Mark Reads ‘Carpe Jugulum’: Part 1

In the first part of Carpe Jugulum, approximately eight thousand things happen at once. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.


Fairy Folk!

I think? See, what I’d like to do is try to keep track of the ungodly number of things that Pratchett has introduced in the collection of opening scenes of Carpe Jugulum. There’s a lot going on here, and it works so well! This is probably my favorite opening section to a Discworld book, though I recognize that Pratchett had a lot of practice up to this point. Plus, there’s less exposition here! He references Magrat leaving the witches of the Ramtops, but jumps right into Agnes as one of the trio. There are things here that only those of us who had read Masquerade would understand, which is fun, yet this still doesn’t require knowledge of past Discworld books. Why?

Because Pratchett hints at a convergence. It’s one of the things he does best: he throws countless plots into his books, and then, through his writing magic, they all come together by the end. Which makes me wonder: who are these fairy people, and where are they headed? I am only guessing they’re fairies because… blue skin? The red hair thing threw me off, as did the… dialect? Is it Scottish? Gaelic? Irish? I DON’T KNOW YET. Where are they going? To conquer Lancre? I DON’T KNOW.

The Witches

I was thrilled to get back to the witches because I’ve generally enjoyed all of their books. All of them have been invited to Lancre for… something? That’s left ambiguous by Pratchett, and now I’m wondering if it’s a trick from the vampires…

More on that in a bit. In hindsight, I’m now realizing how perfectly Pratchett brought us back into the lives of these three women. We see Nanny Ogg as she excitedly prepares for the party that she’s about to attend because… well, that’s Nanny. Of course she’d be thrilled about this! There will be drink and probably dancing and it’ll only be a matter of time before she gets to sing. Agnes is re-introduced to us through introspection, which is a perfect fit for her character. Much of what happens in her narrative parts is internal, and Pratchett keeps us close as she struggles with her dual identities of Agnes and Perdita, as someone who wishes she was someone else but can’t be.

And then there’s Granny Weatherwax, serene, always ten steps ahead of every living creature around her. She can rarely be surprised, and then, PRATCHETT SURPRISES HER. It’s such a brilliant move: she expects someone else at her home and is briefly bewildered when it’s Wattley and news of trouble during Mrs. Ivy’s childbirth. “…it’s all gone wrong…” the child screams, and it feels like a hint. Couple that with the reaction of Hodgesaargh’s birds, and you’ve got an atmosphere to this book. Already!

But I’m dancing around the real reason this is so unnerving at the beginning.

Count of Magpyr 

VAMPIRES. A book where vampires are the villains!!! Well, I’m assuming that’s the case, given what happens to the thief, but prior to that scene, I actually wondered where Pratchett was taking this. The introduction of the Magpyr clan of vampires is hilarious because Pratchett wastes ABSOLUTELY NO TIME in making fun of them. I appreciate that because – spoiler alert! – I really don’t care about vampires. I was reluctant about doing Buffy for Mark Watches because I’d already had to suffer through the Twilight books. I’m thankful that vampirism makes up about 5% of the importance of that show, though, because if it had been higher? Well, I wouldn’t have cared.

Truthfully, I don’t really have many supernatural creatures of entities that I actually enjoy. I’m largely bored by vampires. And werewolves. And zombies. Never been much of a fairy/fae person. I’ve wondered if that was due to my love of science fiction first as a kid, but you know what? It’s just not my thing. Vampires, in particular, seem so absurd as a monster, and Pratchett EVISCERATES THEM in the opening of Carpe Jugulum. Like, this is so great:

As if wearing evening dress all day wasn’t an undead giveaway, why do they choose to live in old castles which offer so much in the way of ways to defeat a vampire, like easily torn curtains and wall decorations that can readily be twisted into a religious symbol? Do they really think that spelling their name backward fools anyone?

I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS. First, I agree with it all because vampires have so many ridiculous tropes attached to them. However, Pratchett does the coolest thing with this: he then reminds us that these vampires are dangerous. The death of the thief is sudden and shocking, and it serves as a demonstration: just because these vampires bicker like a “normal” family does not mean we should think of them as harmless. No, they’re the opposite of that. They murder because they have to, because they feel like they should. Unlike many of the supernatural and fantastic creatures we’ve met in Ankh-Morpork, who resist typecasting and stereotypes, these vampires are… well, blood-sucking murderers.

And they’re headed straight for Lancre. Why? To tempt Granny Weatherwax. Right off the bat, that seemed like an impossible task. It’s Granny. We know she’s got a bit of a “dark” side in her, but… come on, you can’t actually tempt her like they want to, right? I mean, yes, they’re sparse about their intentions. This feels like a coup of sorts, but how the hell are they going to pull this off?

I AM VERY INTRIGUED. What a great start to this book!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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