Here be Dragons

Part Eight of the Complete Discworld Reread
A drunken guard captain as the protagonist. A secret society that barely functions. An overweight, middle aged love interest. The long lost heir to the throne… who just isn’t interested. Dragons! What about this book don’t I like?

Thus starts the adventures of Samuel Vimes in Ankh-Morpork, which will continue on for many more books. And what a long ways our courageous watchman has come. Something of a disgrace, leading the night watch in a town where criminal guilds are the real law, Vimes spends most of his time in a bottle. But there is still a bit of civic pride in the man, and no one can tell him that the dragon he saw is really a large bird. So it is up to him and his motley crew to save the city, beat the dragon, and save/get saved by the maiden fair!

While my favorite plot lines these days involve the Witches of Lancre, when I first started reading Discworld it was the Night Watch books that stood as my favorite. Vimes is an amazing character, especially in the early going when he has just enough pride to get himself into trouble. He just feels real, something fairly unique in fantasy at times. He is not the smartest or bravest, often times has to be prodded in the right direction by his crew, has a very real problem with alcohol, and knows his limitations while pushing them with all he is worth. Even this early in the series you can feel the city slowly bending around to his ways. He is such an overpowering presence in this book that it speaks to the quality of writing that any other characters are memorable at all. But Corporal Carrot could carry a book all by himself (and I seriously hope that someday he gets that chance). Nobby and Colon are comic relief, but they carry the role very well. And Lady Ramkin will shine more later in the series, but even in this book is resourceful and strong.

The story itself is well worth reading, giving the lowliest guards a chance to not die in the first few pages, but rather to do the things usually reserved for farm boys with hidden strengths (i.e. save the day). Meddle not in the affairs with dragons would be the basic moral of the story, with a few special twists.

Humor wise this is where I like Pratchett best. Less obvious pop culture references, more subtle mocking fantasy and real life. Calculating out million to one chances were a highlight, as was the importance of knowing what all the words in a secret oath mean. I will always enjoy Carrot’s letters home, and Vimes’ interactions with owner of a greasy spoon will carry over to other books as well.

Some areas didn’t hold up as well on reread, notably that timeline editing seems to start getting lazy starting around this point. It is something that I have noticed in several of the Watch books particularly; Vimes gets the important information a few pages before completely dismissing a theory that the info relates to, only to remember the important piece of information at a later time in the story. I don’t know how it happens, but it feels like the time lines were moved around and certain lines were forgotten. Also, Carrot seems a bit too one-dimensional knowing what is to come with him, with none of the ‘simple doesn’t mean stupid’ that we see in later books. This may be something that only matters on reread though, and wouldn’t affect the enjoyment of a first reading.

4 1/2 stars


Comments on: "Fantasy Review: ‘Guards! Guards!’ by Terry Pratchett" (1)

  1. And for me, Vimes is my second favourite character, after Granny Weatherwax. Still, I agree that later books about the Watch are better. Terry always seems to need to get into his stride when he starts with recurring characters.

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