Men at Arms: The Watch is Growing

Men at Arms by Terry PratchettMen at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Odd though it may be, most people agree that Ankh-Morpork is a city that works. Its citizens pay dues to the Thieves Guild so that they will not be robbed, and because the city’s leader, Havelock Vetinari, was a member of the Assassin’s Guild, there is littfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsle chance that he will be overthrown through assassination. (The assassins would of course kill Vetinari, but the price they have listed for his head is prohibitive). The guilds all agree that they would be worse off without Vetinari, which is odd considering that he seeks to modernize almost every aspect of the city.

He even believes that the City Watch should represent every species in Ankh-Morkpork. Angua, a werewolf, seems like she might fit in: she’s so beautiful that Carrot thinks criminals will line up to be arrested by her. However, now Sergeant Colon and Nobby Nobbs are training trolls and dwarfs. Unfortunately, dwarfs and trolls hate each other since trolls turn into rock during the day, sometimes waking to discover dwarfs attempting to mine them. The Watch is growing – maybe more quickly than it would prefer – but Captain Vimes has decided to retire in order to marry Sybil Ramkin.

There is no clear successor, so it will likely fall to Carrot to lead the Watch during this time of expansion and reform. Carrot, a six-foot-six-inch tall orphan raised by dwarfs in the mountains, strikes many as a simple country boy, but he does have a knack for leadership. The other members of the Watch don’t know that Carrot Ironfoundersson is actually the secret heir to Ankh-Morkpork’s throne.

But the secret is starting to get out. Edward d’Eath, an assassin and an aristocrat, is one of Vetinari’s conservative detractors who wants to return Ankh-Morpork to its past by crowning Carrot. As his plan forms, he reflects:

And this was right. And it was fate that had let Edward recognize that just when he’d got his Plan. And it was right that it was Fate, and the city would be Saved from its ignoble present by its glorious past. He had the Means, and he had the end. And so on … Edward’s thoughts often ran like this.

He could think in italics.

I loved this brief introduction into Edward’s mind. Like so much of Pratchett’s writing, it is humorous, clever, and efficient.

So is the plot. Within a few pages, Edward has found a strange device – a gonne – and the City Watch begins finding suspicious (even by Ankh-Morpork’s standards) corpses. Vetinari explains that the deaths are an Assassins Guild matter, and he orders Vimes and the other guards not to investigate. Naturally, they investigate anyway, and soon have led us to talking dogs, a hostel for the Undead, and dwarf cuisine.

What is amazing about Pratchett’s work is his ability to constantly surprise SFF readers. Although Pratchett often subverts genre expectations, he just as often elaborates on them. For example, trolls move at night and turn to stone during the day. So when Detritus, our troll, finds himself getting colder, he discovers that he is much smarter when cold than he is when warm. Who knows what secrets he could unlock while freezing to death?DISCWORLD by Terry Pratchett

I found the plot less inventive, though it does move quickly. Much of Men at Arms is helter-skelter chases, which often feels like a contrivance to explore all of the jokes Pratchett has prepared. Though I enjoyed the way Edward d’Eath was introduced, I ultimately found him a forgettable villain who brought very little tension to Ankh-Morkpork. I always happily followed along with the Watch’s investigation but rarely felt compelled to see what would happen next, perhaps because Vimes is largely absent.

Men at Arms is the fifteenth DISCWORLD novel, and the second to feature the City Watch. The Watch is expanding and Pratchett introduces many characters that will return in later entries, which means that devoted readers should probably pick it up. Having said that, while I enjoyed reading Men at Arms, I doubt that the plot will stay with me very long. In other words, it’s just another DISCWORLD novel: a quick read that should please most readers.

~Ryan Skardal


Men at Arms by Terry PratchettPratchett scores another hit with a solid mystery, lots of good fun, and plenty of social commentary. Sam Vine’s one paragraph rumination on rich people and boots should be required reading in every Econ 101 class.

I love any DISCWORLD book that features the Patrician, Lord Vetinari, and he has a big role here, although not as big as Corporal Carrot, the strapping, blond haired, blue-eyed dwarf (he’s adopted). Like the best of these books, it is an entertaining read that leaves you thoughtful.

~Marion Deeds

Publisher: A Young Dwarf’s Dream Corporal Carrot has been promoted! He’s now in charge of the new recruits guarding Ankh-Morpork, Discworld’s greatest city, from Barbarian Tribes, Miscellaneous Marauders, unlicensed Thieves, and such. It’s a big job, particularly for an adopted dwarf. But an even bigger job awaits. An ancient document has just revealed that Ankh-Morpork, ruled for decades by Disorganized crime, has a secret sovereign! And his name is Carrott… And so begins the most awesome epic encounter of all time, or at least all afternoon, in which the fate of a city—indeed of the universe itself!—depends on a young man’s courage, an ancient sword’s magic, and a three-legged poodle’s bladder.

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.

Terry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. Ericbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Moving PicturesReaper Manbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Witches Abroadbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Small Godsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Men at Armsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Soul Musicfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Maskeradebook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Feet of Claybook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Hog FatherJingobook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Last Continentbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Carpe Jugulumbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Carpe Jugulum, The Fifth Elephantbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Truthbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Thief of Timebook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Last Herofantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Thud!book review Terry Pratchett Discworld Making MoneyTerry Pratchett Unseen Academicals DiscworldTerry Pratchett Unseen Academicals Discworld, Snufffantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Discworld for Kids:

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RYAN SKARDAL, on our staff from September 2010 to November 2018, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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