9 Rated Books Book Reviews

Old School Wednesdays Review: Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett

Ana continues her adventures in Discworld, with the next City Watch novel, Feet of Clay

Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?

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Title: Feet of Clay

Author: Terry Pratchett

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: First published 1996
Paperback: 416 Pages

feetofclay

‘Sorry?’ said Carrot. If it’s just a thing, how can it commit murder? A sword is a thing’ – he drew his own sword; it made an almost silken sound – ‘and of course you can’t blame a sword if someone thrust it at you, sir.’

For members of the City Watch, life consists of troubling times, linked together by periods of torpid inactivity. Now is one such troubling time. People are being murdered, but there’s no trace of anything alive having been at the crime scene. Is there ever a circumstance in which you can blame the weapon not the murderer? Such philosophical questions are not the usual domain of the city’s police, but they’re going to have to start learning fast…

Stand alone or series: Part of the Discworld series but third novel in the City Watch mini-series

How did we get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): Print

REVIEW

Words in the heart cannot be taken

Something is afoot in the great city of Ankh-Morpork. Two murders seemingly unrelated. Golems who appear to be misbehaving. And to top it all up, the Patrician has been poisoned (although he still lives).

Fear not, for the City Watch and its commander Sam Vimes are on the case.

In this third City Watch novel, Terry Pratchett – having already done his work introducing this mismatched band of Guards in the previous two books – lets the City Watch walk around doing some serious investigating, pretty much all by accident. Carrot is his usual good, earnest self, Sam Vimes is the Grinch who stole my heart, and everything and everybody else falls into place around the murder mystery. Which means that this novel is really about questions like What Makes a Person a Person, Why Do We Need the Patrician and What is Inclusivity. Which in turn means that this novel is really about identity, humanity and politics. It’s another freaking great novel by Terry Pratchett. Obviously.

As a murder mystery, Feet of Clay is full of Clues and as such it is hilarious to me that Sam Vimes is the anti-Sherlock Holmes:

“Samuel Vimes dreamed about Clues. He had a jaundiced view of Clues. He instinctively distrusted them. They got in the way. And he distrusted the kind of person who’d take one look at another man and say in a lordly voice to his companion, “Ah, my dear sir, I can tell you nothing except that he is a left-handed stonemason who has spent some years in the merchant navy and has recently fallen on hard times,” and then unroll a lot of supercilious commentary about calluses and stance and the state of a man’s boots, when exactly the same comments could apply to a man who was wearing his old clothes because he’d been doing a spot of home bricklaying for a new barbecue pit, and had been tattooed once when he was drunk and seventeen* and in fact got seasick on a wet pavement. What arrogance! What an insult to the rich and chaotic variety of the human experience!”

As a novel about humanity, it poses super great questions: what makes a person? The whole plot with the Golems (the unseen workers of the city’s underbelly) is illuminating in how it addresses personhood, accountability, empathy. It’s a thread that develops beautifully and which runs through pretty much every single conversation and subplot in the novel.

I’ve told of my great love for Sam Vimes. But I find the Patrician to be a great character too. I don’t think anyone can deny the dubious nature of this character. I find Terry Pratchett to be at his cleverest with the Patrician. He is painted in many ways as a positive, benign even, figure head for Ankh-Morpork with his pragmatic view of the world and of politics and his sanity and clear-mind. Still, he is a dictator, a benevolent one, but a dictator nonetheless. He is probably one of the most fascinating characters I have ever had the pleasure of encountering and I love his rapport with Vimes above all things.

A genuinely intriguing, heart-breaking, awesome book.

Next up: Jingo.

Notable quotes/Parts:

feet-of-clay

Only crimes could take place in darkness. Punishment had to be done in the light. That was the job of a good Watchman, Carrot always said. To light a candle in the dark.

Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfect

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3 Comments

  • tee+d
    April 26, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Yep. I concur: damned near perfect. I try to read and look out for problematic issues of race or class or whatever, knowing that I would still love these problematic books if they had problems, but I started reading these books before I read quite as critically, so it’s hard to see them clearly. I’m glad *you’re* reading them.

  • Annamal
    April 29, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    While all of the observations are fantastic, you miss out one of my favourite Discworld characters who makes “her” debut in this novel.

    Can we have a big hand for the divine miss Cherry Littlebottom and her very useful forensic skills!

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    […] Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, 9 (Fantasy) 3. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett, 9 (Fantasy) 4. Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett, 9 (Fantasy) 5. Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi, 8 (SF) 6. The Pinhoe Egg by […]

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