Book Review: “Men at Arms” by Terry Pratchett

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Here is the fifteenth Discworld novel, which after quite a stretch in the boon-docks finally takes us back to the grand old town of Ankh-Morpork. It again features the Night Watch, headed by the chronically depressed, often inebriated and slightly cynical, yet honorable, Captain Samuel Vimes. He is getting ready to marry the richest woman in town and retiring from the force. Meanwhile, Ankh-Morpork has its first serial killer ever, and the only thing worse than the pressure to solve the crimes is the pressure on Vimes & co. NOT to solve the crimes.

Everyone gets involved–the wizards, alchemists, beggars, assassins, and fools; trolls, dwarves, and the undead; the Patrician (Lord Vetinari), Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler, and Gaspode the talking dog. But above all that includes Vimes’ men: the fat, lazy coward Sgt. Fred Colon; the sticky-fingered, untrustworthy Cpl. “Nobby” Nobbs; and most importantly, the honest, likeable, charismatic country boy (raised by dwarves), Carrot Ironfoundersson, who stands seven feet tall, has the strength of a troll, and is described as wearing whatever room he walks into (that is, everything and everyone sort of fades into the background).

At the bottom of everything is the barely-concealed fact that Carrot is destined to be the King of Ankh-Morpork (it’s been centuries since the city has had a king at all), but Carrot has no desire to be king. But what can he do when Vimes is busy getting married and a serial killer is using the first “gonne” in the history of Discworld to attempt to force Carrot to be king? What can he do when he has the power to teach worst enemies to be best friends (a troll and a dwarf, for starters) and has fallen in love with a woman who doesn’t dare tell him that she’s a werewolf? What can he do against a killer wielding a weapon so powerful, it’s more like the weapon wields the killer?

And can this simple, straightforward, scrupulously honest country bumpkin wangle his way through the labyrinthine politics of Guilds and conflicting groups of City Guards to solve a mystery everyone would rather keep hush-hush? That’s what the adventure is all about and, in a Discworld spin on the killer-thriller police procedural, Carrot faces all that PLUS a riot that threatens to tear the whole city apart.

So it’s yet another exciting adventure full of droll humor that ranges from to . Carrot is the paladin of Discworld heroes, a man of civic pride in a city that doesn’t deserve it, and a model of virtue in a society that responds to the word “virtue” with the word “Gesundheit.” But will he still have the girl in the end? You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out!

Recommended Age: 14+