Men at Arms: A Discworld Novel: 14 Paperback – 1 Nov 1994
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Another wild romp through Discworld! Corporal Carrot, a young dwarf, is newly in charge of the recruits guarding Ankh-Morpork. Edward, the 37th Lord d'Eath, has just discovered that Ankh-Morpork, kingless for generations, has a sovereign ruler, who must be convinced that he is, in fact, the King. The fate of Ankh-Morpork rides on a young man's courage, an ancient sword's magic and a three-legged poodle's bladder.
"'Funny, wise and mock heroic...The funniest and best crafted book I have read all year'" (Sunday Express)
"'Like Jonathan Swift, Pratchett uses his other world to hold up a distorting mirror to our own, and like Swift he is a satirist of enormous talent ... incredibly funny ... compulsively readable'" (The Times)
"'His spectacular inventiveness makes the Discworld series one of the perennial joys of modern fiction'" (Mail on Sunday)
"'The great Terry Pratchett, whose wit is metaphysical, who creates an energetic and lively secondary world, who has a multifarious genius for strong parody ... who deals with death with startling originality. Who writes amazing sentences'" (A.S. Byatt New York Times)
"'Persistently amusing, good-hearted and shrewd'" (Sunday Times)
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The trouble begins with an explosion and robbery at the Guild of Assassins. Someone has stolen nothing less than the only "gonne" on Discworld, and a series of murders shock the town. OK, nothing's really going to shock the people of Ankh-Morpork, but the fact that people keep turning up full of holes where guts should be definitely stirs up the Watchmen. The Patrician is also less than happy about things, so he makes sure the Watch gets to the bottom of things by forbidding Captain Vimes to investigate. The Watch itself is growing; thanks to some new laws pushed through by the Silicon Anti-Defamation League, it has ethnically balanced itself with the addition of a dwarf, a troll, and a woman to the force. The woman, Angua, also happens to be a werewolf, and I don't have to tell you that dwarfs and trolls are natural enemies. Luckily, Constable Carrot, the 6'6" dwarf (he was adopted, you know) who is just so doggoned nice that people will actually listen to him and do as he requests, is there to keep the Watch united and performing its duty the way Carrot (alone) thinks it should be done. After a dwarf is killed and a troll arrested by the Day Watch (on the basis that any troll is surely guilty of something), there's an ever-present danger that the city's trolls and dwarfs will have a go at each other (and it won't be like last time, when both groups somehow managed to ambush one another at the same time).
Constable Detritus really steals the show here. Watching a troll think is always entertaining, but Detritus really comes into his own as this story progresses. At first, he can't salute without knocking himself out, but by the end he's recruiting and training fellow trolls (in his own endearing way) and warming up quite well to his dwarf partner. He also manages to show us that, in the right conditions (such as the kind of very cold temperature you find in a pork futures market), trolls can be brilliant thinkers.
People always die in Discworld novels, but there was one death in Men at Arms that really took me by surprise. A bit sad, it was. Don't be sad about Captain Vimes leaving the Night Watch, though. Furthermore, don't worry about the future of the City Guard, as it does not fall into the hands of Sergeant Colon or Corporal Nobbs (who, as we all know, has already been disqualified from the human race for shoving). I'm sure the men and women and dwarfs and trolls and werewolf of the Night Watch will be as ready as ever for the next threat that rears its ugly head in Ankh-Morpork; after all, Carrot's still on the job.
Even as the Ankh-Morpork night watch is being expanded, a series of strange and probably interconnected murders takes place. The city is on the edge of a dwarf vs. troll race war, and the watch is only holding things together with their fingernails. There's a long buried secret being dug up, and it's going to cost far too many lives if Captain Samuel Vimes doesn't get to the bottom of things, and fast!
I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett of many years now, and consider him one of the master storytellers of this era. As with all of his books, this one is extremely funny, with a gripping storyline, and fascinating characters. If you like fantasy stories, and want a nice twist on the genre, or if you just like good humor, then I highly recommend that you get this book!
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