In the twenty-first part of Monstrous Regiment, I feel like the only pure reaction to this section would be to make the whole review one big keysmash. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I am only now realizing that the big reveal of this book has been repeated so many times that I keep thinking, “Surely, Pratchett isn’t going to do this again.” BUT GUESS WHAT. HE DOES. In doing so, he exposes the systemic mistreatment of women in Borogravian society, but then reveals that WOMEN FOUND A WAY AROUND IT. (Though, slight point of possible contention: do these older soldiers identify as women? Have they maintained this disguise for so long to do their job, or is it not a disguise at all? I am not quite sure and am very interested in discussing that with y’all.) It is TOO MUCH for ONE PERSON to deal with SO HERE WE GO.
Look, I absolutely did not expect Jackrum to save the day. I didn’t! I still can’t even guess how he knew that they needed help. How did he get this information? Not important, though, because what is important is what Jackrum does once he’s in the room where it happens. (Heh. I had to.) I figured out pretty quickly that he was looking to leverage something in order to free his squad, and I also figured that it was due to the mystery of his records, the very thing Strappi set out to “investigate.” (And fail to get to the truth, I might add.) But once he asked for some of the generals and leaders to step out of the room… that confused me. Everyone knew that Jackrum’s most recent squad was comprised of entirely women; that was the whole point of the tribunal. And what secret information did Jackrum have that would require the confidence of only a few? It made no sense to me!
I should have known. What does Jackrum exceed at? Cunning. Manipulating his superiors. Getting exactly what he wants. And these qualities—which I admittedly interpreted pretty negatively when I first met Jackrum—are suddenly on full display, and I don’t hate it??? WHAT IS THIS BOOK DOING TO ME.
One of Their Own
In the most shocking moment of Monstrous Regiment so far (and I have to add that caveat because who fucking knows if there’s going to be another plot twist after this, I HAVE TO PROTECT MYSELF), Jackrum confronts the remaining military leadership and reveals the secret he’s held, the one that gets him stationed wherever he wants, the one that allows his record to be edited and changed, and
There have been women in the Borogravian military for a long time.
In fact, a handful of them are revealed to be in that very room, in charge of THE ENTIRE FUCKING ARMY, and they’ve been doing it for years… with Jackrum’s help. One major freaked out on the battlefield and nearly deserted their troops… until Jackrum helped them out, handed them a victory, and gave them the mental strength to survive a war. Another nearly died of a sword wound that would have revealed their secret, and Jackrum nursed them back to health. Even Froc owes their entire career to Jackrum. ALL OF THEM DO. Which explains how the hell he know how to help Polly and the others earlier in the novel. (And lord, do I ever love stories where tiny details completely matter to later twists.) HE’S BEEN DOING THIS FOR SO LONG. Y’all, I feel like I immediately need to re-read the entire book because… shit, I got Jackrum so wrong? Which is a credit to Pratchett that he wrote the character in a way that made it easy for me to take the bait. I didn’t really like Jackrum, but now I feel… I don’t even know??? All I am certain of is that he is not the character I thought he was, and I’m a mess.
Yet even with an out provided to her, Polly still resists. Y’all, I love a stubbornly moralistic character, so SURPRISE. Polly is my JAM. But what’s so great about her reaction is that she doesn’t want to just be swept under the rug or to be pushed away by a complication. She’s a woman, and she’s a soldier, and she kissed that image of the Duchess, so she is not going to accept anything less than full credit. She doesn’t want to exist as a contradiction or a secret. She wants to be herself.
Which is when the Duchess arrives. The real Duchess. WAZZER REALLY WAS POSSESSED BY HER. Which heavily suggests that belief in the Duchess increased over the course of this book, so much so that she was able to materialized in the body of her most faithful believer. And holy shit, her message is a shock: she wants all of them to give up, to make truces, to vow to stop dying in battle for her. Y’all, she was given the power of existence as a deity, but she wasn’t given power itself. So the more people prayed to her, the more frustrated she became because SHE LITERALLY COULDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.
Thus, her sole requirement is an invasion in reverse: she wants the Borogravians to return to their own homes. To build up their own lives and families and communities. To… well, in her own words:
“Find yourself a worthier god. And let… me… go! All those prayers, all those entreaties… to me! Too many hands clasped that could more gainfully answer your prayers by effort and resolve!”
Yeah, the Duchess doesn’t give a shit about your thoughts and prayers, y’all. NOT ONE SHIT. Neither does Polly, who is so inspired by all of this that she gets her own little revenge on Strappi, and LORD, WAS IT EVER SATISFYING. Actually, this is already deeply satisfying, and I don’t even know what Paul’s fate is yet. But Pratchett manages to hit all the things I needed (like Strappi) to be resolved. I still want to know more about the individual women of the squad, and I suspect we’ll see Paul in the next section. Until then, though, I’m blown away. I FELL FOR ALL OF THIS.
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