Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
Carpe Jugulum (1998) is book 23 in Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD series. Like most of his books, this one could stand alone, but it will be most appreciated by those who are familiar with the Discworld and, in this case, Pratchett’s loveable witches — Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick, and Agnes Nitt. I’d advise reading Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, and Maskerade first.
Magrat, who is now queen of Lancre, has just given birth to a princess. Her husband, King Verence, a good natured man who is always reading books to learn how to be a good king, has diplomatically invited some foreigners to the celebration. Unfortunately, these folks are vampires who are using their glamour to try to take over the kingdom of Lancre. The only person who can save the day is, of course, Granny Weatherwax. However, Granny, whose invitation to the princess’s naming ceremony was stolen by magpies, has left town in a huff. Nanny, Magrat and Agnes must find her and talk her into coming back before Lancre falls to the vampires. They will get some help from Mr. Oats, a mild-mannered agnostic priest who has come to name the princess.
Carpe Jugulum is entertaining, as most of Pratchett’s DISCWORLD novels are. As usual, Pratchett is making fun of something and, in this case, it’s vampire novels. Therefore, in Pratchett’s vampire story you won’t find blood-thirsty pale-skinned brooding immortals wearing black and cringing from sunlight and crosses.
I enjoyed Carpe Jugulum, but, for two reasons, I didn’t find it as clever and funny as the other DISCWORLD novels that feature the witches. One is that much of the humor is repetitive, relying on multiple instances of the same jokes. For example, it’s funny that the vampires have inoculated themselves with garlic, sunshine, and holy water, and that they have a servant named Igor (yes, that Igor) who likes to create a gothic atmosphere by adding cobwebs, dust, and other medieval-dungeon type trappings to the décor, but Pratchett makes these same jokes too often.
The other reason, at least for me, is that Carpe Jugulum too often seems more cynical than funny. Pratchett uses the interactions between the priest and Granny Weatherwax to make fun of religion and religious people — something that rubbed me the wrong way. It seems clear that Christianity is one of Pratchett’s targets, and though he is always making fun of something or somebody, this one seemed particularly mean-spirited, and I don’t think that’s just because I’m a Christian. The tone of the entire novel is dark and even a bit harsh, but many readers may like the tone. As usual, though, Pratchett gives us plenty to think about, which I always appreciate. For example, here’s what Granny says about “nice” religious people, and she’s got a good point:
Now if I’d seen him, really there, really alive, it’d be in me like a fever. If I thought there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched ’em like a father and cared for ’em like a mother… well, you wouldn’t catch me sayin’ things like “There are two sides to every question,” and “We must respect other people’s beliefs.” You wouldn’t find me just being gen’rally nice in the hope that it’d all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgivin’ sword. And I did say burnin’, Mister Oats, ‘cos that’s what it’d be. You say that you people don’t burn folk and sacrifice people any more, but that’s what true faith would mean, y’see? Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin’ the truth of it, workin’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it. Thars religion. Anything else is just… is just bein’ nice. And a way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbours.
Highlights: Agnes, if you’ll recall from earlier books, is a big girl with a skinny girl inside. That skinny girl is Perdita X, and she has a big role to play in this story. I love Perdita! Igor always steals the stage, even though the jokes about him are repetitive. The audiobook reader, Nigel Planer, does a wonderful job with Igor. And, last but not least (well, actually maybe they are least), the Nac Mac Feegle (the Wee Free Men) make their first DISCWORLD appearance!!
Discworld — (1983-2015) Discworld is a satirical fantasy world created by Terry Pratchett to poke fun at 1980s fantasy novels. Since then, they’ve evolved so that they now make fun of everything. Mr. Pratchett explains Discworld: “The world rides through space on the back of a turtle. This is one of the great ancient world myths, found wherever men and turtles are gathered together; the four elephants were an indo-European sophistication. The idea has been lying in the lumber room of legend for centuries. All I had to do was grab it and run away before the alarms went off… There are no maps. You can’t map a sense of humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs.” The Discworld novels are presented here in publication order. To read more about the Discworld “arcs” and reading order, see this Wikipedia article.
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