Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski book review

Baptism of Fire (The Witcher, #5)Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

We come to book three of the Witcher series, or book five if you're counting the first two collections of short stories. Whichever way you want to look at it, Baptism of Fire is the same dull book as it would be in any order.

The series continues with Geralt the Witcher searching the land for the Child Surprise, Ciri. The war rages on around them and it seems every faction is on the look out for Ciri, too. But Geralt is injured and the sorcerers are in disarray, whilst the enemy approaches ever closer...

Let's first of all take a little look at the title of the series: Witcher. One would hope that this meant that the book would be about Geralt, who is THE Witcher, and of course, it is about him. In a roundabout way. But unfortunately, it is about him in the sense that today is about you. There's barely any Witcher-ing going on (a Witcher being someone who is paid to kill monsters) and the only Witcher-y things that happen are the countless pirouettes that occur during a sword fight.

Taking the characters as a whole, they're all still similar, juvenile and can't speak for toffee. Their dialogue has stopped being all about whores and sluts, and yet it is still the speak of simpletons. We get endless conversations that should be propelling the plot along but ends up being mindless drivel. The characters themselves don't notice this, nor do they seemingly notice anything else that's happening around them. When we focus on a certain character, the rest of the world just stops: or so it seems.

I feel I can't comment on the writing, not only because it's a translation (though I know a translation can only work with what it's given) but because I think the version I read was a fan-generated ebook of terrible writing and horrible grammar. Having said that, you cannot make good what was already poor to begin with-or indeed, you can't polish a turd.

Going back to the plot, it is dry and underdone. We only really have one plot thread running throughout, and that is Ciri. Whilst we are now getting POV from many different characters and we are encountering the different races and peoples that inhabit this Witcher world, we are still not getting much in the way of plot. There are minor conspiracies dashed about, but ultimately all it boils down to is Geralt's need to find Ciri. And even once we know that, we don't even know why. There are countless times when we are told of prophecies and plans, but nothing substantial stands out. It's mostly conjecture and it's as if the author didn't necessarily have much of a plot in mind from the beginning anyway.

My main consternation for this series, however, is the true lack of originality and imagination. We have here just a generic, every-day kind of fantasy novel. Which you could say is fine, because if fantasy is what you like, then this'll be right up your street if you're not looking for anything challenging or something that is truly breath-taking and different.

But when you consider what Sapkowski wrote in The Last Wish you'd be easily forgiven for hoping that these books might be better. The Last Wish intertwined fairytale re-tellings with political intrigue and we had a great and original character in Geralt the Witcher. But with these books we have none of that. We simply have flat storytelling, pointless plots and some very lacking characters.

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