In the third instalment of Terry Pratchett’s City Watch storyline, and the nineteenth novel overall in his Discworld universe, Pratchett introduces yet more ethnic groups into the City Watch and provides us with the most unlikely of replacements for Ankh-Morpork’s Patrician.
One of the continuing plotlines for Ankh-Mopork is the absurdity of its ruler, Havelock Vetinari. A former member of the Guild of Assassin’s, holds the city in what can only really be called a vicelike grip. That being said, he finds himself the target of many attempts on his life and position, although is never really at any harm from them. He runs the cities underworld like he runs the business world, saying that the only sort of crime he likes is organised crime; organised by him!
Naturally, Commander Vimes, once again promoted as a result of the previous books ending, is on hand to help Vetinari out, although it’s obvious halfway through that Vimes’ involvement is purely academic. But together the two make up the majority of power in Ankh-Morpork and two of the cleverest characters ever written.
This story isn’t as good, for me at least, as Men at Arms was. It’s more of a cop novel than a fantasy book, which is brilliant in its own way but not what I expected when I read it so long ago. Subsequent readings have endeared the book to me more and more, but still ranks in under Men at Arms.
That’s not to say the story isn’t clever. Poisoning the Patrician is clever, but who’s behind it and why are they doing it? And is everything as it seems at first blush? Probably not, but with the mass of clues in the way who can tell?
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, the earlier Discworld novels aren’t as refined as the latter. Which makes utter and complete sense, but is still a word of warning. When you hear people describe the genius and brilliance behind the Discworld books, those characteristics are set up in these early books and then flourish in latter books. These are books you want to read, as they are clever, smart, and fill in a lot of the blanks on characters you may have read or will read when you get to Night Watch and the like. But don’t expect 10/10 brilliance straight away.
Review by Joshua S Hill
7.9/10 from 1 reviews
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