The first of the City Watch books.

Publication year: 1989
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2001
Format: print
Finnish translator: Maija Sinkkonen
Page count: 334
Finnish Publisher: Karisto

Ankh-Morpork’s City Guard is in a bad way; Captain Vimes has only two underlings and he drinks constantly. It’s not wonder when criminals are doing their criminal work legally and all the three watchmen are allowed to do is ring their bell and call that everything is alright.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Carrot Ironfoundersson doesn’t know that. He was raised by dwarfs but on his sixteenth birthday he’s told that he wasn’t born a dwarf but was found as a child from the woods. Carrot’s parents have decided that it would be better for Carrot to return to his kind. They write to the Patrician of Ankh-Morpok to ask that Carrot be allowed to join the illustrious City Guard. He’s accepted. Carrot is used to doing what he’s told and even though he’s sad to leave the only life he’s known so far, he heads towards Ankh-Morpok, reading his book of the city’s laws so that he could be well prepared. After he arrests the leader of the Thieves Guild, Captain Vimes tries to make him more adapted to the life in the city.

Meanwhile, the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night wants to take over the city, to repay all slights (real or imagined) to the members. Their Supreme Grand Master is sometimes almost baffled by the stupidity of the others. Still, they are determined to summon a dragon to burn the city down so that the King of Ankh-Morpok would come, slay the dragon, and make the city more just. The Supreme Grand Master even has a suitable man for the job. To their own astonishment, they succeed. However, things don’t go quite the way that the secret brotherhood wanted.

The City Guard has quite interesting characters. Captain Vimes is cynical and very depressed about his job and life. Sergeant Colon is “one of nature’s sergeants”; he tries to avoid all exertion but is dependable. He’s married and his wife works during the day and Colon works nights. This is said to be the reason for their happiness. Corporeal “Nobby” Nobbs is very untidy and about as tall as a dwarf. He smokes constantly and there’s a veritable graveyard of tobacco stumps behind his ear. He and Colon have strange discussions which are sometimes philosophical. All of these three know that they are considered scum of the city. Carrot is completely different, not only in looks, since he’s over six feet tall and muscular, but also in attitude. Carrot’s enthusiasm and naivete inspires Captain Vimes in the end when it’s up to the City Guard to protect their city.

Lady Sybil Ramkin is a significant secondary character. She’s one of the high old nobility and very eccentric (I think she’s gentle parody of the British aristocracy). She breeds swamp dragons and the dragons are pretty much everything to her. Still, when things get tough, she’s quite level-headed and sensible. And in defiance to the fantasy traditions of small and young and delicate little princesses, Lady Ramkin is big, fat, middle-aged, and tends to wear rubber boots.

Along the way Pratchett makes wry observations about dwarven culture, the nature of libraries, and the nature of humans. Oh and the discussions near the end about how one chance in a million will always succeed is priceless!

One of my favorite Discworld books.

“People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, “Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else.””

“Thunder rolled. … It rolled a six.”

“The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: 1) Silence; 2) Books must be returned no later than the date last shown; and 3) Do not interfere with the nature of causality.”

“If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn’t as cynical as real life.”

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