Terry Pratchett, 2011

Premise: Commander Sam Vimes is taking a vacation to his wife's estate in the country. But just because you drag the copper out of the city doesn't mean he won't drag his sense of justice with him, and when mysterious and nefarious things are being done to the local goblins, Sam decides maybe the country isn't so boring after all.

Another reviewer put it well when she said that it's a Monsters Are People Too plot, this time around focusing on goblins. Pratchett himself basically lays out the main theme on page 93:
The City Watch appeared to contain at least one member of every known bipedal sapient species plus one Nobby Nobbs. It had become a tradition: if you could make it as a copper, you could make it as a species. But nobody had ever once suggested that Vimes should employ a goblin, the simple reason being that they were universally known to be stinking, cannabalistic, vicious untrustworthy bastards.
Of course, everybody knew that dwarfs were a chiselling bunch who would swindle you if they could, and that trolls were little more than thugs, and the city's one resident medusa would never look you in the face, and the vampires couldn't be trusted, however much they smiled, and werewolves were only vampires who couldn't fly, when you got right down to it, and the man next door was a real bastard who threw his rubbish over your wall...

Knowing the basic idea early doesn't mean it isn't delightful to follow through to the end, though. There's plenty of provincial politics, unexpected allies, adventure and good humor to be had, and the ending still managed to throw a few surprises my way.

The goblins themselves are pretty interesting, once you get down to it: a complicated blend of tribal culture, superstition, and natural magic. The subplot about Young Sam learning about animals is adorable, and the chapters about what the rest of the Watch is up to dovetail neatly with the main plot without feeling forced. There are some particularly poignant moments with Angua that reflect back on the entire series with both triumph and melancholy.

I should add, the plot of this book builds upon Thud, and it might be difficult to follow, and certainly less satisfying, on its own. Also it managed to take the main aspect of Thud that I didn't think worked, and makes it work here wonderfully well.

Another winner in the Discworld, solidly enjoyable.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book!


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