This is one of the most popular, if not the #1 recommended book to get into Discworld. This also kicks off the only series that I’m adamant people should read in order. The other subseries like Wizards, Death, and Witches can be read in whatever order you want, really. But, the Watch is something special and different, the evolution of Vimes as a character should be enjoyed from start to finish, there’s such a monumental change in the character with each book that he’s almost not recognizable from the first book to the last. He has one of the best arcs in the series, and I was very excited for this re-read via audiobook.
Reading this intro always makes me smile, no matter how many times I’ve read it:
“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.”
Vimes is a drunk in this novel, he’s a drop-down alcoholic who is barely holding himself together. Together there are only three people left in the City Watch, and they are some of the most hated men in Ankh Morpork. “You’d have to be really out of touch to go to the Watch for help”.
Carrot is a great side character (who has more page time in later books) and some people like him even more than Vimes since he has a genuinely kind-hearted nature about him. In this novel he is very young and naive, he has grown up thinking that he’s a dwarf since he was adopted by the King of the dwarves as a baby. He wasn’t told that he’s actually human, but it became an unavoidable conversation when he grows to 6’6″ and can’t fit in dwarven homes anymore. His father has decided it would be best for the young lad if he went above the surface and interacted with members of his own species. His dad thinks that joining the City Watch would be a great place for Carrot to learn his way in the world. Carrot is completely surprised, it’s a lot for him to absorb, but he takes his duty seriously so he heads to Ankh Morpork to join the Watch.
When Carrot arrives and asks to join The Night Watch, the three remaining members of said Watch don’t know what to do with themselves, or their newest volunteer. Nobody volunteers to be a member of the Watch, they can’t believe this isn’t some sort of punishment for Carrot. Things are made more complicated when Carrot’s morals and values start clashing with Morporkian society. Their “way of doing things” in Ankh Morpork isn’t what Carrot expected and he starts making blunders. He arrests the leader of the Thieves Guild on the general principle that he leads a band of thieves. However, in Ankh the Thieves Guild is a licensed and legal practice, they even give you receipts post-robbery for your convenience.
For a long time now, the Kings of Ankh Morpork have been abandoned with society favoring a “Patrician” that rules over the city instead. This has left a small number of people (mainly The Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night) unhappy and they want to bring back the Kings and the dragons. The Supreme Leader of this group has found that there is a surviving heir to the throne, and he wants to find this ‘scion’ in whatever pig sty or farmers town is hiding in and put him on the throne. His crack-pot plan to make this happen is to summon a dragon. They stole a book from Unseen University which gave them instructions on how to do it, which doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea to attempt it. What they want to do is summon a dragon they can control, in theory the dragon will go rampaging and one of the Brethren will step up and “slay” the dragon. Therefore portraying themselves as heroes of Ankh Morpork and gaining enough favor with the public to put one of their own members in control of the city. What actually happens is that they mostly wind up dead, and the dragon is like “fuck off, I’m the king now”.
This was the first one where I laughed out loud a lot, and it’s no wonder why so many people point to this book as the turning point of the series. This is one of the ones I’ve re-read so many times my first copy fell apart and I had to get a new one. I’ve been reading this series since I was a kid and it’s so fascinating to see how I react to the different series at different times of my life. When I was in high school my favorite subseries were the Wizards and Death, and I didn’t truly appreciate Vimes’s character until I got a bit older. Vimes is a jaded character, someone who gave up a long time ago and he turns into someone who stands for justice and heroism. It just wasn’t as appealing to me then, I wanted silly names and funny titles for professors more than I wanted a struggling main character with their inner demons.
“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.”
“If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn’t as cynical as real life.”
“A book has been taken. A book has been taken? You summoned the Watch,” Carrot drew himself up proudly, “because someone’s taken a book? You think that’s worse than murder?”
The Librarian gave him the kind of look other people would reserve for people who said things like “What’s so bad about genocide?”
- Cops/Watchmen main characters
- alcoholic main character
- high fantasy
- lots of tropes – trolls, dwarves, elves
- shorter books
- Plot: 12.5/15
- Characters: 13.5/15
- World Building: 14/15
- Writing: 14/15
- Pacing: 13/15
- Originality: 13.5/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 9.5/10
Final Score: 90/100