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Literature / Baptism of Fire

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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 Spoony 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, 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
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In description of Geralt's actions during the Thanedd coup. In loose transcription:
    "He [Geralt] killed a dozen Squirrels, slaughtered Artaud Terranova and caused unhealthy arousal of Keira Metz."
    • To avoind confusion for those unfamiliar with the saga: "Squirrel" is the Common Speech term for the Scoia'tael, an insurrectionist force comprised mostly of elves.
  • 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.
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  • Blind Jump: A magical variety, involving teleportation to the place of origin of a random item.
  • Broken Bird: Ciri has become one of these in short order.
  • 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.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: From this book, the cycle starts getting darker and darker.
  • 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're bored.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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 still someone Geralt desperately intends to rescue but she is engaged in some truly despicable behavior.
  • Friendly Enemy: 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.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Regis is this and indicates that it's mostly prejudice that makes higher vampires treated this way. Geralt is aware this a lies due to The Last Wish. However, it seems that vampires are certainly no worse than humanity.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: How Milva's child was conceived. She was helping some Scoia'tael escape their pursuers, and once they had, one of the four (an elf woman) disrobed and indulged in some celebration with her cohorts. Milva did so as well (mostly out of loneliness), but never saw any of them again and would have no way of knowing which one is the father if she did.
  • 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.
  • Hates Being Touched: Ciri has become this, 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. Until 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 a plenty of ways to vent off her issues.
  • Knighting: Geralt has this happen to him due to his Accidental Hero actions. 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: Averted; 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.
  • Overly Long Name: As revealed in this book, Geralt wanted to initially call himself Geralt Roger Eric du Haute-Bellegarde, but Vesemir explained to him how awful it sounds, so he picked a random city, becoming Geralt Of Rivia. He mentions that in the presence of Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Ceallach and Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy, who both felt 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.
  • Potty Failure: After going through the painful process of decompression, the utterly dehydrated Yennefer takes an impromptu dunk in Francesca Findabar'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 comes across like this; she murders a man in cold blood just for jeering her and Mistle's relationship.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Geralt's new crew. Also, the Rats. The concept of True Companions is discussed in here; aen hanse is a Nilfgaardian word for an armed company whose members are friends.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Elder Laabs 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.
  • 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.
  • Tsundere: 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.
  • 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.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: It turns out this is actually possible for most higher vampires because they don't actually drink blood for food but 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.


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