose its leaves, the bud will wither, the fruit will rot, the seed turn bitter and the river valleys will run with ice instead of water. The White Chill will come, and after it the White Light, and the world will perish beneath blizzards.”

I was very excited because we got to see the ruined castle that the witchers call home. There aren’t many of them left after a terrible massacre that happened at the castle long ago. But it was nice to see Geralt almost settled. The group quite often spend their winters together at the ruined castle.

Ciri isn’t able to control her powers yet, she can predict things and almost read people’s minds. But doesn’t remember her visions afterwards. The prophecies she recalls are terrifying and dark, Ciri goes into a trance when she tells them, the witchers discovered her power by accident and didn’t know what to do to help her.

“Death has cold blue eyes, and the height of the obelisk does not matter, nor does the writing engraved on it matter.”

I love how the book shows us that living for hundreds of years is not necessarily a good thing. The sorcerers and witchers are all low-key miserable or feel nothing anymore.

We don’t see a lot of Geralt in the first couple of chapters, it focuses on Ciri and her training with the Witchers. Same with the last couple of chapters where Ciri trains with the magicians instead. I did really enjoy seeing Ciri and Yennefer’s relationship develop. Yennefer is trying to teach her how to channel her magic. It’s nice seeing her in a caring role.

“A witcher doesn’t use light or fire as a weapon because it makes it harder to see. Every light creates a shadow and shadows make it harder to get your bearings. One must always fight in darkness, by moon or starlight.”

War and destruction follow both Ciri and Geralt. They can’t escape the fighting. A man is trying to hunt them down for his own gain, somehow he knows Ciri is alive and about her powers. The man has also crossed Yennefer before and has a burn on his face to show for it.

“The tactic of terror. Violence breeds violence. Hatred has grown into hearts and has poisoned kindred blood. Hard times are upon us.”

The jumps to different characters were slightly confusing towards the end because I didn’t know who anyone else was, but I figured it out eventually!

“Magic is Chaos, Art and Science. It is a curse, a blessing and progress. It all depends on who uses magic, how they use it, and to what purpose.”

The book leaves us on a cliffhanger, war again threatens the land as well as the end of everything, the dark prophecy that haunts them all. I’m very excited to read the next book.

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski Review

This book is another prequel to the main Witcher series, similar to The Last Wish it’s a collection of short stories following Geralt’s adventures.

The Bounds of Reason: This story was my favourite from the first season of The Witcher so I was excited to read it. Geralt is asked to join an expedition to follow a dragon. Geralt makes it clear that he will not hurt the creature. We get to see much more of Geralt and Yennefer’s relationship, they are no longer a couple and Yennefer is still furious with him. Dandelion is also part of the party, he makes me laugh so much! Most of the other people on the expedition want to kill the dragon for its treasure. I love the reveal at the end of the story and how once again Geralt is more moral and kind than the humans that hold him in such disregard.

“If dragons didn’t have treasure hoards, not a soul would be interested in them; and certainly not sourcerers.”

A Shard of Ice: The beginning sees Geralt and Yennefer living together in bliss, it’s really sweet. Geralt goes out to fight the monsters in the city and when he comes back Yennefer makes sure he isn’t severely injured, the elixir he has to take to get into fight mode means Geralt can’t feel anything until they wear off which could be too late. It’s a miracle he’s lasted this long without a person to look out for him. A rival for Yennefer’s affections tells Geralt that witchers can’t feel any emotions but I don’t think that’s true, maybe I’m projecting but I think Geralt does feel things. He cares about Yennefer and Dandelion as well as the people he protects. The ending to this one annoyed me and I’m not keen on the way Yennefer acts in this one.

“Truth is a shard of ice.”

Eternal Flame: Geralt and Dandelion find themselves up against a shape changer in a busy city. The Temple of Eternal Flame has an issue with the monster that is loose in their city, according to their beliefs, no monster can come close to their temples but it appears they were wrong. The head of the temple asks Geralt to rid them of the monster despite preaching that it doesn’t exist, if Geralt refuses they could end up in the dungeons or worse. Once again Geralt fights to protect the ‘monster’ they haven’t harmed anyone so why would he want to kill them? He has a conscience, he’s not a cold-blooded killer.

A Little Sacrifice: A reverse of the Little Mermaid where the mermaid refuses to become human but suggests the Duke who is in love with her becomes a merman instead, she’s frustrated that he expects her to make a sacrifice for him but won’t consider changing himself. The morale is of course that you shouldn’t have to change yourself for anyone. Geralt is then sent out to find a sea monster who consumed an entire ship’s crew. But witchers were not made to tackle sea creatures, they were made to clear the land of monsters, a very different skill set is needed.

The Sword of Destiny: Destiny is definitely the theme of this story! Geralt meets Ciri in some strange woods which are full of danger, only dryads can make their way safely through them, they live secluded from society and I think they have some magical powers, I low-key want to be them. Geralt is accompanied by a dryad to help him through and they save Ciri from a creepy snake-like monster. Geralt doesn’t realise that Ciri is his destiny until the dryads show him the truth. The reason Geralt pushes everyone away is because he thinks he’s going to get them hurt, his life is filled of endless dangerous situations, it makes me sad!

The only thing that everyone is destined for is death. Death is the other blade of the two-edged sword.

Something More: At the beginning Geralt was severely injured and had a fever dream where he remembered Yennefer told him to go to Cintra and find his destiny. In another memory Geralt meets with Queen Calanthe to tell her that he doesn’t want to take the child away from her, Geralt assumes it’s a boy but we know he’s wrong while Calanthe had assumed Geralt would want to turn the child into a witcher. There’s no way Geralt would put anyone through the horrible torture he had to endure to gain his powers. War is approaching and Geralt needs to act if he’s going to find Ciri and fulfill their destiny. This one had a beautiful and emotional ending, I’m really excited to get to the main series.

“The circle is closing, the snake is sinking its teeth into its own tail. That is how it must be.”

I think I enjoyed the first collection of stories a bit better. We saw a lot more of Geralt and Yennefer in this book and I’m not keen on their dynamic. All these stories are guiding us towards Blood of Elves, they’re more connected and centred around destiny, I think it’s set up the story really well, we get a real sense of Geralt’s character and his ties to the other main characters, I’m really looking forward to the next book!

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski Review

This is a collection of short stories following Geralt, our Witcher, on his adventures before the events of Blood of Elves.

The stories have a few dark fairytale elements, A Grain of Truth reminded me of Beauty and the Beast. A vile highwayman was cursed and lived alone as a beast in his mansion, he gained some magical abilities and could summon food from the kitchens without having to lift a finger. One day a merchant stumbled upon the beast and traded his daughter for a year with the beast in exchange for money and jewels. Soon other men found out about the arrangement and the beast was hardly alone. Geralt came across the beast when he found bodies in a wood nearby, it turns out there was something far more dangerous living in the house.

“There was something strange in Renfri’s voice…something associated with the red reflection of fire on blades, the wailing of people being murdered, the whinnying of horses and the smell of blood.”

In The Lesser Evil, Geralt finds an old acquaintance, a wizard who has become obsessed with an old myth that says any women born on the day of an eclipse has been sent by the devil to kill. For years some mad wizards have been hunting down these women and keeping them in towers (Rapunzel vibes). There’s also mention of a queen asking their mirror to predict the future and bring about the downfall of her stepdaughter. I think this was my favourite story.

“I know my fate whirls about me like water in a weir. It’s hard on my heels, following my tracks, but I never look back.”

Geralt’s moral compass is better than everyone around him, he was made to kill but he doesn’t enjoy it. He kills monsters if he has to and for money. If he can he will try to reverse spells and save as many people as he can. But people are scared of him, they shun him. He still has humour and his horse Roach though!

“People like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves.”

Queen Calanthe is so cool, I want to be her. She refuses to marry again after her husband dies because she doesn’t want to give up her power, fight the Patriarchy!!

“So I, a poor witcher, am to face down a destiny which is stronger than the royal will. A witcher fighting destiny! What irony!”

Yennefer is only in The Last Wish and she comes across as very fierce and forceful, her relationship with Geralt is important, they are bound together but they’re both low-key messes so it’s no wonder they fight a lot. Dandilion is also in this story as well as The Edge of the World. He makes me laugh, I love his and Geralt’s relationship, they both get on each other’s nerves but still care about each other.

I’m very excited to read Sword of Destiny which is another set of short stories, then it’ll be the main series!

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson Review

Blurb: Jackson Brodie has relocated to a quiet seaside village in North Yorkshire, in the occasional company of his recalcitrant teenage son Nathan and ageing Labrador Dido, both at the discretion of his former partner Julia. It’s a picturesque setting, but there’s something darker lurking behind the scenes. Jackson’s current job, gathering proof of an unfaithful husband for his suspicious wife, seems straightforward, but a chance encounter with a desperate man on a crumbling cliff leads him into a sinister network-and back into the path of someone from his past. Old secrets and new lies intersect in this breathtaking new novel, both sharply funny and achingly sad, by one of the most dazzling and surprising writers at work today.

It’s a slow burn to start with but I don’t mind that, I like getting to know the characters and starting to see where the connections are but I was always aware that something bigger was coming.

“It was funny how so many men were defined by their downfall. Women hardly ever. They didn’t fall down. They stood up.”

One of Kate Atkinson’s strengths is her characters and making them feel real, no matter how often they appear, every character is detailed and has life in them.

“His life had been a litany of disasters. What if he was already on his ninth life? The last go round. Perhaps he should be more cautious.”

Jackson’s sarcasm and pessimistic view of the world is the main reason I connect so well to his character. I also really connected with Reggie and Ronnie the two detectives that were assigned to investigate potential leads in an old case. They’re witty and determined and some of their quotes just spoke to me.

“Reggie sometimes wondered if a day would ever go by when she wasn’t disappointed in people.” – such a mood

Everything is cleverly wound together and as usual Jackson finds himself in the middle trying to put all the pieces together. I enjoyed all the references to the older books in the series but you don’t have to have read them to get into this book.

“Reggie was twenty-six, but she didn’t think that she had ever been the right age.”

I really enjoyed this book, I love a good mystery and trying to work things out for myself! I will always love everything that Kate Atkinson writes, she is brilliant no matter what the genre.

The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz

“I will be the hunter not the hunted.” – Lisbeth

Following on from the last book in the series, Lisbeth is still trying to track her sister’s movements while staying hidden herself. She ends up in Russia and has managed to hack in to cameras around Camilla’s house. Meanwhile back in Sweden Mikael is working on his story about the stock market crash. But he’s bored and uninspired, he can’t find an answer to his questions so he decides to take a break. But because he Mikael Blomkvist, he gets dragged into a mystery anyway. A homeless man died but a doctor who had seen the man often suspects fowl play. The man kept to himself and as far as she could tell there was no reason to murder him.

I realised how much I had missed Lisbeth and Mikael when I started reading this. They’re both so determined and intelligent yet chaotic, I forgot how fascinating they are. Lisbeth hasn’t told anyone where she is or what she’s up to, she works well on her own but Mikael is really worried about her, he’s searching for signs of her everywhere.

“He was fed up with it. He was tired of the news in general, tired of all the depressing political developments around the world.” – what a mood!

I felt like we’re back at what this series does best, we have a mystery, it’s possibly political but none of the pieces fit together. Lisbeth and Mikael make a brilliant team even though they’re not together. The jumps from one character to the next are seamless, it’s not confusing or difficult to follow and it keeps a nice pace to the book. It becomes incredibly tense and dramatic as the story goes on.

I like how a few times the story touched on the damaging effects the media can have. The hate campaign towards Johannes and Catrin’s dealings with negative reactions to her journalism. Social media has become this terrifying place where horrible people can sit safely behind a screen and tear down others for fun. It needs to stop.

I am so sad that this is the last book in the series, I will miss Lisbeth and Mikael a lot! The tension and action towards the end is so dramatic, I couldn’t put the book down. The whole series has shone a light on how dangerous our world is, there are secret threats everywhere when it comes to governments and spies. How much can we really trust our leaders? My bet is not at all! But there are still good people like Lisbeth and Mikael, Bublanski and Sonja who give us hope.

The Familiars by Stacey Halls Review

The Familiars is set in 1611-1612, Fleetwood is a young noblewoman, she has had multiple pregnancies but none of them have gone to term. She has recently discovered a letter from her doctor to her husband stating that another pregnancy may kill her. Yet she is pregnant again, Richard didn’t care, he would rather have an heir. Fleetwood is desperate to find help, she meets a young midwife, Alice, by chance and their lives become intertwined. When Alice is accused of being a witch Fleetwood tries desperately to save her, it could mean a death sentence for all of them if Alice isn’t there to help with the birth.

“Women carried life and death in their stomachs when they conceived; it was a fact of our existence.”

Fleetwood is treated awfully by her husband, he knows that another pregnancy would kill her but he chose not to tell her and is still obsessed with having a child. Then he ignores her worries and tries to control everything. However there is an air of mystery in the story that makes me eager to read more.

The king is not a supporter of women trying to make their way in the world any way they can: helping neighbours, and driving off sickness, and trying to keep their children alive.” – Alice

I love that Fleetwood and Alice team up to run away from the witch hunters. It makes me shudder to think what women went through during James I’s reign. The treatment of women in this age makes me so angry.

Fleetwood’s sass knows no bounds! I was so proud of her when she was investigating and trying to save Alice. She is an absolute badass, she’s riding around the countryside, heavily pregnant, threatening people who are lying about Alice. She’s determined and brave in a society that constantly puts women down or tries to kill them.

“The realisation was lapping at my edges again, the knowledge that without Alice, I may as well have a rope tied too.

This book is very well written, Fleetwood’s feelings and pain are so vivid that I felt everything with her. I wanted so desperately for her to succeed and survive along with Alice. I strongly recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and anyone who loves strong female characters.

Circe by Madeline Miller Review

“You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.”

Circe is a story of fierce strength, loneliness, rejection, a mother’s love and a woman who fought against the bullies around her and succeeded, all of this is tied into the Greek myths, we meet some of the gods and goddesses but my favourite parts were with Circe when she was on her island, fighting to keep her child safe and standing up to the people who had tried to belittle her.

“For a hundred generations, I had walked the world drowsy and dull, idle and at my ease. I left no prints, I did no deeds. Even those who had loved me a little did not care to stay. Then I learned that I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow.”

I was so excited when Circe found out she is a witch. She had been scorned and bullied her whole life and now she had power and a purpose. I love the style of writing, it’s almost poetic, that’s why I have so many favourite quotes!

“In a solitary life there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”

Circe is fierce and powerful but she still has compassion. She cares about her animals and the mortals she endangered by creating a monster. But when Circe was attacked by some sailors she started murdering all the horrible men that invaded her island, honestly what a mood.

“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”

I love how the book shows that just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. I prefer my own company a lot of the time, and when Circe is at peace on her island so does she, she has her pet lions and it suits her well. But because Circe is immortal she faces an eternity alone which I’m not sure I could cope with!

“The air would smell like buttery olives and iron. I would speak her name and the sky would glow bright as polished silver.”

I was very emotional at the end, I loved everything about this book, I highly recommend it, you don’t have to know about Greek myths to enjoy it.

“I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty Review

“Frances felt hope rise in the room like a delicate mist. Oh, to be transformed, to be someone else, to be someone better.”

Nine Perfect Strangers is set in Australia. Nine people have signed up to a ‘life changing’ retreat. They think they heading to a normal health resort. But they are wrong.

It was interesting to see how the characters coped with the stress of not being able to talk for five days coupled with the fasting periods. I definitely couldn’t do either, if I’m not talking to others then I’m talking to myself!

The book shines a light on how rushed and superficial our society can be. I have learnt through this crisis that it is good to slow down and take in your surroundings.

Very cleverly done, the characters are detailed and completely believable. Liane Moriarty is very good at writing real people, all the characters are complex and flawed which is why this book works so well. I’ve always found human behaviour fascinating and this book definitely shows great insight.

I really enjoyed this book, it was interesting, clever, shocking and moving. I’m excited to read more of Liane Moriarty’s work.

“Nine people were depending on her. Nine perfect strangers who would soon become like family.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins Review

“Nothing you can take from me was ever worth keeping.”

I was drawn in completely at the beginning. Of course we already know the Panem of the future, but this version of the Capitol still has rubble in the streets where the District 13 bombs hit. The citizens still remember the war and they are full of venom, full of bitterness. They still have their pride and now they have the power back. It was interesting seeing things from the Capitols point of view. I still didn’t sympathise with them because they disgust me. But a lot of people did object to the Hunger Games.

If starving to death was a natural cause. He wasn’t entirely sure. Was it natural if hunger had been used as a weapon?”

I loved Lucy Gray (Snow’s tribute) straight away, she is bold, sassy and wonderful. Snow is very clever and always eager to please but he still has compassion. I have no idea how it came about but I did start to feel sympathy for Snow. Despite knowing how he turns out, I found myself hoping that he would somehow not become the evil President of Katniss’ day.

We see the Hunger Games taking the shape of the ones we know. The spectacle, the show that the Capitol put on to subdue the Districts. It’s terrifying seeing all the horrible things that we know one day will harm countless children and make the whole event into a show rather than the slaughter that it is.

“If the people who were supposed to protect you played so fast and loose with your life…then how did you survive? Not by trusting them, that was for sure.

I loved all the little things that remind us of the original series. Like mentions of Mockingjays etc. The music that travelled down the generations, lullabies and nursery rhymes. Even some poems from before the apocalypse were made into songs by some citizens.

I didn’t want the book to end, because it was so brilliant and because I knew it must end in heartbreak somehow. Something must happen to Snow and I wasn’t in a rush to find out.

Truly an incredible read. Collins kept me on my toes the whole way through. Especially towards the end, I felt like I couldn’t dare to breathe. I am very emotional at the end of this book. The Coriolanus Snow we knew was cold, manipulative and evil. But we’re not born evil, and nor was he. If you like The Hunger Games series this is a must read.

“I think there’s a natural goodness built into human beings. You know when you’ve stepped across the line into evil, and it’s your life’s challenge to try and stay in the right side of that line.”

The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman Review

This book is set 10 years after His Dark Materials. Lyra is twenty years-old and studying at Oxford University. It still follows on from the first in the series La Bell Sauvage, we see Malcolm has grown up to be a professor at Oxford and he even tried to teach Lrya when she was a teenager. She didn’t know, of course that he saved her life when she was just a baby.

Lyra and Pan are launched straight into a mystery surrounding roses. Pan often goes out at night on his own and he witnessed a murder. Lyra and Pan always seem to attract trouble and they are still in danger from the Magisterium. The whole world is being dictated to by the Magisterium, they are scary people and their power is growing.

It broke my heart to see that Pan and Lyra are having trouble connecting. Ever since Lyra had to go to the Underworld in The Anber Spyglass, her and Pan have been able to move around separately but it also seems their relationship has suffered over the years since. Lyra has also lost the ability to read her alethiometer naturally, she now has to rely on books to tell her all the symbol meanings.

The Secret Commonwealth is the secret world of mythical creatures. Faries and many other creatures live in Lyra’s world but most people don’t know they exist or don’t believe in them. I love this idea, I think that’s what our world is like too.

I’m so glad we get to see more of Malcolm and more of the secret organisation he’s a part of. It was created to fight the Magisterium but their nunbers are dwindling. We get to see a lot more of the politics of Lyra’s world in this book. Everything is a lot more complicated.

The way that the humans without their daemons are treated and how they feel is like they have mental health issues. People avoid them unnecessarily, they’re afraid of them. And Lyra feels lonely and broken. Seeing Lyra go through this self loathing is tough, your early twenties are really difficult. I just wanted to give her a hug.

“She felt as if shed woken up in chains and couldn’t free herself, so she had to carry them with her wherever she went, like a badge of shame.”

An incrdible book, very emotional and thought provoking. At the beginning Lyra is reading a lot of philosophy books that question the existence of daemons but on her journey she finds out about the Secret Commonwealth. There is more magic around us than we think and we often forget that as we grow up.

The book ends on a cliffhanger of course! I don’t know when the next book will be published or even what it’s called, but I am eager to read it! Philip Pullman once again has drawn me in to Lyra’s world and I don’t want to leave.

“‘There are philosophers who say that the failure would be to believe, not to disbelieve.’ ‘Then they have separated their intelligences from their other faculties. And that is not an intelligent thing to do.’”