Borogravia is at war – again – this time with the Zlobenians. Polly Perks has lost her brother, Paul, so she does the only logical thing: cut off all her hair, learn to belch and fart and join the army. How hard can it be?
But war is a deadly thing, and all they have on their side is a infamous sergeant and a terrifying vampire with a lust for coffee. The Monstrous Regiment have to use all their wits – and, of course, the secret they share – in order to survive.
This was the first Terry Pratchett novel I have ever read. I know, I know, shoot me, I haven’t lived, haven’t had a childhood etc. Well, at least I’m reading them now.
The first thing that struck me, which none of my friends who also read this for our club noticed, was that Pratchett doesn’t use chapters. Although this wouldn’t work for every novelist, it really does with his novels, and it made it read so, so well – in fact, I think chapters would have ruined it. I also found it interesting how no one noticed this: perhaps, if he had, we would have commented on how it broke up the writing. Just a small, writerly observation there.
I was about to move onto characters, but another thing I noted was the fact it was ‘aesthetically pleasing’. The actual lay out of the words on the page does, in some places, actually add to the reading of the novel and if it was just written plainly it would absolutely not have the same effect. Perhaps something to think about when writing my own…
Moving on to the characters. Each one of them had their own voice, from Polly to Wazzer to Jackrum to Maladict. Pratchett is incredible at bringing each one to life in their own way too: Lofty’s pyromania, Polly’s protectiveness, Maladict’s wittiness and all of their humour. I had different feelings for all of them, too: hate for Strappi, admiration for the Monstrous Regiment, even a slight wariness of Maladict!
Pratchett is famous for addressing issues in his writings, and I think Monstrous effectively addresses the issues of war, religion and feminism, through a satirical yet firm way. The topics provided a great source of debate for our group of readers, too. I really enjoyed his real life views in a fantasy world, and thought it worked incredibly effectively.
The subplots (I wrote ‘mini plots’ in my notes because I couldn’t remember the correct term of use…) were also effective in adding to the novel, but not taking away from the main plot. That’s how they should be done. I also loved, ironically, how there was no love interest for the protagonist, and instead for minor characters. Perfecto. A novel which doesn’t actually revolve around romance, but still has strong, independent, feisty, fantastic characters and a strong, main, brilliant plot! This is starting to sound like the ideal for #VeryRealisticYA. Except for the fact it’s a world on a turtle and four elephants. But there you go.
The next paragraph has spoilers so click if you dare/skip if you don’t.
One thing I wasn’t too keen on was the fact that so many of the ‘men’ turned out to be women. I would have liked some of the Monstrous Regiment to be, and one or two of the officers would have been nice, but it seemed almost too perfect that the entirety of the Regiment and many of the officers were. Even Jackrum (although that was a sweet twist). I understand what Pratchett was trying to show, but I don’t know how effective it was: certainly, all of my friends at the club didn’t like the vast amount of girls. As a specific example, I preferred Maladict as a boy!
[End of spoilers.]
Overall, I gave Monstrous Regiment 5 stars on Goodreads and I would definitely recommend it to any fantasy lovers! I’m definitely going to try and read some more Terry Pratchett novels, so expect to see some more recommendations in the future!
TITLE: Monstrous Regiment
AUTHOR: Terry Pratchett
PUBLISHER: Corgi Books
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2004
NUMBER OF PAGES: 494
PERSONAL SOURCE: Borrowed from the library
Monstrous Regiment is the 31st in the Discworld series.
Monstrous Regiment is a book for my 2015 reading challenge: non-human characters.