Baptism of Fire (Witcher 4) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Ah, Geralt of Rivia. I can’t quite put my finger on why I enjoy this series, or rather the world they are set in so much. It is a very classic fantasy where the exploring of new places (read: questing) is a big part. But it is also a very modern fantasy with gritty undertones and imperfect protagonists. Or more accurately, the dry British humor in which the story is told – never making a joke of the world, but let the reader see the world through the characters who have a rather jaded view of everything. The translation into English by David French is excellent.

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In this fourth book of the series Geralt continues the search for Ciri, his missing child of the prophesy princess-become-witcher. Whereas in the third book we got lots of Ciri’s POV and our hero spent most of his time wounded and out of action, this time the tables are reversed. The main plot could be summarized as ‘Geralt goes from one place to another in what is an ultimately useless wild goose chase’; but with many classic fantasy tales the things met along the way are what make the story interesting. There is an overarching main plot with intricate political machinations but it remains firmly in the background, much more so than in the earlier books.

The new characters we are given are good, though I did wish we could have seen more of the important characters from earlier – Triss is all but missing and I dislike what is being done to Ciri. Still the books is an enjoyable read – though more as a part of the whole arch rather than standing on its own as an individual book.

If you liked fantasy already 20 years ago, you’ll like this the Witcher books. They have enough of the old magic in them, while still being modern enough to avoid feeling dated. And as a note to writers of modern gritty fantasy – you can create a realistic, brutal world even if you do not go into excessive graphical detail. And it’s not a requirement that every protagonist is flawed to the point of being unlikable.

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