Mark Reads ‘Guards! Guards!’: Part 10

In the tenth part of Guards! Guards!, Vimes comes face-to-face with the dragon, and nothing goes as he expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.


As excited as I was for the possible story of a bloodhound dragon, I can’t say I’m disappointed by how this section turned out. It’s clearer than ever how Vimes will become integral to this specific story, and that means that we needed the scene where he stood in front of the dragon, certain he was about to die. Well, I also think the scene is important because Pratchett gives the dragon characterization, too! It’s not intelligent in human terms, so I had to adjust how I thought about this creature.

Which is a big deal because it’s also clear that I cannot discount the dragons within this story. That’s precisely Vimes’s problem with this entire order of events, too. After staring down a dragon, seconds from a fiery death, Vimes understands the threat that dragons pose in very intimate way. He looks into that creature’s eyes and sees a terrifying purpose and an all-encompassing anger. So how does this dragon fail so spectacularly against a tiny man on a horse? As the Supreme Grand Master predicted, the people of Ankh-Morpork absolutely accepted the fiction he handed to them. Pratchett cleverly includes a number of references to the earlier scene where the Grand Master explained this con to the Brethren here, like the citizens accepting the magical nature of the shiny sword. Or the fact that they’d all accept him as heir just because he killed a dragon. OR NO ONE QUESTIONING THE FACT THAT THE DRAGON DISAPPEARED IN A POOF OF PURPLE SMOKE. (That was my favorite part, y’all.)

But what’s striking about all of this is that Vimes knows that it feels wrong. His cynicism doesn’t allow for developments like this one, so even before the kid kills the dragon (through suspicious means), he’s already complaining about how absurd the people around him are. It’s fascinating to me because Vimes feels like he’s losing his place within this world, while at the same time he’s been making moves to leave it anyway. LET ME EXPLAIN. Prior to this development, he’d been quietly defying the Patrician, and while he was kind of conflicted by that, his curiosity had been piqued. Like the moment later in this section, some ancient element of good police work had been activated in him. Despite that he knew he was expected to be another cog in the Patrician’s machine, he couldn’t ignore this pull.

So how does this explain his utter distaste for the fact that the Patrician has been put in a dungeon and the entire city is going to change and Vimes won’t have to be part of the Watch anymore? (At least not in the same position he was in.)

He wasn’t feeling at all royalist. he didn’t think he had anything against kings as such, but the sight of Ankh-Morporkians waving flags was mysteriously upsetting. That was something only silly subject people did, in other countries. Besides, the idea of royal plumes in his hat revolted him. He’d always had a thing about plumes. Plumes sort of, well, bought you off, told everyone that you didn’t belong to yourself. And he’d feel like a bird. It’d be the last straw.

This might seem like a fairly silly thing to complain about (and I’m sure the Birds’ Rights Activist would have some choice words for Vimes), but at least in the Watch, Vimes knows he is his own man. He alone makes the choice to be useless and drunk and numb, and that makes him his own person. What sort of life would he have if he’s expected to be part of a Royal Guard? With this thought in mind, he begins to unravel the con, AND THIS WAS SO EXCITING TO READ. He, along with Lady Ramkin, seems to be the only person in the entire city who realizes that they’ve all been fooled. (Well, I can’t forget Lord Vetenari, who was taken to his own dungeons with a smile on his face. WHAT DOES HE KNOW?) He doesn’t know how, mind you, but he’s able to pick out the discrepancies in the appearance of the dragon and the soon-to-be-crowned king. IT’S A START, and holy shit, it’s so exciting.

It’s not the only great thing here. THE DRAGONS ARE PISSED. I’m already into this because that means that this could be a story about not playing with power you’re not ready to face. What is the Supreme Grand Master going to do when the dragon returns and he can’t control it? A shiny sword won’t do shit against that. And what is Lady Ramkin going to do? I was so worried that the dragon had returned and was going to kill her. I WOULD HAVE BEEN FURIOUS. But she’s the character who is most knowledgeable about dragons in this story, and she’s obviously got something to tell Vimes at the end of this section. What is it?

AND WHAT OF THE LIBRARIAN? Oh my god, what’s he looking for in the Library? Scratch that – what’s he looking for in the multidimensional folds of L-space?

This book is so good. I CAN’T GET OVER IT.

The original text contains use of the words “mad” and “loony.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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