On June 28, 1389 a combined army of Serbs, Bosnians, Albanians and Romanians waged a fierce battle against an Ottoman army on the Plains of Kosovo. Although details of the battle are obscure and lost in the mists of time the animosity between the parties has lingered. It was no surprise therefore that on the 600th anniversary of the battle President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia launched his `ethnic cleansing' campaign in Kosovo. Sometimes the oldest animosities burn the brightest. That is just about the scenario found in "THUD", Terry Pratchett's latest roller coaster ride through Discworld. The origin and outcome of the ancient Battle of Koom Valley between the Trolls and Dwarves has been obscured and the subject of much debate; but, the lingering and long-lasting hatred between them means they are always one spark away from renewed battle. Grag Hamcrusher is what you might call a Dwarf extremist. Emerging from the depths he rails against those dwarves who have risen close to the surface. He intimates Dwarf residents of Ankh-Morpork who have made accommodations to a life lived above ground. Hamcrusher is a zealot who would like nothing better than to renew a holy war against the hated Trolls. As Thud opens Hamcrusher has just been murdered, thud "being the sound the heavy club made as it connected with the head". The initial evidence, a troll club found near the apparent murder scene, seems destined to bring their historic enmity to a boil. It is up to Commander Vimes and the Watch to find out who killed Hamcrusher and try to avoid a war that could destroy Ankh-Morpork. The Patrician, not surprisingly, has complicated matters for Vimes. Bowing to pressure to increase the diversity of the Watch, Vimes is obligated to hire his first vampire, a very young, very attractive lady named Sally. This serves to increase the tension in the Watch most notably with Angua, the Watch's werewolf. Sparks fly and the claws are drawn as Angua senses that Sally is more than a bit interested in Captain Carrot. The Patrician has also seen fit to bring in a pencil pushing bureaucrat to audit the Watch's operations. This all serves to make Commander Vimes' own emotional fuse as short as the one keyed to the Trolls and Dwarves. It is never a good idea to reveal too much of the plot in a review. This is particularly the case for the Discworld books where Pratchett has twists and turns on every page. Needless to say, events race from pillar to post. The furtive nature of the Dwarves, whose emotions are as submerged as the Dwarves themselves and the rather stoic nature of the Trolls (with the exception of Shine who appears to be one droll troll) has Vimes feeling as if he is trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle without any visual image of the puzzle he is trying to solve. Two elements of Thud put Thud for me in the highest rank of Discworld books. First, we are given very full, textured look at Commander Vimes. The reader is exposed to the growing disconnect between his controlled, outward demeanor and his emotionally charged interior that seem to grow increasingly more uncontrolled as the plot develops. It is both compelling and more than a bit scary. It brought Vimes to life in a very realistic way. Second, I thought the ending was one of Pratchett's best conclusions. Thud is a great addition to the Discworld series.
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