Thursday, September 11, 2008

Carpe Jugulum – Terry Pratchett

The reviews here are quite varied on this book, they are all obviously written by Pratchett fans however one of the problems with being a Pratchett fan is that he has SO many novels that you are bound to find a few that aren’t your taste. I personally loved this book. My favorite of Pratchett’s creations include the Witches and the Guards series.

An attempt at a short summary:
The King of Lancre and his new wife the former Witch Margrat have their first child, and are holding the Christening ceremony. In The King’s usual attempt to be “Modern” he invites the Magpyrs, a family of Vampires from Uberwald. Vampires of course cannot go where not invited, so they capitalize on the invitation to take over the entire country of Lancre. The Vampire clan however, is obsessed with becoming “Modern” and is quite Yuppyish. They have made themselves immune to garlic, sunlight, religious symbols, and just about everything else that normally works against Vampires. Meanwhile Granny Weatherwax’s invitation to the Christening was stolen, so in a typical Granny fashion, she is off in a huff. The soppy priest of Om that comes to do the Christening becomes quite the major character, and the “Wee Free Men” make their first appearance. Add in Igor, the Vampire’s henchman who wishes things would go back to the way they are, and the Falconer who spends most of the tale hunting down a Phoenix and you’re in for a non-stop good time. Nanny Ogg and Agnes/Perditia Nitt are put into the position of attempting to rescue the kingdom from the Vampires without Granny.

The witches are all their standard unique selves, Granny stubborn as a mule but with a heart of gold, Nanny with her wild ways and lewd comments, Margrat with her new aged ideas but strong backbone when needed, and the newest of the coven – Agnes Nitt a very big girl with a thin girl trapped inside her. Agnes becomes a major character in this book and really develops her unique personalities. The Priest of Om also becomes quite an interesting character with his on again off again faith crisis. The Wee Free Men are entertaining, but hard to read, Igor is an absolute trip.

Some will say that this is a re-write of “Lords and Ladies” I personally didn’t find it so. Sure bad guys arrive and threaten Lancre, and the Witches step up to do battle in their round-about humorous ways. But then again what fantasy/sci-fi/action or horror doesn’t have bad guys showing up and good guys trying to stop them? Of Pratchett’s novels I found this one to be much darker than the others because the Vampires are quite sinister for one of his villains. Still I found this to be an amazingly humorous tale. The bickering between the witches, the family fights between the vampires, Igor’s wanting to make everything dusty and covered in spider webs and longing for the old-school days of his master, the Falconer’s obsession with trying to catch a bird he’s never seen, the Wee Free Men stealing anything they can get their hands on, and even Greebo.

The pace of the book is unbelievably quick, numerous characters come and go and you’ll find yourself wondering how all of this will tie in together. But you can’t put it down. I can attest to that first hand, I read way past my bedtime to finish the book because the action never stopped long enough for me to stick in a bookmark. The humor wasn’t as non-stop as in some of his other books, but the funny parts were hysterical. I found that this book had far more meaning to it than many of the others.

If you are first time Pratchett reader, I would not recommend this book as a starting place because some of the history of the witches is almost required to get full enjoyment out of this story. I can’t imagine that a first time reader would understand the concept of “Borrowing” from this book or get the humor of the “I ain’t dead” sign. This is one of my favorite of Pratchett’s novels so far.

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