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Guards! Guards!

by Terry Pratchett

A slight preamble: I read this, my first ever Terry Pratchett book, as part of the annual City Reads event in Brighton. Our bookgroup always attends the City Reads quiz and there is, inevitably, a round on that year’s chosen book. Being of a highly competitive nature, and not trusting my fellow team members to have read the book, (I know, I know) I decided to read this with a heavy heart, thinking fantasy fiction; book for boys; book for geeky boys. I was pleasantly surprised!

GUARDS! GUARDS! Is the eighth book in the Discworld series. The explanation for the title comes as a dedication from the author: “They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever their name, their purpose of any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they wanted to. This book is dedicated to those fine men.”

The eponymous Guards in this particular fantasy are the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork, a “corrupt and polluted” city state where the City Watch don’t much keep the peace, but turn a blind eye to the shenanigans that are going on all around them. And the most unvigilant of these is the Night Watch, a motley crew of incompetents comprising, Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, Corporal Nobbs, and a new, naive volunteer, Carrot Ironfoundersson. Now Carrot was brought up by dwarves so is a conscientious and diligent boy, even if he’s not the sharpest tool in the box. Having read and thoroughly digested ‘The Laws and Ordinances of the Cities of Ankh and Morpok’ Carrot knows what (should be) what. So, when a plot is hatched by a secret brotherhood to overthrow the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and install a puppet king, by summoning a dragon to strike fear into the people, Carrot and the boys are on the case! Throw in a magic library with an orang-utan as head librarian; a romance between the indefatigable, swamp-dragon breeder, Sybil Ramkin and Captain Vimes; an unrivalled use of language and ear for (hilarious) dialogue, and you have a crazy melange of phantasmagoria, absurdity and excitement, resulting in a damned good read! I take it all back.

Incidentally, we came third in the quiz.

Published by Corgi – 426pp

Irene Haynes

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