Apparently, I now suffer severe mood swings when I don’t read enough Terry Pratchett. So it was about time I picked up the last unread novel about the Lancre witches and spent a few evenings giggling merrily away with a Pratchett book. Now that the fifth Tiffany Aching book has been anounced (SO MUCH HAPPINESS!) I don’t even have to feel bad about not having any more witches books to read.
Published by: Corgi, 1998
Paperback: 416 pages
Series: Discworld #23
My rating: 7/10
First sentence: Through the shredded black clouds a fire moved like a dying star, falling back to earth – the earth, that is, of the Discworld – but unlike any star had ever done before, it sometimes managed to steer its fall, sometimes rising, sometimes twisting, but inevitably heading down.
Mightily Oats has not picked a good time to be priest. He thought he was there for a simple little religious ceremony. Now he’s caught up in a war between vampires and witches, and he’s not sure there is a right side. There’s the witches — Agnes, Magrat, Nanny Ogg, and the formidable Granny Weatherwax… And the vampires: the stakes are high but they’re intelligent — not easily got rid of with a garlic enema or going to the window and saying “I don’t know about you, but isn’t it a bit stuffy in here?” They’ve got style and fancy waistcoats. They’re out of the casket and want a bite of the future.
There’s something to be said for vampires that don’t glitter. Who would have ever suspected that this will be among the criteria by which I judge my vampire fiction? But unsurprising, Terry Pratchett’s vampires don’t only arrive in Lancre with a distinct lack of glitter, they also don’t mind garlic, holy water, and daylight. It’s quite a challenge for the four witches currently residing in the Ramtops, especially with Granny disappeared…
I love the Lancre witches. On many occasions have I said that I hope to become a Granny Weatherwax or a Nanny Ogg when I’m old (I realise they are vastly different people and I suspect I am more of a Nanny but I’ll take what I can get). With Granny gone for a large part of the book, Sir Terry had his hooks firmly set into me. After all, a Lancre without a Weatherwax is just not right. In her stead, the Quite Reverend Mightily Oats has arrived and brings with him a lot of discussion about religion, belief, and all things holy. With everything Terry Pratchett writes, there are wonderful bits of wisdom in everything Granny says. The nature of good and evil is no exception.
There’s no grays, only white that’s gone grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.
This book also marks the first appearance of the Nac Mac Feegle, that race of pictsies so prominent in the Tiffany Aching books. King Verence, after having his mind muddled up by vampires, pays a visit to the local kelda and we get our first taste of the crazy, brawling and drinking Feegles. In addition to that, Count Magpyr has brought his very modern vampire family to settle down in Lancre. Magrat is dealing with her newborn, Agnes still struggles with her split personality, and Hodgesaaargh is hunting a phoenix…
If you think that’s a bit much then I agree. Even with prior Discworld knowledge, there were too many characters and too many side-plots going on in Carpe Jugulum. There’s a reason why the Lancre witches always try to remain a trio. Hopping back and forth between the vampires’ point of view, one of the witches, Mightily Oats, and the vampires’ servant Igor, it all got a bit chaotic. Following the plot is no problem when you know who everybody is, but every time I settled into one plot string comfortably, I was ripped out for a quick visit to another character. These chapter-like breaks (as you know, Discworld novels don’t have chapters) came too often and too quickly.
Normally, the witches books leave me an emotional wreck. The lack of structure and frequent POV hopping prevented this from happening here. Sure, Granny Weatherwax standing on the edge and being gone for most of the beginning of the book was tough. She is such an essential part of Lancre – and Discworld, really – that her absence was all the more painful.
One thing you will always get, however, is humor. Pratchett’s vampires are dangerous and scary, but they also have their quirks. Agnes and Perdita’s interactions, as well as Nanny Ogg just being Nanny Ogg make for more than enough scenes to make you laugh. The stuff that old lady carries around in her stockings leg is astounding.
Why are vampires always so stupid? As if wearing evening dress all day wasn’t a dead givaway, why do they choose to live in old castles which offer so much in the way of ways to defeat a vampire, like easily torn curtains and wall decorations that can readily be twisted into religious symbol? Do they really think that spelling their name backward fools anyone?
I wish there had been more focus in this book, a few characters could even have been cut, and it would have been an excellent read. The way it is, it’s “only” a very good book. Not my favorite Discworld book and probably my least favorite witches novel. Which, all things considered, is not saying very much because the worst book Terry Pratchett can produce is still better than the best many other authors do.
RATING: 7/10 – Very good