“I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are good people and bad people. You’re wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people,but some of them are on opposite sides” – Lord Havelock Vetinari
Guards! Guards! is one of my favourite books in the wonderful Discworld series. What makes a fantasy story? Magic? Brave men? Dragons? “Damsels in distress”? Check, check and check in the case of this installment. And even better, it features even more of Terry Pratchett’s dry wit and real world parody. This book features healthy doses of fantasy, human greed, cynicism, idealism and dark humour to form a well rounded, laugh-out-loud adventure that introduces the haphazard group of mismatches, The Ankh-Morpork City Watch.
Power is a major thread of the story once again, but in a slightly different light than in Sourcery. Such is the desire of a hooded wannabe-tyrant, he opts for a convoluted way of making a power grab. Using a group of dull-witted followers to help, he summons a dragon that is to be “slain” by the long lost heir to the throne of the city. He will then, naturally, act as advisor, pulling the strings while hidden from sight. As is so often the case in reality, the greed of man and lust for power consumes all – promotion in a comfy career is not enough, and being all-powerful is all that will do.
Once again, very much like in reality people need to be careful what they wish for, as in this case, the dragon takes control of its’ own destiny, returning to overthrow the city. This book is for my money, the most like a true fantasy story in so far as it features the villainous dragon terrorising the city, and a group of brave men saving the day.
This book continues the trend of the early books in the Discworld series in introducing new characters and groups that have significant bearing in the future. We meet Lady Sybil Ramkin. Born to a noble family, she has a soft-spot for dragons, caring for them and learning all there is to know about them. Swamp dragons at least, not the enormous city-wrecking type. She brings an almost-permanent sense of optimism to things, and sees the best in almost anyone, including a couple of members of the Watch.
Which brings me back around to one of the aspects of this book that makes it one of my favourites – the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. As I’ve mentioned before, the Discworld series is made up of 41 main books split into a range of mini-series. The City Watch compromise a whole mini-series of its own. The group starts off as a ragtag bunch of possibly the worst guards on the Disc. Their hearts are in the right place, but they are not the City’s finest. I love their leader, Commander Samuel Vimes, even if he is a bit of a downbeat man with a penchant for drink. This book introduces the group and sets the scene for what is a fantastic thread in the narrative of the Discworld series.
This is my second read through of this fantastic book, and if anything it just gets better. And it reminds me why I love the City Watch. I cannot wait to read more in the series, but next up for me is a book I haven’t yet read – Eric, part of the Rincewind series. Let’s see what this one has in store for me.