Book Review: Guards! Guards! by Sir Terry Pratchett

Posted July 11, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: Guards! Guards! by Sir Terry Pratchett

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Guards! Guards! by Sir Terry Pratchett
Series: ,
Genres: Fantasy, Satire
Published by Random House on 1990
Pages: 317
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: I Shall Wear Midnight, The Light Fantastic, Sourcery, Mort, The Shepherd's Crown, Moving Pictures, Small Gods, A Blink of the Screen, Reaper Man

Eighth in the overall Discworld fantasy series and the first in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch — I suspect the Watch are gonna be fun to watch!

“‘Don’t you worry about Thieves’ Guilds. This is all you have to do, you walk along the Streets at Night, shouting, “It’s Twelve O’clock and All’s Well.”‘

‘What if it is not all well…’

‘You bloody well find another street.'”

My Take

Oh, lord! Pratchett is having way too much fun poking away at idiots and incompetents, and then the Supreme Grand Master who becomes “slightly annoyed at this unusual evidence of intelligence”.

Bean soup. This passage makes you laugh even harder as Pratchett spoofs spy passwords and the Women’s Institute (and other special interest groups), ROFLMAO. Then there’s the very realistic look at inn-sewer-ants, organized crime, snooty people, charades, Casablanca, fairy tales, Clint Eastwood, capitalism, regularizing thieving and begging, corruption and graft, The Three Musketeers, and football chants, lol.

A majority of the laughter comes in Carrot’s interactions with everyone around him. This boy is so naive and literal; he thinks everyone is as nice as he is. He’s so nice, he “nices” people into being decent. Okay, not all of ’em. The really funny bits include Carrot’s insistence on actually *shock* enforcing the law!!! That boy will arrest anyone and anything.

Pratchett finally explains why it is that dwarfs always seem to wear chainmail, carry axes, have surly, choppy names, and drink all the time. Makes sense to me. And it explains “today’s” youth…*eyebrow waggle*…

I do love Pratchett’s explanation of how the Patrician works. We finally discover why the city works as it does. And it does make sense in a weird way. I’m thoroughly intrigued by his character and look forward to reading more about this contradiction of a leader. He sure does know his psychology. Just look at how he founded all those organizations seeking his downfall. As for his time in prison, oh man, ROFLMAO. Again.

Pratchett makes a good point here:

“—we never burned and tortured and ripped one another apart and called it morality.”

Oh, gawd. There’s Vimes reminiscing about wanting a puppy. And then you read on to learn why…oh, just ick! ‘Course, he does finally get a pet…when Lady Ramkin gives him Errol. Who turns out to be a girl.

“Some daft creature rolls on its back, [the dragon] disembowels it. That’s how they look at [submission]. Almost human, really.”

“It’s the Ankh-Morpork way. If you can’t beat it or corrupt it, you pretend it was your idea in the first place.”

The Story

A king. That’s what the Supreme Grand Master wants. A king he can manipulate, rule through. All he needs is a major disaster to fly over the city and then for a hero to show up.

And all it takes is an earnest young man and a thumping great Valkyrie of a woman to bring heart back into a corrupt squad of guards.

The Characters

The Night Watch has…
…disintegrated down from hundreds to just three guards. It took the Patrician years to ensure that the Watch is a bunch of incompetents commanded by a drunkard. And it’s where Carrot’s parents want him to work when they send him off to the city.

The very naive Carrot Ironfoundersson is a young country bumpkin bearing an ordinary, nothing special sword who is about to become a lance-constable. His parents were dwarfs who brought him up with a high degree of morality. What are they thinking to send Carrot to Ankh-Morpork!?! Minty Rocksmacker is the dwarf Carrot is sweet on. Mr. Varneshi is a human who trades with the dwarfs.

The alcoholic Captain Samuel Vimes commands the night squad with Sergeant Frederick Colon and Corporal “Nobby” Nobbs, Carrot’s new partner, as part of his remaining men. Sergeant Hummock is part of the day squad. Herbert Gaskin recently died. They’ll name their newly acquired mascot Errol after Nobby’s brother.

Ankh-Morpork is…

…the largest city in Discworld and ruled by the Patrician, Havelock, Lord Vetinari. Skrp is his servant rat. Lupine Wonse, a.k.a., Lupin Squiggle, is the patrician’s secretary. It’s a city where bucket chains form to pass lumps of river to fight fires.

The overwhelming Lady Sybil Ramkin, of one of Ankh-Morpork’s oldest families, breeds swamp dragons, Drago vulgaris. Some of her dragons include Lord Mountjoy Gayscale Talonthrust III of Ankh, Dewdrop Mabelline Talonthrust the First who likes to have his belly rubbed, Moonpenny Duchess Marchpaine who is gravid, Moonmist Talonthrust II has a Best of Breed ribbon, Talonthrust Vincent Wonderkind of Quirm, a.k.a., Vinny, Lord Mountjoy Quickfang Winterforth IV who is the hottest dragon in the city, and the defective Goodboy Bindle Featherstone of Quirm who becomes Vimes’ and the guards’ new mascot (his sire was Treebite Brightscale, who was owned by Lady Brenda Rodley, the Dowager Duchess of Quirm). Rosie Devant-Molei runs the Sunshine Sanctuary.

Dragons are classed according to their age: a pewmet ranges from birth to eight months; From eight to fourteen months, he’s a cock; then a snood; and, eventually, a cobb which is a two-years or older male dragon. Draco nobilis means “noble dragon”.

The Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night is…
…one of the many societies that abound in Ankh-Morpork. The Supreme Grand Master has his own plans — think of him as a Hitler. Brother Fingers has a way of not paying. Brother Doorkeeper works at a bakery where Master Critchley oppresses him. Don’t even get me started on those oppressive landlords! Brother Watchtower, Brother Plasterer, and Brother Dunnykin (his family thought swineherding was a posh job) are more of the members.

“‘We never intended this,’ he said weakly. ‘Honestly. No offence. We just wanted what was due to us.’


The Guild of Thieves, Burglars and Allied Trades is…
…a respectable, sort of, union in Ankh-Morpork with the job of regulating theft. Urdo van Pew is the president. Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler sells anything that will fit in a suitcase, especially if it fell off the back of an oxcart. Bengy “Lightfoot” Boggis is a capo de monty in the guild. Thief Third Class Zebbo Mooty is behind on his quota…and then dead.

Unseen University is…
…the premier college of wizardry in Discworld. The Library is the greatest assemblage of magical texts anywhere with thousands of volumes of occult lore. And those books are alive! The Librarian is an adult male orangutan, who used to be a wizard.

“A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”

Damn, lead me to it!!

The Mended Drum is…
…the most disreputable tavern on Discworld. Detritus is the troll who works as a bouncer. Charley is in charge the night Carrot arrests him. Nork the Impaler, Big Henri, and Grabber Simmons (one of the most feared bar-room fighters in the city) are part of the riot inside.

Sham Harga runs Harga’s House of Ribs. Master Greetling is the head of the Teachers’ Guild. The Duke of Sto Helit rules a neighboring country. Jimkin Bearhugger runs a whisky distillery. Lobsang is one of the monks up in the Ramptop Mountains. DEATH turns up for anyone who dies. Mrs. Rosie Palm is the nice lady who runs The Shades, a “boarding house”. Reet is one of the “ladies” who works there. The Balancing Monks are one of the very few public institutions which provide medical assistance.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a primarily orange-y cartoon with a pretty summer blue sky over a paved ground where Lady Ramkin is tied down on a huge sacrificial stone and surrounded by trolls, guards, and the populace of Ankh-Morpork — and all terrified at the dragons coming in for the kill. The author’s name is large and at the top in an embossed reddish-copper Gothic font while the title is at the bottom in a white embossed all-caps serif.

The title intends to capture your attention, the flavor of those poor corrupt watchmen, and is Wonse’s battle cry: Guards! Guards!, who are useless as all get out.

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6 responses to “Book Review: Guards! Guards! by Sir Terry Pratchett

  1. Sophie Weston

    Dear Kathy,

    Thanks for writing your review and sharing you viewpoint.

    Eroll the swampdragon is not a girl. The magically invoked huge flying dragon is female. The two of them eventually fly off into the sunset.

    Sir Terry Pratchett: master of characterisation. Disworld Monthly for all things beloved.

    Discworld such a pleasant journey one can go again and again. The audiobooks are worth every shilling.

    Best regards

    Miss Sophie

  2. zyziuMarchewka

    No, I’m pretty sure, that Errol was male, the great dragon was female, and that’s why they mated

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