Pick up a copy of Blood of Elves, Andrzej Sapkowski’s first novel available in English translation, and you will probably think it is one of those blood and thunder novels full of mighty smiting and oceans of blood. You’d be wrong. It is a lot funnier, a lot cleverer and a lot less violent that you would expect from the cover. Sadly the translation has been butchered, and I spent much of the time reading it wishing I could edit the text. It is clear as you read it that Sapkowski is using neat imagery, creating amusing banter and so on, but much of it is rendered in very flat and unimaginative English. (Note: I read the UK edition from Gollancz, Orbit may have edited it further for the US release.)
Despite all of that, the book has made it onto the short list for the Gemmel Award, which should tell you a lot about how good it could have been with a good translator. Here’s hoping that it is also selling well, because it is clearly the first part of an ongoing tale that I want to hear more of. Also, having met Mr. Sapkowski, I think he’d be great fun to have at a UK convention. He speaks good English, makes good jokes, and is fond of good whisky, which should make him a great guest.