This was my first re-reads in a long, long time. I do have an accumulating pile of books that I desperately want to read again but you know how it is. So many new and shiny books come out every month that the old favorites get forgotten. To be fair, I read Guards! Guards! when I was about sixteen and didn’t remember a lot of it. This time, to change things up a bit, I didn’t read my old paperback copy but listened to the audiobook instead. As always, Nigel Planer does a fantastic job of bringing Pratchett’s characters to life.
Published by: Random House, 1990 (1989)
Paperback: 317 pages
Series: Discworld #8
My rating: 7/10
First sentence: This is where the dragons went.
Here there be dragons . . . and the denizens of Ankh-Morpork wish one huge firebreather would return from whence it came. Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all . . .).
Meanwhile, back at Unseen University, an ancient and long-forgotten volume–The Summoning of Dragons–is missing from the Library’s shelves. To the rescue come Captain Vimes, Constable Carrot, and the rest of the Night Watch who, along with other brave citizens, risk everything, including a good roasting, to dethrone the flying monarch and restore order to Ankh-Morpork (before it’s burned to a crisp). A rare tale, well done as only Terry Pratchett can.
Guards! Guards! is the first novel in the Night Watch sub-series of Discworld. If you’re new to thsi universe, this is a great starting point. It introduces Captain Vimes, a mostly drunk and depressed man who doesn’t really see much point in his job anymore, as well as his companions with all their quirks and eccentricities. Carrott is probably one of the most adorably pure-hearted characters I’ve ever read about and while I have a soft spot in my heart for grumpy old Vimes, Carrott is the anchor that helps the Watch remember why they exist.
Terry Pratchett often said that this was meant to be a book about Carrott, but Vimes just took over. It’s easy to see how. He is not exactly an anti-hero – he does want to do the right thing, he just doesn’t have the gumption. The dynamic between Vimes, Carrott, Sergeant Colon and “Nobby” Nobs is great fun to read and some of their dialogue made me laugh out loud.
As I’ve said many times before, it is wonderful to see how Terry Pratchett evolved as a writer, how his stories become better and better. Seeing as this is only the eight Discworld novel, you now probably expect me to say it lacks craft. It really doesn’t. Sure, Sir Terry’s newer work is snappier and better structured but Guards! Guards! still manages to juggle a mystery plot with several view points and keep it interesting. Whenever you’re not guessing who is behind the conspiracy to call a dragon in order to lure out the king of Ankh-Morpork, you can just enjoy the hilarious banter or Vimes’ amazing character development. And Errol, of course. That little swamp dragon stole my heart in no time, and him eating a tea kettle was just the cherry on top.
I am and will probably always be a Witch girl at heart. But the Night Watch show us a different aspect of Discworld. Their story lines give us police procedurals set in the capital. Politics, intrigue, the Patrician’s cleverness, crazy bar brawls and all. What’s not to love? Did I miss Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg? Sure! But Vimes’ story is interesting in that his personal life developes, as well as his character. While Granny will probably remain a virgin forever, Vimes may have family life ahead of him, and the same goes for Carrott, who is still young and – although raised by dwarves and believing himself to be one (a six foot tall specimen…) – discovering that the big city has a lot to offer.
I felt that this was very much a novel setting up a place and characters for future stories. It wasn’t my favorite Discworld novel but I loved it in that it offers so many possibilities for the ones that come after. And even though I’m tickled to start reading Death’s storyline, I will probably jump straight into another Watch adventure after this.
MY RATING: 7/10 – Very good
- Guards! Guards!
- Men at Arms
- Feet of Clay
- The Fifth Elephant
- Night Watch