Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski is the fourth book in The Witcher series by my reckoning and, I have to say, it may be the best book in the series thus far. Granted, the bar is relatively low considering the ratings I've given to the prior books (two earned two rockets and one, three rockets). That's not to say that this one reached lofty heights; I'm giving it three rockets for two reasons alone: we get to see much more of Geralt and the story, for once, is fairly linear and therefore easy to follow. I can't say the same thing about any of the previous books, unfortunately.
The basic premise of Baptism of Fire is this: Ciri has gone missing and Geralt is trying to find her to bring her back to safety. There are some other sub-plots going on with wizards and such--honestly that entire storyline is confusing, hard to follow, and not very interesting as a result--but for the most part it's a simple quest story. Along the way, our band of heroes--Geralt, Dandelion, and Milva--come across enemy soldiers, refugees fleeing from a war zone, and a merry troop of dwarves whose presence I found somewhat comforting because it hearkens back to fantasy days of old.
The fact that the story actually involved Geralt is a nice change from the previous books. Even better is that its refreshing in its simplicity and mostly non-confusing presentation. But it’s also one of those books where, from start to end, not much is accomplished. Geralt has a general idea where he thinks Ciri is, but he's not really working off any definitive intel or proof. He just knows she's behind enemy lines and is held against her will (she isn't really, but Geralt doesn't know that). So while he's heading in what he thinks is the correct direction, he doesn't know for sure what his final destination is. You may wonder how it is that he's going to find and save Ciri if he doesn't even know her location and you are right to wonder. I, unfortunately, have no answer to that because I'm just as perplexed as anyone else.
Despite this, Baptism of Fire managed to hold my interest throughout. While Geralt may not know exactly where he's going, the journey itself yields many memorable events. Most notable is a doctor who seems to know more than he should and who has a penchant for showing up just when he’s needed.
Once more I must thank Gollancz Press for the gift of the entire Witcher series. Baptism of Fire earns a solid three rockets and a commendation as the best book in the series so far. I'm taking a small break from the series but only because I have many other books eager for my attention. I'll return to The Witcher series to round out the entire series with reviews soon.