Review of Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

6567844Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett. ★★★★

Men at Arms is the fifteenth book in Discworld series. While it theoretically could be read independently, it really should be read after Guards! Guards!, the first book to follow the city watch.

Men at Arms is very much a straight mystery/detective story. There’s a series of murders, and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch sets out to investigate. However, due to new integration policies, the watch has three new members: Cuddy (a dwarf), Detritus (a troll), and Angua (a werewolf).

So, I need to take a bit of space here to fangirl about Angua. I love Angua. She’s one of the few female werewolves I’ve come across, and she’s undoubtedly the best. She gets a fair hunk of the POV sections, plus she’s a repeating character who shows up in other books!

Vimes is the obvious protagonist of the watch books, but Carrot actually plays a pretty large role here. I like Carrot, but he’s never been one of my favorite Discworld characters – there’s just too much competition from the others. Still, Carrot is interesting. He’s undoubtedly a good person but very naive in ways. However, there’s definite suggestions throughout the watch books that he plays up the naivety.

“Some people have inspired whole countries to great deeds because of the power of their vision. And so could he. Not because he dreams about marching hordes, or world domination, or an empire of a thousand years. Just because he thinks that everyone’s really decent underneath and would get along just fine if only they made the effort, and he believes that so strongly it burns like a flame which is bigger than he is. He’s got a dream and we’re all part of it, so that it shapes the world around him. And the weird thing is that no one wants to disappoint him. It’d be like kicking the biggest puppy in the universe. It’s a kind of magic.”

I noticed a line from the last Discworld book, Lords and Ladies, that is repeated here: “Personal isn’t the same as important.” I think it shows up again in other novels as well and is likely key to understanding the philosophy at the heart of the Discworld series. While your own needs may seem all consuming, sometimes you need to step back and see what’s really important, putting your own personal feelings aside.

I’d recommend Men at Arms to people looking for a fantasy/mystery crossover, with bonus points if they’re looking for an awesome female werewolf.


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