I’ve always loved dragons. They’re the one creature that has a universal presence in the world’s cultures. Symbols of wisdom and cunning, power and magic, they are either the epitome of holiness (in Eastern cultures) or the epitome of evil (in Western). I am particularly fascinated by the metaphorical dragon, the raging beast depicting the violence mankind tends to inflict on itself. Terry Pratchett explores this and other fascinating themes in his first book about Ankh-Morpork’s Night Watch:
Carrot Ironfoundersson, a human raised by gnomes, is sent by his “father” to Ankh-Morpork to join the estimable Night Watch. Unfortunately, the Watch have not been deemed “estimable” in quite some time. The Patrician legalized organized crime you see, and since all criminals have to do to keep crime down is not work, whereas the police have to work ten times as hard for the same results, the Watch became a laughingstock. The three outcasts (yes, that’s right, three) are just trying to keep their heads down and not get killed when Carrot arrives in town having memorized The Laws And Ordinances of The Cities of Ankh And Morpork, naively intent on upholding said laws and well-equiped with the muscle to back him up. And in the dark, quiet shadows of the Shades, where the Watch fear to tread, a hastily established secret society is intent on ruling the city by putting a puppet king on the throne that the Patrician is acting as “steward” for. Their chosen method of king-selection? Summon a dragon and crown the slayer of said beast. However, once it arrives the dragon has other plans.
Okay, I admit it. I wanted to read it because it promised a coronation of said marauding dragon (and I was not disappointed). But I quickly came to love Captain Vimes Constable Carrot, and Lady Ramkin, tolerate Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs, and despise Lord Vetinari (a.k.a. the Patrician). And Pratchett’s satirical discussions of the nature of people are poignant and engaging. Beautifully chaotic and pleasantly unpredictable, the book tells a fascinating tale and promises more to come!
Worth gifting (9 of 10), as expected!