Night Watch (Discworld, #29)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

I bought this book when it came out in 2003*, as I did with all new Discworld books at the time, read it once, and for whatever reason, it never quite gelled with me, so it’s been sitting on the shelf and has never been reread. But I know lots of people for whom Night Watch is their favourite Discworld novel, so eventually I thought I should give it another go. And I’m quite glad that I did, because it’s a very good book. There’s a lot of depth to it, with complex discussion of justice, revolution, complicity and much more.

But (you knew there was going to be a ‘but’), for me, the best Discworld novels marry complex themes with a light touch and lots of humour. While there are lines here that made me smile, there were none that made me laugh. And, to be fair, even Pratchett would struggle to wring humour out of torture and police brutality. So while I enjoyed this book a lot (and will probably reread it again), I still pined a bit for Men at Arms.

Here, Vimes is pulled out of his comfortable life, shoved back in time and left with nothing. He’s got to capture a dangerous criminal who came back with him, teach his younger self how to become a copper and worry about a revolution, all without breaking history. We’re introduced to an older, more dangerous Ankh-Morpork, one that hasn’t yet been tamed and strengthened by Lord Vetinari, where a paranoid man sits on the Patrician’s chair, seeing plots wherever he looks. And has his special Watch squad, the Unmentionables, out “dealing” with them, while the rest of the Watch looks the other way, and tries not to think about the special cells under the watch house.

So, a good book, a very good book. Lots to think about, and, despite everything, a lightness of touch as well. I can see why so many people love it – it’s got a good plot, complex characterisation (for Vimes, at least) and interesting themes. But for me, it’s a little too dark and is a little short on the humour that I feel characterises the cream of the Discworld.

* Yes, I’m one of those cheapos who waits for the paperback**
** That reminds me, another (lesser) complaint is that there’s far too few footnotes in this book

Book details

ISBN: 9780552148993
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 2003

Giant Days: Not on the Test Edition Vol. 3

By John Allison

Rating: 3 stars

I’ve been enjoying the Giant Days series a lot but there were a few things in this volume that I didn’t like. This one takes us through the end of the coven’s first year at university, their summer and into the start of their second year.

The first thing that I felt was off in this was when the girls were at a music festival and someone spikes Susan’s drink. Here it’s mostly played for laughs (Susan gets really high and Esther looks after her), but it’s a serious topic and the way it was done jarred for me. There’s no real context behind it either, it’s a guy that Susan appears to have known, but he appears a page earlier and then disappears until the end of the chapter, where he makes a very brief reappearance without any understanding of who he was or why he did it. I don’t really see the point of it, and it seems to make light of a serious subject.

The other major thing I didn’t like, which is much more subjective is that I found Daisy’s girlfriend (oh yes, remember the German girl from the end of the last book? They get together) deeply unpleasant. This is much more a personal thing, because I just don’t like Ingrid’s personality. She’s completely lacking in impulse control and draws out the worst in others. And I really don’t think she’s good for Daisy (yes, I’m quite emotionally invested in our little coven by now).

But beyond those, there’s a lot to enjoy here, with various adventures to be had and adulting to be done, as they move into their own flat for second year, including the discovery of Ikea and dinner parties. There’s also an ongoing situation with their elderly next door neighbour, and we get to meet Susan’s dad, who is awesome.

There’s the third (and, I think, last) webcomic at the end of this volume, which sees Susan and Daisy making friends with Erin from the Indie Music Society. I’m not sure if I missed something, but I don’t remember her from the main comic, which is a shame, as she seems like a fun character who I would have liked to get to know more.

The guys get some love too. Both Ed and McGraw are present and correct, and both adorable, in their own different ways. McGraw is as handy with a screwdriver as ever, and Ed gets a bit of screen time in an adventure with Esther (maybe some tension there?!).

I’m still enjoying this series, but there don’t seem to be any more of these beautiful hardback editions. I might have to start slumming it in the ebook world.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684152636
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2018

Giant Days: Not On The Test Edition Vol. 2

By John Allison

Rating: 4 stars

This second volume of the Giant Days comic follows the adventures of Daisy, Esther and Susan in their second semester at the University of Sheffield. There are shenanigans in student politics, flat-hunting and film-making, along others. Along the way hearts are broken, the Night World is explored, and questionable decisions are made.

The key relationships between Susan, Esther and Daisy is unshakeable, and they’re all there for each other, whenever it matters. Outwith that “coven”, the friendship between Ed and McGraw is pretty strong, and usually a pleasure to read. There’s a lovely visual gag early on where McGraw builds a fake wall in front of his bedroom door to hide from “Big Lindsay” (who turns out to be not as scary as made out).

I’m looking forward to seeing what they get up to next. In the mean time, night be with you.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684150588
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2018

Star Daughter

By Shveta Thakrar

Rating: 4 stars

This was a fun coming of age story, which I enjoyed quite a lot. Sheetal Mistry is the daughter of a mortal man and a living star, who came to earth for a while, fell in love, had a child and then left again. Sheetal has grown up having to hide her silvery, glowing hair and her heritage, but as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she finds her powers harder and harder to control, until she accidentally seriously burns her father, and has to go on a quest to the immortal realm and find her mother to save him.

Sometimes it feels like you don’t realise how important that representation in media is until, after a decades long drought, you start to see yourself. In the last few years, we’ve had a slow drip of south Asian characters appear in our stories (I’m a big fan of Yaz from Doctor Who), but characters living in the West, with a Hindu upbringing are still pretty rare. That was a lot of what I loved about this book, seeing the foods of my childhood, and recognisable archetypes of my family and others while growing up.

And speaking of representation, Sheetal’s best friend, Minal, is gay, which is something that is also rarely (ever?) seen in the media. Being gay in south Asian culture is still a bit of a big deal, so it’s good to see this treated like the normal, non-event that it is (and the relationship that Minal forms with Padmini, a member of the court, is very sweet).

This is a YA book and Sheetal’s emotions are writ large, with everything feeling like the most important thing in the world (although, I mean, in her case she does literally have her father’s life hanging on the line). At that age, things do feel like that, but her reaction to finding out her boyfriend’s secret and the lack of willingness to communicate with him did frustrate me.

The immortal realm that Thakrar imagines is both a magical, ethereal place, and a very “human”, for want of a better word, place, full of intrigue, politics and back-stabbing, with her own family at the heart of it. She has to discover and come to terms with a family she has never met, and at the same time, worry about their motives.

One thing that I did grumble about was the political organisation of the heavens. As I grow older, despite what people say, I seem to be turning into more of a grumpy old lefty, and the idea of “a few royal houses govern[ing] the masses” makes me unreasonably annoyed. A society as long-lived and slowly changing as the stellar court would be pretty conservative, but it seems to me that they could learn a thing or two from the humans they constantly claim to inspire.

A fun book that may have made a greater emotional impact if I’d read it 25 years ago but which is still an enjoyable read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780062894625

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