Review: Men at Arms

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second time reading this book. I left the rating the same

When it comes to the Anhk-Morpork based books, Pratchett lays in the final brick in the foundation for all that will come. The Night Watch is elevated to full Watch. We get more interactions and elaborations on how the Guilds work and how Vetinari pulls all the strings. Carrot grows a little, even as he retains his essential “Carrot-ness”. Pratchett builds on adding in all the fantasy and horror characters that he started back with Reaper Man and introduces Angua, our werewolf watch-person. We also have the return of Gaspode and Detritus from Moving Pictures. Reading all of these in a row and thinking about them critically for these reviews has made me realize that Pratchett has moved towards really making Anhk-Morpork (and greater Discworld) seem like more real, lived-in places as he settled into it as a long series. It feels as alive as Gotham, especially as written by Scott Snyder.

This particular storyline is in the form of a detective novel (which I believe most of the City Watch novels become from here on out), but it’s almost incidental to the story. I think that’s the weakest thing about it and, despite having given it 4 stars before, I didn’t like the main plot too much last time. Pratchett is more interested in exploring ideas of diversity in the workplace (another trope that will continue in each of the City Watch novels going forward), the right of kings, and, to some extent, the feeling of power that comes from using a gun. That last one comes through a bit anviliciously and I don’t know if it’s a slight weakness in Pratchett’s writing on this book or if it comes from not being American. (That is to say, I’m lead to believe guns are much, much rarer in England)

It’s not a horrible place to jump in although you’ll be missing some of the details about the way others react to Carrot and the fact that he’s a human adopted by dwarves. Pratchett does seed the Koom Valley battle between Trolls and Dwarves that he pays off way later in Discworld 34, Thud!

Overall, by the time you’ve either arrived at Discworld if reading in order or City Watch , I think you’ll have an idea of whether you like Discworld and should read this book. It works very well and I enjoyed it a lot, but it’s also not some must-read book even if you didn’t like other Discworld books you’d tried before.

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