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Classic Discworld, providing plot, politics and puns in equal measure
on 8 December 2013
I don't often re-read books, but having recently been slightly disappointed with the latest Discworld offering, I decided to treat myself to one of the old classics and make sure my opinion of it hadn't changed. I'm pleased to say that it's as good as I remembered.
n the early books, Terry Pratchett tended to focus on relatively crude (though very funny) parodies of fantasy tropes, and in the later ones, they become more stories about real life issues that happen to feature dwarves, and that valued plot over puns. This book falls right in the middle and does both aspects very well.
On the one hand, it's playing with that staple of fantasy novels - the long-lost king returning. Only this book questions whether that's necessarily a good thing, even if the suspected heir happens to be a good man.
On the other, it deals with real world themes of racial tension and positive discrimination in the police, using battles between dwarves and trolls to make the point. The parallels are neatly drawn, and the author makes his points clearly, without getting preachy.
The two main aspects are played out via a murder mystery involving a mysterious new weapon, and in-between are all sorts of side plots, clever points and amusing asides.
The plot is compelling, the humour is strong (both clever one liners and elaborate set pieces)and the characters are memorable.
I wouldn't count this as one of the very, very best Discworld books - I suspect that Pratchett really hits his high point a few books after this - but in some ways it's the epitome of a Discworld novel, so it's a great one to start with if you're new to the series (it's the 15th, but they don't have to be read in order)and well worth a re-read if you're an old fan.