Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

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Cannonball Read IV: Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

By Quorren | Book Reviews | September 6, 2012 | Comments ()


I really wish I could find more Discworld books with the Dungeons & Dragons, pulp sci fi inspired artwork on them. As much as people say don't judge a book by its cover, a book cover can influence how you read it. The weird artwork on the old school Discworld books really articulates the satire and homage to sci fi/fantasy tropes inherent in all of Pratchett's Discworld stories. My copy of Men at Arms has a steam punk-ish looking gun (um, spoiler alert, graphic designer) with wolf heads dancing around the spine. Anyways, that's the end of my gripe.

Men At Arms takes place not long after the events in Guards! Guards!. (I recommend reading that one first; there are some details there that will influence the plot in this book.) Captain Vimes is on his way out the door to an early retirement; his impending marriage to Lady Sybil will make him a gentleman of leisure. The City Watch, part of the Patrician's diversity program, has hired on three new cadets, just as inept as the current Night Watch, so they fit in quite well, although one's a dwarf, one's a troll and one's a woman. Actually Angua, the woman, was hired to fit the diversity quota of being a supernatural (she's a werewolf), but the guards don't realize this until much later. Carrot still is the best watchman Ahnk-Morpork has ever seen.

An assassin, Edward d'Eath, gets a silly notion that the city would work better if the monarchy could be restored. This will interlock with the back story for Carrot already revealed in Guards! Guards!. D'Eath steals an artifact from the assassins guild (I'll give you a hint, the cover artist really liked it and it's had to assassinate someone with a wolf head.) This artifact seems to have a mind of its own, though, and, like all Discworld novels, hijinks ensue.

Much like Lords and Ladies, this Discworld novel is darker than the previous ones. Pratchett is beginning to use Discworld to reveal the darker sides of human nature (and heroic sides as well). A somewhat major character even dies, and not in a I-saw-this-coming-all-along kind of way.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it, and find more of Quorren's reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Amanda

    Pretty sure you could get copies of Discworld books with these covers on eBay, or even Amazon. You may have to go to but you can find them. :)

  • Jezzer

    Ugh, those early Discworld covers were a good way to ensure that only the most diehard fantasy/scifi fans would touch them. They also got some key facts wrong. They depicted Twoflowers from the first two novels as a gnome with four eyes, when A) he was human, and B) he was referred to as "four-eyed" in the books because he wore glasses.

  • Leelee

    Ahh I haven't read this one in forever! I've just re-read Guards! Guards!, so perhaps it's time to have a Watch marathon.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    I want to say most of the Terry Pratchett audio books on Audible have the "old" illustrations... of course they are thumbnail images so not great.

  • frank247

    Also, ALL of my copies are in the original Paul Kidby/Josh Kirby covers.

    You may seethe with jealousy now.

  • Noo

    I have those books with the covers too, but most of mine are also signed by TP himself. :)

  • Four Eyes

    Oh yes. I'm seething.

  • Quorren

    Commencing seething.

  • frank247

    Excellent review, Quorren.

    As I have probably mentioned before, Pratchett is my favourite author, and this is a great example of his development of one of the sub-series within the Discworld. His mastery of 'hard-boiled' detective fiction here, whilst developing his characters into truly likeable personalities is quite astounding, considering he is *just* a writer of silly books, ripping off D&D and Tolkien-esque fantasy.

    I can't wait to read your review of Nightwatch, my own personal favourite.

  • Amanda

    Night Watch is brilliant! I was a bit disappointed in the last Sam Vimes novel, Snuff.

  • bump

    Really? An Excellent review?
    I don't mean to be harsh, but there is no review here whatsoever. It's a brief recounting of the plot.
    Literally the only 'review' comment here is that it's darker than previous books. There are no other opinions, interpretations, or reactions.

  • Quorren

    Then you can join the Cannonball read, read this book and post what you think a review is.

  • bump

    I didn't mean to offend, Quorren. I'm sorry if it hurt your feelings, but I do stand by the observation that it's definitely a summary and not a review.
    I will hopefully have the opportunity to write a review of my own sometime, and I'll happily accept both positive and negative comments as constructive criticism

  • Maguita NYC

    Agree on both Quorren's review and Pratchett's world. Although I didn't take to it immediately, the story line slowly seeps into your pores and goddammit, you cannot put those books down anymore!

  • colinc

    Yeah I prefer the covers from Josh Kirby and now Paul Kidby. Though they don't seem to ever be the American versions. Damn.

  • Strand

    Pulpy scifi/fantasy book covers go hand-in-hand with pulpy scifi/fantasy books and you can always find the latter if you're willing to crouch and peek around the knee-high shelves. I picked up the fabulous "Revenge of the Dwarves" in an airport bookstore recently precisely because of its ridiculous cover.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Fabulous? Oh, come on. Markus Heitz sucks.

  • Quorren

    That is a fabulous cover! I would have more luck if I would remember to go to my local sci fi bookstore, I'm sure. (Plus they have a fat and cuddly bookstore cat.) But it's always late at night when I realize I'm running low on Discworld books, so I order used ones off of Amazon.

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