Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Book 15 in Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” series, focuses once again on the Night Watch of the twin-city of Ankh-Morpork. In Book 8 of the series, Guards! Guards! Captain Vimes met Lady Ramkin, an eccentric noble woman who raises swamp dragons. Well a lot has happened, and the couple is due to be married shortly, and is slated for retirement from the guards. But something evil is afoot as a device has been stolen from the Assassins’ Guild, and people start showing up dead, with holes in them made by a metal projectile. And the Night Watch starts sticking their noses in places that the various guilds of Ankh-Morpork would prefer remain hidden.

Corporal Carrot, the human who was adopted by dwarves has to take charge of the guild and the old guards, Nobbs and Colon are now joined by new recruits Cuddy (a dwarf), Detritus (a Troll), and Angua (a woman with a secret).  The trail of bodies leads them to the Assassins guild, the Beggars Guild, and the Fools Guild. Also returning is Gaspode, the talking dog from Moving Pictures.

Men at Arms is a really good addition to the series. If you’ve enjoyed the books up until now, of course you will read it — it’s very funny, written with all of the humor and skill that the late Mr. Pratchett displayed in his previous novels. But there is also an undercurrent of seriousness here, and all of the gun violence that has been in the news in recent years gives the novel a bit of extra weight. This is not really a political novel, at least not at its core. But there certainly is a gentle political commentary here, as the Discworld experiences its first incidents of ‘gonne’ violence.

The book is good, and if you are reading the series, you shouldn’t skip it. If you want to read it and haven’t read any of the previous books, I would suggest reading Guards! Guards! first. You really don’t have to, but it will make more sense if you do. And if you want to find out about Gaspode, of course you may also want to read Moving Pictures.  But for the best experience, I’d read everything in order — while they aren’t all equally good, there really isn’t a bad book in the bunch.

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