Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: Carpe Jugulum


Yes, we're back on the Discworld!  I know I swore off of reviewing Terry Pratchett, because I just kept saying I loved his books, but this one seems to cry out for commentary.  First, the business:

Title:  Carpe Jugulum
Author:  Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Harper Voyager, 1999. I used the HarperCollins ebook edition, 339 pages.
Source: Library (digital version).

It seems both futile and arrogant to attempt to summarize one of Pratchett's Discworld novels.  The best I can offer is to say that we are back in Lancre, the land of the witches, and King Verence and Queen Magrat are celebrating the birth of their daughter.  They've invited all the neighbors to the naming ceremony, and that includes the Magpyrs of Uberwald, your friendly neighborhood vampires--or vampyres, as they prefer to spell it (Carpe Jugulum, of course, means "seize the jugular" which is a pretty good predictor for vampires).  Count Magpyr is so totally up-to-date, making sure he and his people can tolerate daylight, garlic, even holy water.  He and his family are also very good at many vampiric skills, including clouding people's minds, and sucking their blood.  They plan to move in and take over, and it's up to the witches, now including Agnes along with Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax, to stop them.

This is a tongue-in-cheek thriller, with all the suspense and twice the humor of any spy novel.  Twice the humor?  Probably way more than that.  But there was also complex character development, and a chance to see the witches each grow in new ways, making it seem more novelistic than some of Pratchett's work.  Granny Weatherwax proves she's even more powerful than we thought.  Nanny Ogg proves she can (sometimes) think of something besides sex.  Agnes finds out that having another self occupying her brain isn't all bad, and Magrat discovers she can be both mother, queen, and witch, and have a more interesting life that way.

I found myself trying to figure out how Pratchett was going to save Lancre from the Magpyrs, and I really couldn't see it.  I knew he would, of course.  I just had no idea how he would get there (except being pretty sure Granny Weatherwax would swoop in just in time.  But even she looked pretty seriously inadequate to the task at hand).

And all the time, Pratchett keeps up a running sub-theme satirizimng religion.  He raises points like the difficulty of keeping faith when one reads a lot, and the difference between praying about a problem and doing something about it.  (For those who are sensitive on such issues, Pratchett is an unashamed and vocal atheist.  I happen to enjoy that.  If you don't, you may not like his work, though in my opinion it's always worth seeing and understanding the criticisms of any belief system to which one subscribes).

The final putting of the vampyres in their place is a thing of beauty and a joy, and I for one will happily read about the witches any time.  Highly recommended for all fans of Pratchett, witches, the absurd, and any foolish teens with silly ideas about vampires (they'll hate it, but maybe learn some important lessons).
Full Disclosure: I borrowed Carpe Jugulum from my (online) library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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