Friday, 27 April 2012

Book 28 of 2012: Monstrous Regiment

Having read every book on the top shelf of my bookcase when I finished with The Wee Free Men I moved on to the next shelf down and the thirty-first of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, Monstrous Regiment. This is one of the only books that really sort of stands alone; Sam Vimes comes into it a little and of course Death makes a cameo, but otherwise it’s dealing with entirely new characters in an entirely new country. I do wonder if perhaps that’s what I like about it so much. Slight warning here, if you’ve not read this book and you’re not wanting the little twists to be revealed, you might want to skip this review… I’ll try not to give too much away, but I can’t make any promises.

It’s also one of the last Discworld novels I read before I started doing the whole reading-the-whole-series-in-order thing that I’ve been working on since very late 2010. I loved this book when I first read it and so I was very much looking forward to the reread. It features Polly Perks, a girl in a country where being a girl isn’t particularly great. Her country is permanently at war with one or another of the surrounding countries and her brother has gone away to fight. She decides to leave the family Inn, The Duchess, to find him and bring him home. Of course, the only way to do this is to sign up for the army and so with the squad she’s joined (which includes a vampire, a troll and an Igor), Oliver (as she renames herself) travels towards the front, meanwhile more and more of the males in the book are revealed to actually be females.

I thought I remembered this one very well, but as I said, it’s probably been about three (or maybe slightly more) years since I read it, so while I knew the basic outline of the plot there were massive bits that I’d forgotten. One of the really big twists at the end (which is very cleverly hinted at most of the way through) came as a bit of a surprise to me… at least until Polly decided to reveal it, then I kind of knew what was coming. It wasn’t that I’d remembered it though, it was just piecing it together from the text as though I’d never read it before.

I did also get through it very quickly. As always when reading the Discworld books, I’m torn between hurtling through them because I find them hilarious and I love reading them and I want to know what’s going to happen next, and reading them dead slowly because I’m fast getting to the end of the published series and I’m not looking forward to taking them all off my bookcase and replacing them with something new. I’ve got six Discworld books left to read at the moment, plus I Shall Wear Midnight and Snuff still to get for my collection. I’m hoping that perhaps I can drag it out until nearer the end of the summer before I need to get them but at this rate it’ll be sooner rather than later.

The book is largely told through Polly’s eyes which works really well, she has a fantastic attitude. It also means that the boys are slowly revealed to be boys as she discovers them. Meanwhile you’re also learning about the religious and political aspects of their country as well. It means that there’s none of the info-dumps that you occasionally get in fantasy books. Plus you get to learn a bit more about vampires and the Igors as well.

My one little problem was keeping all the characters’ names straight. There were the girls, who had adopted boys names, went largely by their surnames when being given orders but used adopted nicknames when speaking to each other; in some cases there were three or four names to try to remember. They sunk in eventually but to begin with there was a bit of flipping backwards to remind myself who was who.

So far it doesn’t seem that Terry Pratchett has written anything more featuring Polly Perks or Borogravia, which is a shame because I’d love to have a bit more like this to look forward to. I am pleased that the next book in the series is A Hat Full Of Sky another of the Tiffany Aching series even if it does mean that I’m that much closer to the last Discworld book.

‘Mug of saloop?’ said Shufti, holding them up. A few days ago they’d have called it ‘sweet milky tea’, but even if they couldn’t walk the walk yet they were determined to talk the talk as soon as possible.
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