Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

(9.7/10) Just another proof that Pratchett knows how to write a brilliant fantasy book.

It has taken me a little while to work up the courage to write this review. Terry Pratchett has always managed to write a book a year for the last little while, and as a result has provided me with a sure-fire birthday present for my father; no questions asked. This year was no different, and when I got my copy of Unseen Academicals in the mail I was stoked.

And I read it. And I loved it. And I finished it.

But I realized it wasn’t as good as Night Watch or Nation. And that is what has made writing this review difficult.

How exactly do you drop an author like Terry Pratchett down to a 9 out of 10, or even 8. I haven’t worked out the score yet as I write this, I don’t want too. I want to write from the heart before the stats add up and change things. 

So I’ll do just that.

Unseen Academicals is brilliantly clever. It rivals Night Watch insomuch as it is not rip-roaringly funny, but is intelligently brilliant. The story is complex and compelling, making the reader think to keep up with what is going on.

The characters introduced in this novel are tremendously clever. From Nutt’s development arc to the relationship between Trev and Jules, and the fact that Glenda did evolve, Pratchett once again manages to effortlessly (or so it seems) weave together a cast as if he had the strings to each marionette in his hands.

But maybe the real joy was in seeing characters like Vetinari, Ridcully and Ponder receive more face time. More often than not acting as sub-characters in previous books – there to help the book along but not the focus – these three characters are the source of some of the funniest and intelligent scenes.

All of that being said, however, and we are still left with a minor problem. Whether it was because Pratchett no longer had direct control over the writing (he had to dictate this book to an assistant) or something else, there were some unhappy grammatical errors and a few scenes that seemed unpolished. One can almost let it pass, seeing as who we’re dealing with, but at times I was thrown for a loop as I tried to comprehend what I was reading. The mistakes are small, and not overly numerous, but new to a Discworld novel.

Were these errors enough to make me dislike the book? Oh heavens no! Pratchett has written a book that, with rereads, will probably climb my Pratchett scale and rank as a great book. I know I missed stuff, and I look forward to going back and finding it. Just another proof that Pratchett knows how to write a brilliant fantasy book.

So do I suggest going to get the book upon its release? I sure do! Queue up at the bookstore and make sure you get it as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll crave more Pratchett stories when you finish. What else do you want from a book?

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