When a book dedicates itself to fantasy’s expendable Red Shirt Army with the witticism of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, you know you hold a diamond. When I given Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! to read, I was a little weary to give it a try. The dull artwork of a strange looking dragon on its cover wasn’t eye catching. The summary on the back was about as appealing as a very moldy ham and egg sandwich. But, encouraged by my friend’s enthusiasm, I trudged on like a good soldier and opened the book.
Six words in, I knew I was infected.
Guards! Guards! is full of clever sentences that get right under your skin. It opens in a fictional place of Terry Pratchett’s own imagination called Discworld. Our unlikely heroes are the Night Watchmen of Ankh-Morpork who dedicate themselves to alcoholism and never running too fast lest they actually catch a criminal. It’s these four characters Vimes, Colon, Nobbs and Carrot drew me closer to the pages. I felt as though I were a part of their crew.
The plot begins when an incompetent secret brotherhood schemes to replace the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork with a puppet king of their own. In order to accomplish their evil deed, they summon a dragon using a stolen magical book and that’s when the mayhem starts. It’s up to Captain Vimes of the Night Watch and his rag-tag team to stop this dragon and restore order. My favorite character out of this crew was Carrot. Having lived his entire life in the underground caverns of the dwarves, Carrot discovers a whole new world when he steps foot into Ankh-Morpork. He volunteers with the Night Watch which we are told nobody would ever think of doing. His naive yet bold nature reminds me of myself when I moved out of my parents’ house and discovered the life of a city girl.
The voice and style of Guards! Guards! is marinated in Pratchett’s love of good British farce. A ridiculous cast of characters find themselves tangled in improbable scenarios and complications. The heroes and villains are silly enough for us not to take seriously yet so thoroughly well done they seem almost tangible. Our antagonist, the Supreme Grand Master, is a whimsical parody of an egotistical maniac driven by his hatred of humanity’s stupidity. Lady Ramkin, a potential love interest of our protagonist Captain Vimes, is overweight, hazardously confident and sharply eccentric with her fondness for dragons. The story is full of action and spotted here and there by extreme cuteness such as the scenes with the swamp dragons. Also, hidden in the text is a treasure trove of references to Hollywood films.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wishes a great read.