I picked this book up in the mood for elves. And elves is what I got.
Elvish follows two POV characters, Venick and Ellina. Venick is a soldier who has been banished from his people for murder. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that he fell in love with a northern elf - considered highly illegal according to elf law - and they were turned in by his own father. She is killed by the southern elves after his father turns on them, and in response, Venick kills his father in front of his mother. Off the bat, I was a little put off by Venick's choice to murder. Sure, his father is a world class a-hole, but murder in return for murder? I wasn't so sure about it.
Ellina is a northern elf, a spy/soldier who prowls with her legion to keep her lands safe from both southern elves and humans. Any human trespassing on elven lands is put to death. She comes across Venick, who has come onto elven land in search of food. He's caught in a bear trap, and she convinces her legion to let him go in exchange for her staying with him and putting him to the question. But instead, she sees a necklace he is wearing and lets him go for unknown reasons.
Venick keeps the fact that he understands elvish from her. The language is the backbone of this book. One cannot lie in elvish, so whomever speaks it is beholden to always tell the truth. Even elves don't always speak in elvish, and Ellina has become a master at manipulating her own language and that of the mainlanders.
Ellina and Venick plan on parting ways, but when they come to a mainland city, there is something off. They are chased by southern elves for unknown reasons, and Venick feels something is amiss. He convinces Ellina to escape with him through water (elves cannot swim) and earns her trust. Over the course of time, it's clear they have feelings for each other.
I really enjoyed the interweaving politics of this story. Humans, southern elves, and northern elves all try to live peacefully together, but as the book progresses, something is definitely off in this "peace". Venick soon comes upon a secret after he and Ellina part ways, and he risks everything to bring this information to the northern elves. He grew on me, although the murder still never sat well with me. And Ellina is fascinating. The elven culture and language was well done.
3.5/5 stars for Elvish, and if you enjoy character driven stories, romance, well done politics, and worldbuilding that isn't too complicated, pick this one up.