Feet of Clay: Golems, vampires, and succession

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFeet of Clay by Terry PratchettFeet of Clay by Terry Pratchett

The City Watch is growing, and its new members bring new skills and talents to help stop crime in Ankh-Morpork. Angua, a werewolf, can trace criminals by their smell, while Detritus, a troll, interrogates suspects by “screaming angrily at people until they give in.” Cheery Longbottom is Vimes’ newest recruit, an alchemist, and perhaps the only dwarf in Ankh-Morpork who does not enjoy rowdiness. The criminals had better be careful.

In fact, the Watch has become so effective that the rich and powerful are hiring assassins to kill Commander Samuel Vimes. Fortunately, now that Vimes is married to the wealthiest woman in the city, he can afford the best crossbows and bear traps.

Sadly, even the most effective City Watch armed with the most powerful crossbows and bear traps would struggle to stop all crime in a city like Ankh-Morpork. A golem has begun to kill people, someone has attempted to poison Lord Vetinari, and a new plot has been hatched to put Corporal Nobby Nobbs on the throne.

Regular DISCWORLD readers will no doubt note that Terry Pratchett’s third City Watch novel, Feet of Clay, is a tad familiar. Once again, a conservative aristocrat is trying to take control of the city by restoring the monarchy. Actually, there are many familiar elements here: a new dwarf joins the Watch, the six-inch tall rat catcher Wee Mad Athur fills in for the talking dog Gaspode, and Angua still worries over her relationship with Carrot. Is he really OK with her being a werewolf?

Though the structure is familiar, Feet of Clay remains a strong City Watch novel. Each of the storylines is funny and engaging, and, thankfully, Pratchett does not rely on mobs spontaneously running around the city to bring the plots together. The golems are more interesting than the gonne in Men At Arms. Better yet, watching Nobbs as he hobnobs with the other “nobs” is far funnier than finding out Carrot is a king. As one footman notes when he first meets Nobby:

in its long history even the throne itself had been occupied by creatures who had been hunchbacked, one-eyed, knuckle-dragging and ugly as sin. On that basis Nobby was as royal as they came.

Everyone will no doubt find their own favorite line, but mine might have been when Vimes and Carrot came upon a broken golem and Vimes assures Carrot that “we can rebuild him… we have the pottery.”

Feet of Clay is the nineteenth DISCWORLD novel and the third to feature the City Watch. With Feet of Clay, Pratchett offers one of his best knots for Samuel Vimes to untangle. Recommended.

Publisher: It’s murder in Discworld! — which ordinarily is no big deal. But what bothers Watch Commander Sir Sam Vimes is that the unusual deaths of three elderly Ankh-Morporkians do not bear the clean, efficient marks of the Assassins’ Guild. An apparent lack of any motive is also quitetroubling. All Vimes has are some tracks of white clay and more of those bothersome “clue” things that only serve to muck up an investigation. The anger of a fearful populace is already being dangerously channeled toward the city’s small community of golems — the mindless, absurdlyindustrious creatures of baked clay who can occasionally be found toiling in the city’s factories. And certain highly placed personages are using the unrest as an excuse to resurrect a monarchy — which would be bad enough even if the “king” they were grooming wasn’t as empty-headed as your typical animated pottery.

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RYAN SKARDAL, with us since September 2010, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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One comment

  1. I own a dozen of the Discworld books, and also the animated videos of the books. Terry is one of my all time favorite authors and a go to when I just want to kick back and laugh.

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