This time, Sam Vimes plays a diplomat. Lord Vetinari, the ruler of Ankh-Morpork, sends Vimes to Uberwald to represent the city during the coronation of the dwarfs’ new king. Unfortunately, Uberwald is a backward country. Industry is undeveloped, except in the dwarfs’ mines. The werewolves rampage and eat people unchecked. The vampires plot quietly. The dwarves squabble over millennium-long traditions. A powerful dwarven relic has been stolen (shhh, it’s a secret), various factions of dwarves vie for supremacy, and the coronation is in jeopardy. A war looms.
Nobody in Uberwald wants the Ankh-Morpork policeman Sam Vimes to stick his nose into foreign matters. Or maybe some do… Maybe they want him to solve their problems for them but they lie about it because they all play diplomats. It takes Vimes a while to catch up and start a diplomatic (lying) game of his own.
Many of our favorite Ankh-Morpork policemen appear in this book. Angua, the only werewolf in the city police force, travels to Uberwald too, but in secret. She must untangle her family affairs. Carrot follows Angua because – well, you know. At least the readers who enjoy this series do. Fred Colon stays behind and becomes an acting captain of the Watch. What the poisonous power of command does to his disposition only Terry Pratchett can tell you. And then there is a taking dog, and the three sisters, and the late Uncle Vanya, and an infestation of Igors. I really, really like those Igor guys, even though they speak with a very thick accent. This is the first book of the series (at least among the ones I’ve read) where Igors are finally described in all their morbid glory.
I won’t pretend it’s my favorite among the City Watch series, but the story grabs you from the first page. It makes you think. It makes you laugh. It makes you wince at the author’s sarcastic observations. It makes you want to hide from the analogies between Discworld and us. It makes you keep reading until the last page. It makes you hanker for more.
Note 1: The author’s opinion of diplomats coincides with my own: their job description includes the ability to lie very convincingly, without blushing.
Note 2: There are no elephants in the story, but there are elephants in the Discworld’s mythology. One of those mythological pachyderms slammed into Discworld at the beginning of time and finally surfaced in this novel. Like some lies, he is huge, non-existent, but very tangible.