Mark Reads ‘Guards! Guards!’: Part 19

In the nineteenth and final part of Guards! Guards!, the magic ends. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

Bless this book so much, y’all. There’s no doubt this was my favorite Discworld book, and WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT WHY IT’S SO GOOD.

First, I had to go back and look at the opening few paragraphs of this book:

They could put you in mind of a can of sardines, if you thought sardines were huge and scaly and proud and arrogant.

And presumably, somewhere, there’s the key.

The key was always there in the Discworld. Sure, Wonse found it in a book that allowed him to summon a dragon into this specific reality, but the power of believe has always been a huge thing in this fictional universe. So it makes sense to me that not only can this place of imagination be unlocked, but the creation made from each mind reflects who that person really was. Lupine Wonse was bitter, vindictive, and eager for power, just like the dragon he summoned. (HAHA REMEMBER WHEN I THOUGHT LORD VETINARI DID IT i am an eternal mess, y’all) And if it wasn’t for Errol, I imagine that Lupine wouldn’t have ever been able to stop that dragon from ruling the entire Discworld.

Unsurprisingly, the world returns pretty much back to normal in the wake of Wonse’s death, and in the only example of me being right at all about this book, the Patrician assumes his place as the leader of Ankh-Morpork. The only one who knows what happened? Vimes. Which makes the public gratitude ceremony so uniquely hilarious. Truthfully, while Errol was responsible for leading the dragon away, the Watch really did help save Ankh-Morpork in their own way. Would the Patrician have found a way to deal with Lupine? Certainly. You don’t underestimate the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. But they did intervene at the right time, and Carrot did save the Patrician’s life, and I genuinely think Lord Vetinari appreciates that, at least in his own way.

Which is why the Patrician lays the concept of a reward promptly at Vimes’s feet, expecting the man to play his role in this epic charade, and then… nothing. Vimes doesn’t work for rewards. The idea is so weird to him that when he’s offered a veritable blank check from the Patrician, he just says, “Really haven’t thought about it, sir.”

So his men speak up, and they request a $5 raise, a new kettle, and a dartboard.

The thunderous silence that followed was broken by an erratic snorting.

Vimes’s helmet dropped out of his shaking hand. His breastplate wobbled as the suppressed laughter of the years burst out in great uncontrollable eruptions. He turned his face to the row of councilors and laughed and laughed until the tears came.

Hey. At least Nobby, Colon, and Carrot are consistent, y’all. They imagine their own futures, and they’re all still in the Watch. Vimes gets to laugh at them, but I find this endearing. These are not people who are greedy or wanting; and in the case of Carrot, he just wanted to find a place of his own within Ankh-Morpork. After traveling to a strange new place and realizing how different he was from all of these people, he found camaraderie and family within the Watch. This particular bit of his final letter in Guards! Guards! filled me with joy:

I am as happy as anyone can be in the whole world.

That’s all I wanted for Carrot. (OH MY GOD, HIS SWORD AND THE BIRTHMARK. CHRIST. I WAS RIGHT ABOUT HIM BUT ALSO COMPLETELY WRONG.)

I’d like to also hopefully open a discussion about the end of Vimes’s and Lady Ramkin’s story. My gut reaction is that I loved that these two were given an ending that was also a beginning, much like Errol and the dragon. The closure here is one that hints at a possible future where the two of them might be able to enjoy life with one another. This bit was particularly sweet:

And then it arose and struck Vimes that, in her own special category, she was quite beautiful; this was the category of all the women, in his entire life, who had ever thought he was worth smiling at. She couldn’t do worse, but then, he couldn’t do better. So maybe it balanced out.

There’s something real in feeling like someone values you for who you are. Lady Ramkin doesn’t want to change Vimes or mold him into someone else to fit her needs; she appreciates him exactly as he is, and I imagine that no one else has ever treated him in this way. Vimes’s self-esteem has been a tough thing for him to manage throughout Guards! Guards!, and that’s tied to his sense of self-worth. Has Lady Ramkin ever made him feel bad for being Samuel Vimes, Captain of the Watch? No, and throughout this book, she’s treated him with respect, a bit of reverence, and utter kindness.

I do feel weird about Pratchett characterizing her behavior at this dinner scene as a “siege” or as if she is a “conquerer,” but perhaps the metaphor is utterly lost on me. I MEAN, THESE REVIEWS ARE A TESTAMENT TO HOW WRONG I’VE BEEN ABOUT THIS BOOK, SO LET US NOT FORGET THAT. I love the idea that romance and a potential happy ending given to these characters, particularly Lady Ramkin, but I was curious how others read this final scene between the two of them. THOUGHTS, DISCWORLD FANDOM?

Guards! Guards! was certainly the most cynical Discworld book I’d read so far, but it’s not a despairing sense of cynicism. Captain Vimes and his band of good guys are sign of a fight against that very view of the world. As Nobby says in his final line, you can almost believe that everything will be fine as long as someone tries to do good in the world. That act of trying is powerful, given that none of these characters knew if standing up to the dragon or to Lupine Wonse would ever result in a future for Ankh-Morpork that was devoid of roasted citizens and sacrificed maidens. Yet they still tried, you know?

I’m hoping that this is not the last time we’ll see these characters, though I suspect that Pratchett couldn’t leave these BEAUTIES behind. They’re all too rich, too funny, and possessing too much depth to use just once. With formal validation from the Patrician, I imagine that the Watch won’t be viewed the same anymore, AND I’D LIKE TO SEE MORE OF THAT. But for now, the magic ends, at least for these characters. I have no idea who Eric is, but he’s up next for me. Y’all, thank you SO MUCH for this book. What a goddamn delight, and while I have had a grand time reading these books, this particularly one made the journey so far absolutely worth it.

The original text contains use of the word “mad.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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