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Book CoverShannon C.’s review of Monstrous Regiment (Discworld) by Terry Pratchett
Fantasy fiction released by Harper Torch 31 Aug 04

I’ve been resisting reading any of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett for a long time. Fellow fantasy readers keep assuring me they are wonderful, but the first couple I tried did not work so well for me. Then, I pulled out Monstrous Regiment from the TBR because the thought of an army squad composed of women disguised as men appealed to one of my huge and not so secret loves. And I think, after reading this book, that I’ve definitely got to read more Discworld books. 

Our heroine is Polly Perks, from the country of Borogravia. Borogravia isn’t exactly the best place to live at the moment because it’s perpetually at war with everyone.  Its monarch, the Duchess, is most likely dead, and the citizens worship a god named Nuggan who keeps handing down abominations, like crossword puzzles and the color blue.

Polly, whose brother joined the army, decides she needs to enter all of this chaos by following in his wake, disguised as a boy, and retrieve him, so she can run her parents’ thriving inn. Women owning property is an abomination unto Nuggan, and Paul is himself pretty simple-minded, so Polly figures she can just leave him in peace with his art and go about her business. Anyway, upon joining a local recruitment party disguised as a boy, she begins to learn that a lot of Borogravian women have had similar ideas. Hilarity, of course, ensues, but so does some extremely good satire.

I liked Polly. She was quick and clever and competent, and I really enjoyed reading the sections of the book where she was featured. Her squadmates are also a lot of fun, from the loud, brusque Sergeant Jackrum to Lieutenant Blouse, their superior officer, whose greatest dream in life is to one day get an article of clothing named after him. (He does. It’s a type of fingerless glove. What else would you be thinking?) There’s even a vampire who is addicted to coffee instead of blood, and a troll, and a religious fanatic bent on saving Borogravia, and all of them are rendered likeable in their own way. We also get a few chapters with Sam Vimes, head of the notorious Ankh-Morpork city watch, and I can’t wait to read more about his adventures in other books.

The book moves along briskly. I was reading it at every spare moment I could find, and laughing my head off more than once. I really like Pratchett’s dry, distinctly British, sense of humor, and I further liked his satire of patriotism and how we view men and women in society today. His passages about the effects of war are also more than a little heartbreaking.

This wasn’t the first Discworld book I’ve read, but it stands perfectly fine on its own. Fans of humorous fantasy and well-written satire should definitely give this one a try. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Mr. Pratchett.

ShannonCGrade: A-

War has come to Discworld … again.And, to no one’s great surprise, the conflict centers around the small, arrogantly fundamentalist duchy of Borogravia, which has long prided itself on its unrelenting aggressiveness. A year ago, Polly Perks’s brother marched off to battle, and Polly’s willing to resort to drastic measures to find him. So she cuts off her hair, dons masculine garb, and–aided by a well-placed pair of socks–sets out to join this man’s army. Since a nation in such dire need of cannon fodder can’t afford to be too picky, Polly is eagerly welcomed into the fighting fold… along with a vampire, a troll, an Igor, a religious fanatic, and two uncommonly close “friends.” It would appear that Polly “Ozzer” Perks isn’t the only grunt with a secret. But duty calls, the battlefield beckons. And now is the time for all good … er … “men” to come to the aid of their country.

Read an excerpt.