Top positive review
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One of the best
on 11 January 2008
Once an author is turning out a novel a year in a growing series he can be forgiven for getting rather stale. That isn't really a problem with Terry Pratchett: his output can be a bit uneven but overall the Discworld fantasies just seem to be getting better, and "The Fifth Elephant" is one of the best.
The wonderful Sam Vimes - clever, upwardly mobile but basically honest and down-to-earth chief of police of Ankh-Morpork - is sent with his aristocratic wife on a diplomatic mission to troubled realm of Uberwald. Why did the city's ruler Lord Vetinari, a man who could give Machiavelli lessons in deviousness, chose Vimes of all people for this delicate task? What exactly is going on in Uberwald, where the uneasy balance of power between dwarves, werewolves, and vampires seems to be breaking down? All is revealed in a book that is both dark and humorous, engrossing and highly entertaining.
Many of the usual characters we have come to know from the Discworld novels are here, and trying to make the best of an unfamiliar and threatening place and understand the peoples and their politics.
Once again Pratchett is the master not only of plot and character but also of the little aside, the fascinating but not overdone individual, the sly and amusing reference. We learn, for instance, that it is a social blunder to use the word "bath" to an upper-class werewolf when he is in human form, it makes him uncomfortable. We are introduced to a vampire equivalent of AA where members help each other keep off the human blood and get through "vun night at a time". We discover that the Low King of the Dwarves must be crowned sitting on a large, hard item called the great Scone of Stone - a clever one this, referring not only to the durability and lethal solidity of dwarfish bread as explained in previous novels but also to the Stone of Scone (pronounced "Skoon") on which for centuries the kings of Scotland were crowned. And much more...
If you know the characters you will enjoy the book even more, but Pratchett newbies could find a worse place to start than this one.