Book review: “Thud!” by Terry Pratchett

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He doesn’t like to be called Your Grace. Commander Vimes, or sir, will do. This is what Sam Vimes tells the little man who comes to write a report on the procedures of the City Watch. Procedures that will be tested to the extreme as an age-old conflict between dwarfs and trolls threatens to break out anew in the streets of Ankh-Morpork.

Thousands of years ago, those two races fought in the battle of Koom Valley. No one knows for sure which side ambushed the other. Combined with a huge storm and the flood that followed, the battle wiped out both sides, down to a single dwarf who survived just long enough to plant a rumor that some kind of treasure was hidden on the battleground. To this day, dwarfs and trolls continue to fight the Battle of Koom Valley. No one knows where the treasure lies or what it is. And as both races make up a growing part of the city’s population, there’s no telling what might turn Ankh-Morpork into another Koom Valley.

When an extremist dwarf cleric, or grag, is found murdered with a troll club lying nearby, that simmering enmity threatens to boil over. Vimes realizes that only good police work can stop a war from happening. Angry crowds of dwarfs and trolls have to be kept away from each other. Proud, reclusive grags who consider humans to be a bad dream must be persuaded to cooperate with the investigation. A detecting team of the dwarf-human Captain Carrot, the werewolf Sergeant Angua, and a lance constable whose black ribbon means she abstains from drinking blood, must work together to follow the evidence – whether it leads to a troll or not. And Vimes must, at all costs, get home by six o’clock to read Where’s My Cow? to Young Sam, or there will be hell to pay.

The tragic story of a mentally disturbed painter combines with increasingly fascinating glimpses into two fantasy-world cultures to drench this 30th full-blown Discworld novel in the magic of color. Pratchett uses verbal description to paint a detailed portrait of the city with all its multi-layered complexity, and of the Koom Valley in all its menacing splendor. He populates his canvas with a multitude of characters, each blazing with vitality and moving on a distinct trajectory. The action, the magic, the suspense, the tragedy, and the comedy mix together relentlessly like exploding kernels of popcorn, while the underlying anti-war and anti-drug messages shine through unobscured. He paints in utterly believable details, from troll graffiti (“Mr. Shine! Him Diamond!”) to a father’s love for his small son. And when the last brush-stroke is added, you will see a word-picture in which broad laughs combine with deep emotion and challenging ideas. A picture which, like the painting in the story, seems to surround you and gather you in.

Recommended Age: 14+