Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Baptism of Fire

Go To
The fifth book in The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski, originally in Polish (original title: Chrzest ognia).

While Geralt recuperates from the injuries he sustained at Thanedd, the Nilfgaard Empire conquers half of the Northern lands and scares the rest into submission. As soon as he can, he goes out searching for the disappeared Ciri and is joined by archer girl Milva, Dandelion the Quirky Bard, Cahir the Nilfgaardian knight who saved Ciri in Cintra, and a Vegetarian Vampire scholar and healer named Regis. Along the way, they are accompanied by dwarf Zoltan Chivay and his gang. Yennefer is nowhere to be seen; as such, she is presumed to be one of the ringleaders of the Thanedd coup. The truth, however, is more complicated, being related to the machinations of a freshly started sorcerous secret society. Meanwhile, stranded in unfamiliar land, Ciri unexpectedly finds love and family within a gang of teenage highwaymen, the Rats.

Tropes found in the book:

  • Accidental Hero: Geralt's hanse saves the Queen of Rivia and, quite possibly, prevents Nilfgaard from winning the war. How did they do this? By getting attacked by Nilfgaard's soldiers nearby her when they stumble on a battle and slaughtering them all. They being, Dandelion exempted, a Badass Crew.
  • Action Girl: Milva, Ciri, Mistle are all very capable in combat. The first is a skilled archer, the second was trained by witchers, and the third is a professional highwayman.
  • Affectionate Parody: The hanse part of the plot is a subtle, but very clear parody of the "Your party all met in a forest with the goal of saving a princess" type of generic plot from a TTRPG campaign. The fact that the rest of their adventures follow Plot Tailored to the Party makes it really hard to ignore.
  • Anchored Teleportation: While standard teleportation does not appear to require a physical component, in order to escape an area under an active teleport interdiction spell, Yennefer uses a random oyster shell to teleport to its place of origin. Since this is essentially a nigh-suicidal Blind Jump (and she does indeed end up in the middle of a sea and only survives by a stroke of luck), the interdiction spell was not set up to cover such a possibility.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In description of Geralt's actions during the Thanedd coup. In loose transcription:
    "He [Geralt] broke Dijkstra's leg, beheaded Artaud Terranova, hacked ten or so Scoia'tael to pieces, and aroused Keira Metz’s unhealthy passions."
  • Ax-Crazy: Ciri starts becoming this more and more, to the point she's begun frightening the other Rats.
  • Badass Crew: Geralt's hanse is, quite possibly, the most dangerous group ever assembled on the Continent given they're all peers of him in combat ... except for Dandelion.
  • Becoming the Mask: Ciri has veered dangerously close to losing herself in the role of "Falka". That attitude has even seeped into her true personality, as she insults and threatens a minor noble in a way you'd expect an evil queen to.
  • Blind Jump: A magical variety, involving teleportation to the place of origin of a random item (which also makes it a case of Anchored Teleportation).
  • Broken Bird: Due to the long stream of trauma from the previous book, Ciri has become one of these in short order. The twisted relationships she forms with the Rats and the way they make a living certainly don't help.
  • Burn the Witch!: The party stumbles upon a very burn-happy cleric just about to burn a woman for witchcraft. Anyone with sense can see she's just mentally handicapped.
  • Cassandra Truth: Cahir attempted to recount the events of the Thanedd Coup to Isengrim Faoiltiarna, how there was "a mad girl with green eyes, the Lion Cub of Cintra, a witcher who hacked his entire squad to pieces, and a mage who flew from the Tower of the Gull like a bird". Faoiltiarna thought Cahir had gone off his rocker.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: From this book, the cycle gets darker and darker.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: While journeying through the war-torn lands, Geralt and party repeatedly come across signs of massacres, with sites of where the armies had decided to Rape, Pillage, and Burn the locals, as well as hung corpses following executions for whatever war crime they were charged with. Milva gets angry at the rapes, but otherwise the party becomes quite desensitised to it very quickly, to the point Geralt starts scavenging some of the sites.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The hanse are a collection of, quite possibly, some of the most dangerous people in the world and they arrive together purely by chance before agreeing to help Geralt in his quest because they have nothing better to do.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Milva has one of these just a few days after deciding to have her child. Though considering that she'd come to be pretty happy about being pregnant and then spends weeks to recover physically and months psychologically, it's debatable how convenient it really was.
  • Cool Sword: The Dwarven sihil. It's lighter than the elven sword Geralt is given by the dryads, but it has much greater cutting power.
  • Cooperation Gambit: Yennefer and Fringilla Vigo, who have a history of being on opposing sides in a battle. Fringilla notices Yen preparing escape, and provides support under the premise that she would never lead into something so deadly and foolhardy anyone that she does not hate.
  • Dented Iron: Geralt's fight against Vilgefortz in the previous book leaves him with a bad knee in this one, which causes him no shortage of pain and only adds to his frustration. This is mentioned to be a side effect of the dryads healing techniques, but the alternative would be having his knee not working at all.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Regis' description of blood addiction is an extremely accurate account of alcoholism.
    • Regis goes to elaborate lengths to explain that vampires are hated because they remind people of their own mortality and, of all things, oral sex.
  • Escalating War: Skellen, no longer content to wait for someone to get the better of the Rats, hires a professional bounty hunter to kill them instead.
  • Enemy Mine: Fringilla and Yennefer form this relationship given both make it abundantly clear they hate the other for their role at Sodden Hill. They do, however, share goals of opposing the Lodge's plans.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While Djikstra has committed many morally reprehensible actions (up to and including shipping Redanian political prisoners off to a gulag), even he is revolted when his men show Djikstra the remains of a dungeon where Vilgefortz has been experimenting on and vivisecting pregnant women as part of his Evil Plan for Ciri.
  • Everybody Must Get Stoned: Regis in his hut serves the crew a concoction he was just brewing of mandrake and belladonna, which is mildly psychedelic - and was extracted using high-proof alcohol.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Geralt's impromptu knighting ceremony is more awkward and humorous than anything, due to him being clueless as to what's going on, Queen Meve having a speech impediment due to just losing some of her teeth, and the fact that Geralt is secretly very amused by the irony of becoming Geralt of Rivia for real.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Played with as Ciri is engaged in some truly despicable behavior, but her situation is perilously close to Forced into Evil and has elements of Stockholm syndrome (though she has come to view the Rats less favorably over time).
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Regis is very friendly indeed.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The entirety of the war is portrayed as a pointless waste of lives, and the armies of both the Northern Kingdoms and Nilfgaard alike act antagonistically toward Geralt and company.
  • Hates Being Alone: Ciri's entire reason for being with the Rats is that, deplorable as their actions are, the alternative is being alone in a desert area, where she almost died before, and had been captured by another group.
  • Hates Being Touched: Ciri has developed a antipathy to being touched, which interferes with her relationship with Mistle, which is already a farce as far as Ciri's concerned.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Homophobia is apparently alive and well on the Continent. Giselher at one point upbraids Mistle when Ciri screams and wakes the rest of them up (he apparently thought it was an Immodest Orgasm, but it was really a Catapult Nightmare), and a random brigand later taunts the pair with homophobic insults as they walk along hand in hand. Then Ciri loses her temper and kills him.
  • Hitchhiker Heroes: Geralt insists on setting off to find Ciri alone but finds no shortage of colorful characters, who in turn insist they come with him for one reason or another.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: ... liquid... ichor... hemoglobin...
  • Irony: Geralt explains that his name, "Geralt of Rivia" is a false title made for the sole purpose of making him look more appealing to clients. By the end of the book, he is officially knighted by the queen of Rivia, making him "Geralt of Rivia" for real.
  • Kick the Dog: Ciri finds out that a highwayman's life offers plenty of ways for her to vent off her issues. This kicks off a darker turn in her character development.
  • Knighting: Geralt officially becomes "Sir Geralt of Rivia" due to his Accidental Hero actions. It is made absurd by the fact the Queen of Rivia has her two front teeth knocked out and is lisping the entire time.
  • Lima Syndrome: Mistle has fallen in love with Ciri, despite their first encounter being her raping the already traumatized girl.
  • Mugging the Monster: Defied; a minor informer begins trailing Ciri & Mistle while they're walking around a bazaar, intending to get close enough to try and overhear some information he can sell. When he sees Ciri kill a man just for making homophobic comments about her and Mistle, he decides no amount of money is worth the risk and backs off.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: Played for laughs. When Zoltan Chivay tells the gang he'll signal them by making a sparrowhawk's call, they call him on not even knowing how a sparrowhawk sounds. So he points out that if they hear a weird, unidentifiable noise, they'll know it's him.
  • Out with a Bang: Played with. When escorting a group of elves into the Brokilon, Milva informs her companions that they are surrounded and there is a very slim chance they will get through the awaiting ambush. An elf woman promptly disrobes and indulges with her cohorts - in part how, by elven logic, this might be their last chance at prolonging their species. Milva joins as well, just to not be lonely in her final moments. Since none of them expected to survive, Milva is shocked by her resulting pregnancy and doesn't even know who the father is, not to mention never seeing the group members ever again.
  • Overly Long Name: As revealed in this book, Geralt initially wanted to call himself Geralt Roger Eric du Haute-Bellegarde, but Vesemir explained to him how awful it sounds, so he picked a random kingdom, becoming Geralt of Rivia, resulting with in-universe Fake Nationality (and just as fake accent). He mentions all of that in the presence of Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Ceallach and Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy, who both feel insulted and start explaining the origins of their names. Well, them and Julian Alfred Pankratz, viscount de Lettenhove, but no one calls Dandelion that, ever.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: From this book onward, whatever Geralt and his hanse face will require the skills, abilities or connections of any of the group members. Sometimes it's blatantly telegraphed.
  • Potty Failure: After going through the painful process of decompression, the utterly dehydrated Yennefer takes an impromptu dunk in Francesca Findabair's fountain and pisses herself in it.
  • Pregnant Badass: Milva is pregnant for much of the book, a fact that she keeps secret from the rest of the hanse, though there are several clues.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Ciri's trauma from the past book and more recent events manifests itself violently; she murders a man in cold blood just for jeering her and Mistle's relationship.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits:
    • Geralt's new crew is a motley group of unusual people. A witcher, a vegetarian vampire, a very talkative bard, a Black Knight and a peasant huntress. And then there are other, just as unusual people, who join them on temporary basis.
    • The Rats all come from different backgrounds and have different reasons for resorting to robbery to live.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: There's a war going on, so armies have been going through towns doing this to anyone unlucky enough to live here. Most distressingly, both sides are doing this, even though the Northern side are supposed to be protecting these lands from the invading Niflgaardians. Milva angrily blasts that the Northern soldiers would still consider themselves "heroes" after this. At least once, the party come across a situation where this is still going on, and decide to intefere.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Elder Laabs insists on due process during the "witch" trial. While he makes it clear he doesn't care about the girl, he's adamant about the trial being fair and will not let the priest burn her until her guilt is proven.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • Once you know the twist, about every other scene with Milva gains a potential deeper meaning.
    • Some scenes with Regis also become this, although with him being a Walking Spoiler it's hard to imagine a reader who would not know who he is.
  • Skewed Priorities: Ciri slices a man to ribbons for tossing homophobic insults at her and Mistle. Then she pouts because killing him made her drop her candy floss.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Subverted with Ciri who has started to view the Rats contemptuously and lets Mistle know, in no uncertain terms, their affair has become just a convenience to make her feel less lonely.
  • Trial by Ordeal: Used by the hanse against an overzealous cleric, and in turn by him on them. They, a party composed of four-fifths high-grade badass, first suggest Trial by Combat if he's so keen on seeing the gods' will. He then turns it against them by suggesting a trial-by-fire instead. Still, it doesn't work for him.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: It takes a long while for Geralt to even consider the possibility of letting Cahir tag along with the rest of the hanse, but even when he does, there's a notable level of distrust between them.
  • True Companions: The concept of True Companions is discussed in here; aen hanse is a Nilfgaardian word for an armed company whose members are friends.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: It turns out this is actually possible for most higher vampires because they don't actually drink blood for food. They drink it because it has an effect on them similar to alcohol. Geralt says that humans being a tap for vampires is actually worse than being food.