Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

The subtlety of his humour and his inoffensive parody is coruscating in its effectiveness.
Monstrous Regiment book cover

Pratchett's ‘Monstrous Regiment’ takes us into a parody of regimented life in the army as we follow Sir Samuel Vimes, hot off the press from Night Watch, as he resumes his ambassadorial role. This time we move to the land of Borogravia, constantly at war with the Zlobenians and follow the story of Polly Perks who has learned how to act like a boy (with the aid of a few well-placed socks) and joined up with her fellow recruits, the vampire Maledict, Tonker Shufti, Wazzer, the troll Corfundum, Igor, and Lofty, to name a few, under the command of the self-important and nasty corporal Strappi and the quietly heroic Sergeant Jackrum. After losing Strappi, very quickly, Polly's secret is out (as is most of the last regiment) and they find themselves on the front line with no training (as the war's going badly but this cannot be mentioned). Nevertheless, they manage to surprise and overcome an advance scout group of heavy dragoons under the command of the disguised Prince Heinrich (there is a very amusing episode as Sergeant Jackrum neatly manoeuvres his way around Discworld's Geneva Convention equivalent). Gradually, they stumble their way past a skirmish at a clacks tower, bump into William de Worde and the delightful Otto Chriek, deal with Maledict's coffee-withdrawal symptoms, and eventually end up dressing as washerwomen to gain entry to the Zlobenian-held Kreck keep. Once inside, the ever-surprising lieutenant Blouse manages to steer them, with Polly's excellent guidance, to freeing all the prisoners with some explosive help, restore control of the keep to Zlobenian hands and then avoid a court martial with de Worde's intervention before Polly moves onto her next mission.

Pratchett is without doubt the current master of satire across all genres. The subtlety of his humour and his inoffensive parody is coruscating in its effectiveness, poking enjoyable fun at the establishment. By breaking all the usual rules our gallant ladies defy and rampage through the war with devastating effectiveness to show that in a war, there are no rules. Written with Pratchett's usual wit and razor-sharp satire, this would come somewhere high up my list of Discworld recommended novels.

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