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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Fifth Elephant

***** The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. Fantasy. Re-read.

This was a breakfast read with Camden. (If you've been around here much, you'll know that I read aloud with my kids at breakfast time. It started when all three of them were at home, and I discovered that when they had something to distract them--a story--they would actually eat rather than dawdle. I've kept up the tradition, even though now it's just me and 14-year-old Camden. I keep expecting him to call a halt to the practice, but he hasn't yet.)

So. The Fifth Elephant. It's Pratchett's 23rd Discworld book, if I'm counting correctly, and the 5th (appropriately) Watch book.

The Dwarfs' Scone of Stone has been stolen--a crisis, because they're preparing for the coronation of a new king, and that cannot happen without the Scone of Stone. The Patrician Vetinari, in one of his typical obscurely brilliant moves, sends Watch Commander and Duke of Ankh Sam Vimes to the Uberwald as Ankh-Morpork's ambassador.

So Sam, accompanied by his wife Sybil and watchmen Cheery and Detritus--a (female--gasp!) dwarf and a troll respectively--sets off to tackle politics and diplomacy with dwarfs, werewolves, and vampires, and ends up, as usual, being a copper.

Meanwhile, back in Ankh-Morpork, Sam had left Captain Carrot in charge, but his girlfriend Angua has run off--it's complicated, but it basically centers around Angua thinking that as a werewolf she's not good enough for Carrot. So Carrot leaves Sergeant Colon in charge and takes off after Angua. And Colon doesn't handle being in charge at all well.

There's a lot that's wonderfully funny and thought-provoking in each of the threads, from political insights to romantic love to the nature of power. It took us quite a long time to read this one, because every few pages we'd have to stop and discuss a new concept.

The balance was great, too. I loved the thread with Vimes--all the politics and mystery. And then the Carrot/Angua thread was very romantic and heartbreaking. The Colon and Nobby thread was hilarious, but even that had some serious insights into human nature. It would take too long to point out all my favorite bits, but Gaspode the Wonder Dog would have to feature in there, as would Lady Sybil, who really demonstrated why she's the perfect match for Sam.

There are multiple reasons why Terry Pratchett is one of my very favorite authors. The Fifth Elephant is just one of them.

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