Jul 27, 2007

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

In this Discworld novel, the small countries of Borogravia and Zlobenia are at war. In fact, Borogravia is at war with just about everyone. The deity worshipped in the country is Nuggan, a god who decreed that crop rotation, the colour blue, people with red hair, accordion players and sneezing, among other things, are Abominations. Following these decrees has made life in Borogravia increasingly harder. The nation is starving, and everyone knows they are losing the war, although no one will admit it, out of fear of spreading Alarm and Despondency. Polly Perks, the young daughter of an innkeeper, decides to disguise herself as a boy and join the army, in the hope of finding out what happened to her brother, Paul. She joins the Tenth Regiment, and her fellow recruits include an Igor, a Troll, and a caffeine-addict Vampire. Little by little, she discovers that in the army not everything is what it seems.

It took me a bit to get into this book. Like tanabata, I found it hard to read something else after Harry Potter. But I warmed up to it considerably as I went along. My initial reaction also had to do with the fact that this book introduces new Discworld characters., and I was in the mood for familiar faces. There are, however, appearances by old favourites like Sam Vimes and Angua from the Watch, and William de Worde and Otto Chriek, from Ankh-Morpork newspaper The Truth.

After the first one hundred pages or so, I already felt that Polly was an old favourite too. She's a great character. She’s a smart young woman who just cannot stop herself from thinking, even when thinking will seemingly get her in trouble. She cannot help but try and make sense of the world around her, and this in a world that doesn’t always make sense. She’s perceptive, sensible, and subtle, and she learns fast; these end up being her greatest strengths.

While telling a good story, Terry Pratchett also makes some excellent points about gender, war and peace, and, well, people. Their stubbornness, their secrets, their fears, the way they work and why.

One of my favourite things about this book was the ending. I will not give it away, of course, but I will say that it perfectly exemplifies some of the things I love the most about Terry Pratchett. He writes fantasy novels, but in them I find some of the most accurate portraits of the way people work, of how things normally go in real life. Sam Vimes, for example, is a good example of this. He is cynical, yes, and grumpy and sarcastic, but he is such a pragmatic man. He understands people, and he knows how to solve problems and make things work.

One often wonders what happens after a revolution. Or after one of those turning points in history, one of those moments of change that make people think, “the world will never be the same again”. It’s never quite simple. Does the world really change? Or do people, perhaps, after the initial enthusiasm, settle back into their old ways? And yet they are changed in little ways, so maybe there are people whose job is to make sure that these little changes are extended, rather than forgotten. It takes more than a single moment, a single triumph, to change the world.

Monstrous Regiment is not one of my favourite Discworld novels, and it's possibly not the one I’d recommend to a new reader, but it’s certainly very much worth reading all the same.

Other Blog Reviews:
Read Warbler
Everyday Reads
Rhinoa's Ramblings


  1. I am STILL trying to get into something. Heck, I'm still trying to picture life after Harry Potter.

    *le sigh*

    Dramatic much, ain't I? ;-P

  2. Oh found a book! Started on a historical mystery: A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH. So far so good!

  3. yeah, terry's stuff isn't just fantasy. its quite an insightful social commentary, especially in
    "monstrous regiment".

    thats one of the things i like about him so much, how insightful he is.

    i loved the vampire. but then i always do...

    and it was cool having the little cameos of willam de worde.

  4. I thought this was ok, not the best and not the worst. Polly was a great character and I liked that even the troll and Igor were girls too!

    Have you been reading the series in order? I have only 2 more to read to be up-to-date with the paperbacks woo!

  5. Mailyn: I think the feeling is general. It's okay to be dramatic :P I'm glad to hear you're finally getting into a book, though!

    Jean Pierre: Yeah, that's the right word: insightful. Definitely one of my favourite things about him too.

    Rhinoa: I liked that too. I haven't been reading them exactly in order, but I've been following the order of the sub-series. I only have two left to go: The Last Hero and Wintersmith (I'm waiting for this one to come out in paperback).

  6. That's one of my favorite things about Pratchett too. Even though he puts his characters in far-out situations, he still reels them in and gives them something we can apply to our world.

  7. You said that you wouldn't recommend this to a new Pratchett reader. After watching The Hogfather movie, I realized that I really ought to start reading his books.... so what would you recommend is a good starting place??

  8. Kim: Yes, exactly.

    Court: If you liked Hogfather, perhaps the first book in the Death subseries, "Mort", would be a good place to start. "Mort" is, for me, the book where Discworld really became extraordinary.

    I also think that his Discworld YA novels are great starting places - they're a great introduction to the world he created and they show Terry Pratchett at his very best. "The Wee Free Men" or "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" would be great.

    You could also pick up one of the Discworld novels that are not part of any subseries, like "Pyramids" and "Small Gods" - both show Terry Pratchett's more philosophical side, while telling great stories at the same time.

  9. Must be an enjoyable read Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.


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