Baptism of Fire (The Witcher series)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
American release date: June 24, 2014
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy/400 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Milva, the archer, first meets Geralt, the Witcher, two weeks after the disastrous conclave on the Isle of Thanedd. To say she is not amused would be an understatement, especially as he has seen her face. But Geralt is a friend of Brokilon, and he is injured, so they care nothing for the politics of the situation. So when the leader of Brokilon requests that Milva assist Geralt, how can she refuse? She can’t, although she doesn’t have to be happy about it. And she isn’t.
Dijkstra, the head of Redanian intelligence, is approached by the Nilfgaardian ambassador who seeks a criminal by the name of Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Caellach. Dijkstra feigns ignorance, but that man always knows more than he is willing to admit to. Once rid of the ambassador, Dijkstra writes to his sorceress, Philippa, revealing that he seeks the man as well. Not that he let slip that fact to the ambassador.
The sorceresses have their own agenda. The situation as they see it is going from bad to worse. It is only by some miracle that they were not all killed on Thanedd. They must take control of the situation before the men screw it up any more than they already have. But they must do it under the utmost secrecy as they work to reestablish the Chapter and the Council. They have to rely on one another, even the Nilfgaardian sorceresses, although there is a decided lack of trust there. They meet telepathically to lay the foundation and make plans to meet in person. Not everyone is pleased to see Assire of Nilfgaard among their number. And where is Yennefer?
Meanwhile, Ciri, who is going by the name of Falka, is having the time of her life, running with her little hoodlum pals, the Rats. So why does everyone else think she’s in Nilgaard, engaged to the emperor?
Having healed and left Brokilon, Geralt and Dandelion begin their journey. Although the Witcher think he’s inscrutable and mysterious, the poet can put two and two together and he knows where they are headed and why. And so the journey begins.
If you think there was a lot going on in the last book, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, b-b-b-baby.
The Witcher series has three main threads which twine and intertwine about one another, those three threads belonging to 1) Geralt, 2)Ciri, and 3)Yennefer. These three are bound by a fate they cannot escape. I can only hope and trust that they will end up together when all is said and done, but that remains to be seen.
Geralt has suffered much in his lifetime, beginning with his betrayal and desertion by his birth mother, to the pains he suffered in becoming the mutant known as a witcher. He had no choice in the matter, but he has certainly embraced this life, such as it is, and is renowned far and wide for his skill and prowess at slaying monsters. On the other hand, he has assumed a mask of indifference in the way he presents himself to the world, as if nothing and no one matters to him. Nothing reaches him or touches him. He is an emotionless killer of bad things.
But we know better, don’t we?
Despite pushing the troubadour away and keeping him at arm’s length, all the while commenting on his bad singing, Geralt considers Dandelion a friend, and has saved his bacon on more than one occasion. Dandelion may be a loud mouth who speaks first and thinks afterward, a braggart who feels that embellishment of the truth is often preferable to the facts, a narcissist who thinks he is irresistible to women… but truth be told, he has a good heart, and he would do anything for Geralt. Dandelion is the only companion Geralt has tolerated for many years, and I love to see them together (and yes, while I realize there is much fanfiction on the relationship between them being more than friendship, I don’t see that and consider it so much wishful thinking).
Geralt and Yennefer—ah, that is one complicated relationship. From the moment they met, something drew them together, almost as if they were magnetized, one to the other. And even though their lovemaking is often followed by separation and anger, they manage to find their way back together again and again, as if they are unable to help themselves. To be honest, I have no idea what he sees in her, and I would be happy if he were to find another love. Such as Triss Merrigold, for instance. But alas, I don’t feel that is meant to be, thanks in large part to the wish Geralt foolishly made (see The Last Wish, although I assume you’ve read it by this point). Whether they can stay together in the end remains to be seen. Yennefer has had a rough life, and I’m sure she feels something for the Witcher, but ultimately I don’t trust her.
Ciri is Geralt’s Law of Surprise gift, a serendipitous gift for Geralt cannot father a child, so Ciri is the child he cannot have. I don’t think he ever intended to go through with taking her on as his responsibility, and evaded doing so for as long as he could. But he couldn’t stem the tide of Fate forever, and having met her, he would do anything now to protect her. Woe betide anyone who comes between him and Ciri, or threatens to harm her in any way. As for Ciri, I worry about what will become of her after her time with the Rats. I think she likes killing a bit too much, and being a law unto herself. Will she be able to return to a more normal life, relatively speaking, or will she become more rebellious than ever? She’s always been a willful handful, but now…
There are some very interesting secondary characters in this book. If you’ve played the game (I’m only on the first one) you may recognize some of them, such as Zoltan Chivay. And some interesting new friends, such as Regis. The plot is exquisitely intricate as the author spins an amazing web of intrigue, war, deceit, love, mystery, supernatural, and so much more.
If you love the books, watch the series. Henry Cavill plays Geralt brilliantly
Another great book in the series, looking forward to the next one!