In the seventh part of Monstrous Regiment, the squad learns just how much they’ve been lied to. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For talk of war/warfare
OH MY GOD, WHAT A CAMEO. I admit that until Otto Chriek showed up I was a little lost by this story, but I think that’s mostly because the pacing for this book has been so relentless. We’ve drifted from one scene of action and intrigue to another, and even if I didn’t necessarily understand absolutely everything that was going on, I had a sense for why it might be important.
Which isn’t to suggest that, for instance, Polly’s scene at the opening of this section with Blouse isn’t important. It establishes his incompetence through direct example. Without Polly there, would he have ever even made it out of that inn? Y’all, she literally told him that everything had left town INCLUDING THE INN, and he still wanted to leave some sort of note or pay the bill. Would he have used the privy without Polly? Changed into a clean shirt? NOT CUT HIS SWORD HAND WITH HIS SWORD, WHICH… how the fuck is that physically possible? (I’m still maintaining the theory I stated on video: he probably just grabbed the sword by the blade.)
I was amused by the interplay between Blouse and the Zlobenian men, at least because they all suddenly cared about decorum and respect but only after they got caught INVADING SOMEONE ELSE’S COUNTRY. What did they expect from the Borogravians? Actually, that question was answered! They expected nothing. Apparently, they knew that these were the final recruits (how???) and that they were nothing but “farm boys,” and yet, they were still supposed to capture them? What’s the significance of that detail? I DON’T GET IT. And while that element seemed like something that would come up later, my attention waned a bit, right up until someone knocked on the door and it was a vampire with a iconography device, and I WAS SO DAMN EXCITED Y’ALL.
In typical Pratchett fashion, the humor and the absurdity of this twist highlights a phenomenon in actual reality. In this specific case. Mr. de Worde reveals the existence of newspapers to nearly all of the soldiers, which I am only now appreciating. Because of course a country as regressive and conservative as Borogravia would not have a national, free press. All information is controlled through Nugganism and the Duchess, so much so that most citizens still revere the Duchess entirely out of fear. Fear works wonders in controlling a population, and a free press of any sort threatens that. It allows a narrative to exist outside the “official” one.
That alternative narrative, though, is one that most of these people know actually exists. Maybe they don’t want to admit it—or they’re terrified to—but they’ve been lied to. Borogravia is not winning the war. Losses are so severe that “troops are deserting and all the civilians are heading for the mountains.” Which they’ve seen! They passed refugees streaming in the opposite direction! Zlobenia wanted to capture the final recruits as propaganda, to show the world just how pitiful the Borogravian army was. WHICH IS REALLY FUCKED UP, OF COURSE. To be used as a means to show how bad this war is, BUT ALSO: NOT STOPPING IT???
And then—because this whole section wasn’t enough—Shufti drops the biggest plot twist in the book: she admits she’s a girl and then states that everyone in the squad is a girl. What was once a joke IS NOT A JOKE AT ALL, BECAUSE EVEN CARBORUNDUM IS A GIRL. Named Jade!!! Holy shit, everyone but Maladict was in disguise, and, let’s note this, INCREDIBLY FUCKING COMPETENT. Like, I understand Shufti’s impulse to say that there’s no point in them trying to continue to be crafty and creative against Zlobenia, but they achieved something no one thought they were capable of. That’s worth some credit, you know?
Also: WHY DOES EVERY INN THEY LEAVE ALWAYS BURN TO THE GROUND.
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