The Watch is one of the most popular mini arcs in Discworld, and Guards Guards! Is often sited as one of the best places to introduce yourself to Discworld, book #8 in the series, the “early Pratchett” syndrome is over at this point, and the characters are getting pretty well developed, and the world itself is solidifying.
The Watch follows a group of protagonists in the City Watch of Ank Morpork, and Sam Vimes arguably has the best character arc in all of Discworld. I love Granny, but she’s more or less Granny from start to finish, with each book giving glimpses into her inner workings rather than her changing over time. Both are satisfying for me, but I see why Sam is some peoples favorite character, it’s hard not to love him.
Ankh Morpork is a wild city and you wouldn’t want to find yourself in the wrong side of town, murder isn’t far away, swindlers, thieves and assassins make their home in Ankh forming Guilds with strict rules to follow.
Sam Vimes is the main character of The Watch
“You are in favour of the common people?’ said Dragon mildly.
‘The common people?’ said Vimes. ‘They’re nothing special. They’re no different from the rich and powerful except they’ve got no money or power. But the law should be there to balance things up a bit.’ ”
When you meet Sam Vimes in Guards Guards he is pretty pathetic, he’s a drunk who is just barely holding his life together. The Watch has less than a handful of members, and is largely considered a joke and may as well be non existent. Over the course of the Watch mini arc Sam ditches the booze and becomes a convincing leader of the Watch and a hero to the people. He’s just your average joe, he has no magical capabilities he has no special qualities, he’s just a dude and I think that’s why so many people like him, he’s extremely easy to relate with. He has similar characteristics to Granny Weatherwax, in that he’s dedicated to what’s right. His over-arcing theme would be justice.
“Nobby had survived any number of famous massacres by not being there. ”
Standing at around 4 feet tall, Nobbys appearance is what most people notice first, he’s one of the strangest looking characters in The Watch, and he’s a perpetual thief, which is a strange attribute for a Watch member, but Vimes sees the best in him and keeps him on board despite his sticky fingers. He’s one of the funnier members of the Watch, he lies as easily as he breathes, but he’s mostly an open book, unable to keep his anxiety off his face.
Carrot grew up with Dwarves, and firmly thinks of himself as a dwarf. He has the heart of a true knight, probably the most fearless of the bunch, Carrot doesn’t sway from a fight, and is just as committed to justice as Vimes. Native at first, but not stupid, Carrots journey is really more exploring the world and what it entails, since he grew up underground in the Copperhead mines. Carrot just wants to be friends with everyone, and in a world where the species are starting to come together in the Watch, with vampires and werewolves, trolls and other species, he just doesn’t seem to care what you are, and he’s one of the least racist characters in all of Discworld. He is an indispensable member of the Watch, and the perfect policeman, he even enjoys paperwork, which is the bane of most of the Watch.
Angua is the Watchs first woman accepted into the Watch, she’s also the first werewolf – and she will kick your ass. Haling from Uberwald, which has tense relationships with Ankh she makes a name for herself being a valued member of the Watch. Level headed and practical she’s not easily fooled or flustered. She isn’t necessarily fulfilled with life in the Watch however, and is a near constant turmoil with herself deciding if it was best if she just left. She makes friends with one of the first dwarves admitted to the watch, Cheery, and desperately tries to hide the fact that she’s a werewolf, fully aware of their surly reputation. She falls in love with Carrot, and it’s one of the times I’ve actually enjoyed a romance in books. She also tends to chase chickens ….
Fred…. Fred is probably the most senior member of the Watch in terms of how long he’s been there, his first appearance was in Colour of Magic, and he remains a lower ranking member of the Watch. He spends most of his time gardening bridges against theft. For most of the series he’s regarded as stupid and lazy, but he does have his moments of street awareness that proves his usefulness to the Watch. Just, don’t put him in charge. The one time he was promoted he was quickly overwhelmed, choosing to ignore paper work and responsibilities, and becoming irate and tyrannical in his leadership, causing a good number of the Watch to quit, if he hadn’t fired them already.
The only troll member of the Watch, detritus is HUGE and known for carrying around a crossbow that can blast through doors. Slow on the uptake, but smart by troll standards, he’s the muscle of the Watch. However, take him into the mountains and suddenly you’ve got a genius on your hands. The colder the temperature, the better troll brains work – which is why Detritus never wants to go to Klatch, a hot and arid part of Discworld, he would become basically non functional. He’s an unusual but endearing member of the Watch.
The first female dwarf admitted to the Watch, Cheery is actually one of my favorites despite her being a side character that doesn’t take the lime light often. Dwarves have strict social standards, when she starts wearing make up and wearing skirts, the dwarf community loses their minds, but she carries on anyway. She’s a forensic alchemist for the Watch, and is one of the smarter of the bunch. Her best friend is Angua, and remains her best friend even after learning that she’s a werewolf – despite the fact she previously had a deep distrust and prejudice against werewolves.
Regarded for many as the best place to start with Discworld, this is many peoples introduction to Discworld.
“They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.
This book is dedicated to those fine men.”
The story follows a plot by a secret brotherhood, the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night, to overthrow Vetinari, the patrician of Ankh and install their own puppet king under the control of the Supreme Grand Master. Using a stolen magic book, they summon a dragon to strike fear into the people of Ankh
In this book Sam Vimes is still a drunk, staggering around and basically not doing his job, the Watch is considered a joke. So, it was quite a challenge for them to combat this cult and vanquish the dragon which is immolating the citizens of Ankh.
Men at Arms
The Watch has grown a bit, with the addition of a dwarf and a troll, but they are still a woefully small group. So, when Vetinari is facing assassination it’s a tough challenge to stop it. There’s a group working to find the true King of Ankh and replace the Patrician with the heir. Vimes is also about to get married to Sybil who is the richest person in Ankh, winning her over by the end of Guards Guards!
Feet of Clay
GOLEMS! Golems are the main part of this story, and it’s one of my favorite of the Watch series. There’s been a murder, and a Golem is a main suspect. Lord Vetinari has been poisoned (this dude is lucky to be alive) so Vimes has a lot on his hands in this book. By the end we get the first Golem member of the watch! Dorfl!
Ankh has gone to war in this book against Klatch – the island of Leshp, which had been submerged under the Circle Sea or centuries, rises to the surface. Its position, exactly halfway between Ankh and Klatch and it makes the island a powerful strategical point for whoever lays claim to it, which both cities do.
The Fifth Elephant
Sam thought that things were bad enough when he was forced to go to Überwald, a largely wild territory, on a diplomatic mission. That was before he found himself entangled in a plot to spark the dwarf equivalent of a holy war, not to mention running in the frozen wastelands of Uberwald and werewolves on his trail.
The plot concerns the appointment of a new Low King of the dwarfs. It is a controversial choice and the cause of a rift in the dwarf community. Lord Vetinari sends Vimes as an ambassador along with Detritus and Littlebottom, the idea being trolls and dwarfs are ethnic majorities in Überwald, where the Low King resides. Littlebottom is not a typical dwarf, as she displays being female and even wears a dress, which is highly offensive to conservative dwarf society. Accompanying them as both guard and spy is Ingo, a scholarship boy from the Assassins Guild.
This book is centered around a revolution. Vimes is sent back in time during an upheaval in Ankh.
One of the central themes of the novel is the concept that “nothing changes.” This is shown in two major ways: First, that even though there is a revolution to overthrow the current patrician, when the revolution is finished people go on with their lives exactly as they had done before, and the government continues behaving as it had done before; Second, that while the past has been slightly changed by Vimes and Carcer, the present remains exactly the same.
Another theme is the idea of acting in a way that you would want to become. Vimes has to teach his younger self about good police work, and in so doing has to be very careful about not doing things that he considers to be over the line (such as murdering unarmed men). It’s interesting to note that when Vimes returns to the present, he continues to think of the younger version of himself and how that younger version would see what he is doing, so that he must continue to act in moral ways.
It has one of the best endings in the Discworld series
My favorite of The Watch series, it’s the peak of Sam’s arc and has a scene that gave my goosebumps and sent my heart pounding.
There’s been another murder, and it’s closing on the anniversary of the battle of Koom valley, which sets the dwarves and trolls against each other. Vimes needs to find out what happened before chaos and bloodshed get out of control.
Meanwhile, Nobby and Sgt Colon begin an investigation into the theft of the fifty-foot painting, The Battle of Koom Valley by the insane artist Methodia Rascal, from a city museum. Most of the populace believe the painting holds clues to a treasure hidden in Koom Valley. Nobbs has a new girlfriend, the exotic dancer Tawneee. Other subplots involve the tension between vampires and werewolves (Sergeant Angua and Lance-Constable Van Humpeding), and the presence of Vetinari’s auditor, A.E. Pessimal, in the Watch House.
A recurring element in the book is Vimes’ race to get home every night by six o’clock to read the book Where’s My Cow to his infant son, named after his father. No matter what.
Sam is forced by his wife, Lady Sybil, to take a holiday with their son, Young Sam, at her family’s mansion Crundells. After a short time of enjoying his holiday, he discovers that the rural community has a dark past with the resident goblins, humanoid lifeforms that live in caves nearby. Vimes finds out that the son of Lord Rust has been enslaving goblins to force them to work on his tobacco plantations in Howondaland, allowing him to manufacture cigars cheaply that are then smuggled to Ankh-Morpork. After teaming up with the local constable, a young man called Upshot, Vimes manages to arrest those responsible for the crime. In the end, thanks to his wife’s organizational skills and powers of persuasion, goblins are recognized as citizens by all major nations and rulers. Rust’s son is disinherited and exiled to Fourecks, where, Vetinari assures an eye will be kept on him.
LOL well, being in the hospital like I am I forgot that it was Tuesday – So, this post went up at 2am on Wednesday morning. Ah well.