Terry Pratchett – Feet of Clay

Well, it’s official. The Night Watch will never be the Witches, but as Terry Pratchett goes, I’ll take whatever I can get. Commander Vimes and Captain Carrot are crime-solving again. And this time, golems are involved…

feet of clayFEET OF CLAY
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Corgi, 2013 (1996)
Paperback: 416 pages
Series: Discworld #19
My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: It was a warm spring night when a fist knocked at the door so hard that the hinges bent.

There’s a werewolf with pre-lunar tension in Ankh-Morpork. And a dwarf with attitude, and a Golem who’s begun to think for itself. But Commander Vimes is more concerned about the crime that’s happened. He’s got to find out not only whodunit, but howdunit too. He’s not even sure what they dun. But as soon as he knows what the questions are, he’s going to want some answers.

Ankh-Morpork is in trouble again. Not one, but two murders have happened and Commander Vimes doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s going on. All he knows is that somehow the golems are involved. These giant clay figures can’t speak – nor, technically, think for themselves – all they do is serve and work. Their production has been prohibited but the ones that are already around are allowed to stay. Much to the chagrin of the general population…

As has been the case with the other City Watch novels, I was less intrigued with the murders and the crime-solving, and more with all the other stuff that goes on in Discworld’s capital city. This novel did some interesting things and, in the process, granted the characters an additional layer of credibility. As much as we love Carrot, for example, he is quite surprised and makes some truly idiotic remarks when he finds out one of the new Watch members (a dwarf) is female. Angua tells it to him how it is:

“Female? He told you he was female?”
“She,” Angua corrected. “This is Ankh-Morpork, you know. We’ve got extra pronouns here.”
She could smell his bewilderment. Of course, everyone knew that, somewhere down under all those layers of leather and chain mail, dwarfs came in enough different types to ensure the future production of more dwarfs, but it was not a subject that dwarfs discussed other than at those essential points in a courtship when embarrassment might otherwise arise.
“Well, I would have thought she’d have the decency to keep it to herself,” Carrot said finally. “I mean, I’ve nothing against females. I’m pretty certain my stepmother is one. But I don’t think it’s very clever, you know, to go around drawing attention to the fact.”
“Carrot, I think you’ve got something wrong with your head,” said Angua.

So even Carrot isn’t perfect. But then, neither is Angua. When it comes to golems, she is no fun at all. Being undead herself – even though I’m not sure yet how exactly werewolves work on Discworld – she has a lot of problems with the unalive. What ails her particularly is the fact that golems are just accepted for what they are, while she (and vampires or zombies) has to fight for her rights every day. And usually, it means leaving a place where people have found out about her “condition”.

Let me tell you, it was just lovely to see other sides of these characters. Especially Carrot, who was too good to be true anyway. It’s nice to see him blunder and just blurt out whatever comes to mind. But once his mistakes are pointed out, he goes back to being a Protector Of The People – including undead, unalive, and females.

Having fallen in love with the Discworld through the Tiffany Aching novels, I couldn’t help but grin when Wee Mad Arthur showed up in Feet of Clay. As a professional rat-catcher, no less. Although he is called a gnome, we all know he is a sort of Nac Mac Feegle. And, if you ask me, any book is automatically better if it has Feegles in it.

Despite the interesting social aspects, this book didn’t grab me as much as others. Sure, there were moments so funny that I could have sprayed juice from my nose, and Pratchett is as clever as always. But the plot left me hanging a little. I also think that the new additions to the City Watch spread the story out over too many viewpoints. Men at Arms was perfect in that respect, Feet of Clay felt all over the place and didn’t give some characters enough room to develop.

All things considered, it was a nice read. If you consider yourself a Discworld fan, it’s a no-brainer that you’re going to read them all anyway. And if you’re new to Discworld, I suggest starting either with one of the YA novels (The Amazing Maurice or the Tiffany Aching books) or Guards! Guards!. For me, it’s time for a little break from the Night Watch. I’ll got and see what Death has been up to…

divider1The City Watch novels (Discworld):

  1. Guards! Guards!
  2. Men at Arms
  3. Feet of Clay
  4. Jingo
  5. The Fifth Elephant
  6. Night Watch
  7. Thud!
  8. Snuff

Chris Wooding – Retribution Falls

Ever since Firefly ended (yep, I’m still mourning), I’ve been wanting another story with a crew on a ship that makes me feel right at home. The very first page gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling and makes you excited for things to come. You are ready for adventure and fun and danger – and the author simply delivers. This may be no Firefly, but it sure is a lot of fun.

by Chris Wooding

published: Gollancz ,2009
ISBN: 0575085169
pages: 444
copy: paperback
series: Tales of the Ketty Jay #1

my rating: 7/10

first sentence: The smuggler held the bullet between thumb and forefinger, studying it in the weak light of the store room.

Sky piracy is a bit out of Darian Frey’s league. Fate has not been kind to the captain of the airship Ketty Jay—or his motley crew. They are all running from something. Crake is a daemonist in hiding, traveling with an armored golem and burdened by guilt. Jez is the new navigator, desperate to keep her secret from the rest of the crew. Malvery is a disgraced doctor, drinking himself to death. So when an opportunity arises to steal a chest of gems from a vulnerable airship, Frey can’t pass it up. It’s an easy take—and the payoff will finally make him a rich man. But when the attack goes horribly wrong, Frey suddenly finds himself the most wanted man in Vardia, trailed by bounty hunters, the elite Century Knights, and the dread queen of the skies, Trinica Dracken. Frey realizes that they’ve been set up to take a fall but doesn’t know the endgame. And the ultimate answer for captain and crew may lie in the legendary hidden pirate town of Retribution Falls. That’s if they can get there without getting blown out of the sky.

The adventure starts right away, on the very first page. I can’t say that there was a single boring moment in this book. I did feel a bit overwhelmed with the characters in the beginning. We are introduced to them all quickly within one chapter. Even with a good memory for names, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who and what distinguishes them. But worry not. Chris Wooding may throw them all onto us poor readers in the beginning, but he gives each of them depth later on in the story. While I found especially Darian Frey’s character development predictable and a bit cheesy, I can’t say I truly disliked any of the crew. They are a nice bunch and their quippy banter won’t fail to amuse.

Once that inital confusion subsided, the plot was pretty much straight-forward. Frey and his crew are trying to find out who framed them and, more importantly, why. Adventure lurks around every corner, fistfights and gunshots are frequent, and Frey’s talent for spinning lies and convincing women of his honor (which really doesn’t exist) made him both likable and realistic. He may have a heart of gold but it’s quite deeply hidden. At least when it comes to women he’s slept with…

As far as world building goes, I wasn’t too convinced. I do suspect that we only scratched the surface of a much bigger universe and we’ll probably get to learn more about it in the follow-up novels. In Retribution Falls, however, the steampunk element was both wonderfully done – daemonists, golems, gadgets made with daemons – and hard to imagine – the speed at which the airships fly, using aerium. But that may just be my own fault for not having read enough steampunk literature. I think there’s a lot of promise in this world, though, and I especially liked the explanation on how to play Rake as a sort of epilogue.

You can’t really help but fall in love with the characters. Sure, they could be more three-dimensional but I liked them all the same. This story is just a fast adventure with everything a good pirate story needs. Airships, explosions, guns, monsters, intrigue, evil guys, a secret hide-out, a great crew, and a ship that – despite not being able to talk – is a character all on her own.

THE GOOD: Fun, fast-paced adventure story with cool characters and not a boring moment in sight.
THE BAD: Characters could be deeper, world-building has potential for more.
THE VERDICT: A fun romp on the Ketty Jay that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who likes steampunk, Firefly, or adventure (pirate) stories.

RATING: 7/10  Very good

Tales of the Ketty Jay:

  1. Retribution Falls
  2. The Black Lung Captain
  3. The Iron Jackal