In the fourth part of Carpe Jugulum, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS INCREDIBLE AND I’M READY FOR THE UNBELIEVABLE JOURNEY I’M ABOUT TO TAKE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For talk of consent and gaslighting.
JUST KIDDING, I’M NOT READY AT ALL. Oh my god, this was breathtaking. To say it’s unexpected is an understatement; I honestly don’t think a Discworld book has ramped up this quickly ever. Pratchett drops this nightmare on us so casually, and then we’re just supposed to accept it because IT’S ALREADY MOVING FORWARD.
Let’s talk. Because this starts off with a distraction: baby Esmerelda’s bizarre middle name. As the characters discuss whether or not they can change it (not really) and whether it matters (not really, as the Lancre people like weird sounding names anyway), I had forgot about the “guests” who arrived at the start of the scene because… well, Moocow Poorchick. I LOVE THAT NAME, I DON’T CARE. I once named a dog Potato Moo McPuppydots, so SHUT UP. (I’m also a big fan of Total Biscuit. Sounds like a great band, too.) I didn’t pick up on the importance of Oats’s migraine either, even though I knew the Magpyr clan were in the room. Didn’t make the connection, didn’t think much of Agnes’s awkward conversation with Reverend Oats, and pushed forward because everything was funny and great and then:
“Can I get you a drink, Miss Nitt?”
Look, Pratchett invokes a very specific trope here: that thing where a villain reveals they’re a villain by accidentally saying a person’s name before they introduce themselves. It’s usually pretty effective, and look no further than my video for evidence of it! I knew this man was one of the Magpyr vampyres anyway, but this was all the confirmation I needed. I was prepared! He was a vampire and he was going to secretly infiltrate the party and I WAS 100% WRONG. Even as Agnes realized something was up, I was so certain about what was unfolding.
Hell, look at the next scene! Nanny brings Agnes outside and very quickly, she figures out that Verence invited vampires to be a part of the naming ceremony. (He didn’t, though, did he?) It plays right into her perception of Verence as being too friendly to other nations and cultures, and she is wrong, and I am wrong, and it’s all wrong. The Magpyr clan feels like a stand-in for a lot of things, but in this moment, Nanny sees them – and their family motto of Carpe Jugulum – as a threat to everything that makes Lancre special. It’s just silly to her that Verence would even entertain the idea that a bunch of vampires from Überwald should be allowed in the palace.
And then it all starts to fall apart. That conversation with Igor… what the hell, y’all??? So, apparently, these new vampyres aren’t “old school.” His mention of their clothing choices seemed odd, as did their insistence to keep their own castle free of squeaky hinges and spooky lighting. Initially, I thought Pratchett was merely making a joke about our expectations of vampires, but no, once again I’m wrong. Surely, they were just a tad weird, but they’re vampyres. Nothing shocking there, right?
I cannot even deal with the scene inside the castle. I can’t.
“I think you were talking about vampires,” he said, taking a garlic pasty from Agnes’s tray and biting into it with every sign of enjoyment. “Could I be of assistance?”
Nanny looked him up and down.
“Do you know much about them?” she said.
“Well, I am one,” he said. “So I suppose the answer is yes.”
In just one exchange, Pratchett shifts this book into another fucking stratosphere. Because I always figured that the Magpyr infiltration plan would be subtle, I was shocked to high hell to watch it all unfold so OPENLY. Thus, that scene earlier, where Vlad says Agnes’s name before she reveals it, is not the trope I thought it was. It was a hint that the Magpyr vampyres were just going to waltz in, take over everything in a few minutes, and do so without a care in the world. Watching them overpower the minds over everyone in that room (well, almost everyone) was horrifying, and it’s one of the creepiest things I’ve read in a Discworld book. These vampires violate the consent of the attendees, and then present an alternate version of reality to them. IT’S SO SCARY.
Of note, however, is the strange reactions experienced by Reverend Oats and Agnes. The Reverend’s migraine increases in intensity… which must be because of the vampyres, right? But why? Why that reaction? Agnes, however, reacts in a way that’s more understandable to me: her dual identity/nature means that there is a mind within her that the vampyres can’t control. It is Perdita who escapes the weird mind control of the Magpyrs, though not without a vicious fight.
The whole thing was electrifying to read; it’s a strange thing to get villains who monologue about their intentions at the start of a book, you know??? Watching each of these characters fight the terrible logic running through their brains was upsetting as well. (I’m thinking of Verence in particularly, who sweats up a storm as the Count of Magpyr details his life of murder.) But Agnes, my god, fights harder than anyone else, and Perdita provides her with a chance to oppose the Magpyrs, though it’s not exactly successful in every respect. But she gets out of the castle! She escapes the Magpyrs! She gets Nanny out, too, and then THE SCARIEST PART HAPPENS!!!!
She rushed into the kitchen, gripping her left wrist with her right hand. It shook itself free, grabbed a knife from the draining board, and stabbed it into the wall, dragging it so that it formed crude letters in the crumbling plaster:
It dropped the knife, grabbed at the hair on the back of Agnes’s head, and thrust her face within inches of the letters.
Like, I always just assumed that Perdita was just Agnes’s internal monologue, a way for her to express how she really felt. But this suggests so much more, as if Perdita is a second mind within Agnes. Regardless, I AM SO READY FOR THIS STRUGGLE. Honestly, I thought Jingo had a great opening pace, but this is RIDICULOUS. I can’t wait.
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