Short Look at a Long Series: The City Watch (Discworld)

Alex here, presenting one of my personal favorites: The Ankh-Morpork City Watch.

The City Watch (Discworld)

By: Sir Terry Pratchett

Series Run: Guards! Guards!, Men At Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Thud, and Snuff

Where to Start: Guards! Guards! (first book in the series), or Feet of Clay (a good mystery novel in its own right and a good look at the tone of the writing and setting when it’s hit its stride)

Discworld is a huge series. It’s something in excess of forty books, well over a million words long, and that’s intimidating. It’s also my favorite book series ever and I love to see people start to read it. To help people get a toe hold in, I’m going to break it down. See, Discworld is a huge series, but it contains sub-series featuring the same characters, so you could focus on one of those at first.

The City Watch series tracks the fortunes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch in general, and a watchman named Sam Vimes in particular.

In the first book, Guards! Guards!, Sam Vimes is the alcoholic captain of the Night Watch, and his ‘command’ is his sergeant and his corporal–three middle-aged men to ostensibly keep the law and peace at night in a city of a million people, still in the job because they don’t know how to do anything else. Things begin to change with the hiring of Carrot Ironfoundersson, a dwarf (he’s six-foot-six, about fifteen years old, and adopted).

Over the course of the series, Sam gets his life together, dries out, and the Watch goes from being a handful of unemployables everyone ignores to an actual functioning police force. Part of the brilliance for me is the Watch learns to grapple with living in a fantasy city. Ankh-Morpork is a big city, and it has quite a lot of species who live there in the hopes of being where the action is and making a good dollar. Humans, dwarfs, trolls, vampires and other undead, they all come to the big city and then the Watch has to learn to deal with them. Usually by hiring a few on for their expertise and unique abilities (dwarfs might be about four feet tall, but they’re very muscular from all the mining and forging; they wear a lot of chain mail and leather and tend to bring their own excellently-crafted axes with them. Trolls are better than seven feet tall and made out of living rock. All of these are qualities which are great to have on your side in a tight spot).

Upsides: The growth of the characters, as well as the ways they stay the same, is amazing. Sam Vimes has one of my favorite arcs in fiction. A couple of the novels (Feet of Clay in particular) are quite good mystery or thriller plots in their own right, just with a fantasy coating on it. The books are also hilarious, but there’s some very excellent and serious things for the brain to chew on underneath the jokes. Sir Terry Pratchett was great like that.

Downsides: If you just don’t engage with fantasy settings of any stripe, this won’t work for you. Also, Sir Terry Pratchett is British, and sometimes the humor just isn’t for some people. I don’t judge.

How to Purchase

Most of the books mentioned above are linked directly to our website where you can purchase for curbside, delivery or shipping. However, if we’re sold out, or you live out of town and would like them shipped, you can use our 3rd party supplier who will ship them to you (but will give us a commission)

The City Watch

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