The Witcher series is something quite special and Baptism of Fire is no exception. Written by the talented Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and translated by the equally talented liguist David French (who translated the previous book in the series Time of Contempt).
The people behind the series have done something no other have quite accomplished. That is to not only create a Polish-English series that retains the voice of the author but also to transfer this to a series of Computer games that also manage to keep the feel, dark adult edge and humour of the novels. The games are incredibly well written, not only fun to play but visually stunning too.
I am a fan of both novels and games and I have been anticipating this book (the third in the series, not counting the short-story collection The Last Wish) for quite some time. It begins with Geralt recouperating from some serious injuries sustained during the coup and resulting uproar of the Wizards Guild. Meanwhile war rages across the lands. The very future of magic is under threat and Ciri, the heiress to the throne of Cintra has dissapeared - that is until a rumour places her in Niflgaard court, preparing to marry the Emperor.
Injured or not, Geralt is still a guardian of the innocent and protector of the people and it looks like he might just have a rescue mission on his hands.
There is a lot going on in the book, not only is Nilfgaard on the warpath again but Ciri is in trouble, Yennefer has gone missing and her sorcerer associates are up to something dangerous. The main plot is of course Geralts search for Ciri but this is surrounded by the larger events going on in the background. This creates that wonderful feeling of being a small cog in a gargantuan machine, not only tht but it's great to see Sapkowski's world continuing to evolve, to change.
As you might expect with so much going on the pace is pretty swift and highly entertaining, the translation is exceptional and there wasn't a single point that didn't fit or flow. The tension builds towards the titular "Baptism of Fire".
The Witcher series is a genuinely different fantasy series, not with presenting the world in moral shades (many do that) of grey but combined with an incredibly well delivered form of satire, dark humour and a feeling of "grown-up fantasy" without the twee or family-friendly shiny-ness that many fantasy seem to impart. This is a mature story without gratuity and depicts the realities of war, the savagery and brutality of people attacking each other with sharp metal objects along with the casual cruelty that often follows those who are happy, eager to kill.
This feeling is re-enforced by the portrayal of Geralt himself, his internal struggle to accept his role in the world.
Baptism of Fire is the perfect continuation to one of the finest adult fantasy series, one not to miss for any Witcher fan or those looking for something different.
Written on Monday 14th July 2014 by Antony.
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