Guards! Guards! is Terry Pratchett’s eighth Discworld novel and the first to feature the Anhk-Morpork City Watch. Guards! Guards! is among the best of the Discworld novels and is a possible entry point for readers new to Pratchett’s body of work.
Underfunded and disrespected, Captain Vimes’ City Watch has seen better days, but new recruit Carrot Ironfoundersson is about to change all of that. Raised by dwarves, Carrot hopes to make a difference in Discworld’s corrupt city, and even goes so far as to arrest members of the Thieves’ Guild. Though he often makes life difficult for Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, and Corporal Nobbs, Carrot’s loyalty to law and order inspires the Watch with the purpose of protecting the people of Anhk-Morpork.
Thanks to the plotting of the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night, the people of Anhk-Morkpork have never been in greater need of protection. The Elucidated Brethren are a secret society plotting to overthrow the Patrician of Anhk-Morkpork. They magically summon a dragon to create unrest, but quickly lose control of it. Instead, the dragon takes over the city and begins demanding human sacrifices and gold as tribute.
It will take a one-in-a-million response from the City Watch to save the day. Can they do the math?
As with all of Pratchett’s novels, there are many one-liners, and my favorite is drawn from the protest against the dragon’s rule:
“The people! United! Will never be ignited!”
Although Pratchett is acknowledged as a talented humorist, he is an undeniably skilled fantasy writer. Many readers enjoy the Witches and Rincewind novels, but Pratchett brings his game to a new level in his creation of the City Watch. His satiric targets (here including buddy cop stories, secret societies, and the use of dragons in fantasy) are focused and work well together to create not only a humorous read, but also an exciting and interesting one. More than anything else, Pratchett has taken the time to create comparatively nuanced, round characters in the City Watch.
The Discworld novels make for a sprawling series and new readers may find themselves confused over where to start. Some of his early novels feel a little unpolished, but with Guards! Guards!, Pratchett has clearly found his stride. For its enjoyable characters, amusing plot, and its memorable humor, Guards! Guards! is a must-read Discworld novel.