Mark Reads ‘Carpe Jugulum’: Part 19

In the nineteenth and final part of Carpe Jugulum, holiness is found. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

I loved this. I LOVED THIS SO MUCH.

I know one day I’ll probably assemble a “favorites” for Discworld. Favorite characters, scenes, and books. There’s no doubt in my mind that this book will place at the top. Now that I’ve finished it, a sense of satisfaction has washed over me. This is perhaps one of the best endings to a Discworld novel because it ties up multiple plot lines in beautifully thematic ways, yet the pacing and intensity was never sacrificed along the way. I feel like I barely started this book, y’all, and it’s somehow already over. How???

Let’s talk about MANY THINGS.

The Truth

Y’all, I literally said in my last review that Granny “tapped into the power that they had over other people,” AND I STILL DIDN’T FIGURE IT OUT. The blood. The blood. By trying to convert Granny to vampirism, the vampires took her blood within her, which allowed her to influence them. (Which is also how her power extended to other people.) Y’all, the more they tried to use their powers to control others, the worse they made it for themselves. She literally exploited them in the most underhanded, insidious way possible. It’s why it infuriates the Count so very much. She fooled him completely and totally, and I love how pissed off and hopeless he is in response to this.

But this is not the only truth revealed in the big confrontation. Perhaps the funniest bit of this ending is the Escrow citizens admitting that they prefer to have the old Count Magpyr, recently resurrected by Igor, over the new vampires. It’s one of those absurdities that, on the surface, is hard to wrap one’s mind around. How can you prefer one vampire over another?

In their own words:

“He only ever came around every few years and anyway if you remembered about the garlic he wasn’t a problem. He didn’t expect us to like him.”

As we’d heard from Igor, there was a more mutual relationship at play between the old Count and Escrow, one that, to us, is full of tropes, but to them? There was a semblance of normalcy. There was a chance for the Count to get what he needed, but there was a chance that one of the Escrow citizens could gain some family glory by being the one to stake him. You can even see the rapport they had with the old Count in the brief back-and-forth that they have!

But let’s be real. At least for me – and I imagine for some of you, too – the most shocking moment in this finale was provided by Mightily Oats. Once again, belief is a vital part of the Discworld, but it’s applied in such a refreshing and exciting way that this still felt like something new. I’ll talk more about Oats’s character arc in this book later, but for the moment: HE BELIEVED HIS AXE WAS A HOLY SYMBOL AND CHOPPED THE COUNT’S HEAD OFF. No, that’s not even right. The slice was so clean that the Count’s head stayed on his neck while he bled to death, which meant that Granny got to talk some sense into him before he “died.” And Pratchett does so magical things here. Like this tiny bit:

The ax dropped onto the flagstones. In the sudden silence, it clanged like a bell.

Given what this act means to Oats, this felt like a sign that he’d had his epiphany, his realization that he could find holiness wherever he sought it out, rather than be told what is holy by someone else.

“If I’ve got a fault,” she said, contriving to suggest that this was only a theoretical possibility, “it’s not knowing when to turn and run. And I tends to bluff on a weak hand.”

BUT OATS DID NOT BLUFF. AT ALL. He committed to this. It’s the first sign (of a few) that Granny has come to respect Oats and his journey. Yet Oats isn’t alone in this; I loved that she had a brief moment with the old Count in regards to her grandmother, which she later references to talk about goodness, about light and dark. It could not have been a coincidence that in the middle of this conversation, the Count speaks of phoenixes, the birds who light up the darkness at night. It’s a persistence visual motif throughout the book, and it works so well to describe this story, these characters, this struggle. Because that’s precisely what Granny’s been fighting this whole book, hasn’t she? She had to fight the darkness creeping into her after she was bitten.

And even Agnes plays a part in this theme. The truth is that she’s been fighting the darkness within her, if you view Perdita as the “darker” version of her personality. Her rejection of Vlad is part of that growth, but so is her forthright kindness towards Oats at the end of the book.

More on that… LET’S ALSO JUST BE JOYOUS ABOUT GRANNY ASKING MAGRAT TO MAKE SOME TEA. WHAT A GREAT MOMENT.

The Future

Pratchett wraps up a lot in these last few scenes, but I never really felt like he was doing a disservice to anyone. I didn’t need much from Verence’s plot, besides his return to the castle (with some embarrassment about his condition), and I was glad that things had more or less returned to normal. However, the biggest surprise for me was the development of the friendship between Granny and Oats, particularly because it felt so rare. Indeed, I cannot even recall a single moment in past books with the Witches where Granny gave a proper smile. Though I have to say that Oats earned it:

“The world is… different.” Oats’s gaze went out across the haze, and the forests, and the purple mountains. “Everywhere I look I see something holy.”

For the first time since he’d met her, he saw Granny Weatherwax smile properly. Normally her mouth went up at the corners just before something unpleasant was going to happen to someone who deserved it, but this time, she appeared to be pleased with what she’d heard.

Oats struggled with belief this whole book. Did he believe what he was told to believe – which was a complicated, contradictory mess – or what he felt? Which was right for him? Oats does not reject his religion or his faith, however. Instead, it becomes focused on something different. There is goodness and beauty in the world around him, and this truly felt like the first time he realized this. His attention had been directed elsewhere for so long! You can see the effects of this when he gives his first… what? Prayer? Service? I’m not sure what to call the prayer and song he leads to the people of Lancre, but it’s his own. Sure, he needs some work and practice, but it felt so pure compared to what he’d done before. And why not work with the people of Uberwald? Why not challenge one’s self in the process?

Oats unwrapped the black velvet scroll. Inside, on a golden chain, was a small golden double-headed ax.

AND THEN HE GETS A NEW AMULET THAT IS A REMINDER THAT HOLINESS CAN BE FOUND ANYWHERE. HELP ME. And oh god, AGNES NITT. The gift was partially from her, but that’s not all. Agnes’s thread throughout Carpe Jugulum followed the two minds she dealt with, but her actions at the end show us that she’s ready to embrace   who she is. Agnes is awkward and certain; she’s kind and cutting. She can be both things and that’s perfectly fine. I also didn’t get the sense that this was a definitive end for her. I don’t know we’ll see Oats again, so his ending is more complete. Agnes, however, is probably going to appear again, thus I’m okay with her progress at this point. It’s potential, you know?

I must also take a moment here before I close this off to just say that I am very emotional about Scraps, and  a surefire way to ruin me is to do anything remotely emotional with dogs. So, here I am before all of you, a mess because DEATH GAVE SCRAPS BACK TO IGOR. Granted, Scraps refused to give back Death’s scythe, but come on. CUTEST PLOT RESOLUTION EVER.

And thus, Carpe Jugulum comes to a close with Granny Weatherwax. That’s the best character to end this, too, because her struggle was central to the book. And what does Granny return to? She faced the darkness within her – within every Weatherwax, that is – and her reward is a goddamn nap. Well, the relaxation was a nice touch, but the return of her sign that she uses during Borrowing was the best part. Granny Weatherwax isn’t going anywhere. She still ate’nt dead, y’all, and I’m so happy about this.

Whew, what a great book.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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