Discworld - a Retrospective
Stephen Mould
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Sir Terry Pratchett's death last week was like losing a couple of dozen really good friends. He takes with him Rincewind, Death, Granny Weatherwax, Carrot Ironfoundersson, Lord Vetinari and of course, Commander Vimes along with a long list of people who, at times in my life, I've felt closer to than the people around me.

The Discworld books have helped me get through some of the lower times of my life. For many of my teenage years I would spend the whole of Christmas Day reading my new Pratchett and all of Boxing Day re-reading it. It always felt like catching up with old friends, finding out what they'd been up to. Even now, nothing makes me feel more at home than reading one of my Pratchetts.

One thing his death has taught me is that there actually exist people in the world who haven't read the Discworld books. I know, I was shocked to. So for all you lucky people who are yet to start your journey with these wonderful people, I present to you the Discworld, up to and including Snuff, the last Discworld book published before the birth of my twin girls, whose presence has made spending a whole weekend reading books a little impractical.

I'd be grateful to anyone who has read Raising Steam, The Amazing Maurice or any of the Tiffany Aching books if they would complete this list.

“...no-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away... The span of someone's life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.”
― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man
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1. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:150] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
Stephen Mould
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The Colour of Magic
(1983) is our first visit to Discworld, in which we meet Rincewind, a cowardly and incompetent Wizard who is hired by a naive foreigner named Twoflower to show him the sights, sounds and smells of the great city of Ankh Morpork. Unfortunately, after Twoflower explains the concept of insurance to the locals, the city burns to the ground and the pair are forced to flee from the city. So begins an epic quest that will take them to the very edge of Discworld, whether they want it to or not.

This wasn't the first Discworld I read, I think that may have been Pyramids, but it certainly felt like the beginning of something.

“My name is immaterial,' she said.
That's a pretty name,' said Rincewind.”
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2. Board Game: Rays of Light [Average Rating:6.33 Unranked]
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The Light Fantastic (1986) picks up where the Colour of Magic left off, with our heroes falling off the edge of the world and things only get worse for Rincewind and Twoflower from there. When the wizards of the Unseen University take an interest in the pair things are looking grim. But with the help of the legendary hero Cohen the barbarian (forty years and a mouthful of teeth after his prime) and the Luggage (a sentient, vicious, many legged suitcase) they might have a chance to escape deaths door. Literally.

This book is the only direct sequel in the Discworld series, though all of them share characters and locations.

“Do you think there’s anything to eat in this forest?”
“Yes,” said the wizard bitterly, “us.”
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3. Board Game: Hey, Hey, Witch Way? [Average Rating:5.38 Unranked]
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Equal Rites (1987) tells the story of Esk, the Discworlds first female wizard, and her mentor/chaperone Granny Weatherwax, a witch from her small village. But in the Patriarchal world of the Unseen University, women don't do magic, they do the dishes. Then again, they've never met Granny.

Doing this lists reminds me how long it's been since I read some of these. This is the first of the more pointedly satirical Discworld novels and it's a great one.

“For animals, the entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks.”
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4. Board Game: Black Death v1.01 [Average Rating:6.75 Unranked]
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Mort(1987) tells the story of the eponymous main character, a young man not at all suited to the family business. Farming is just not for him. So his father takes him to the hiring fair in the hope that he'll land an apprenticeship with a tradesman. He's pleased, if a little unsettled when the boy is hired by a grim looking undertaker.

He's right to be unsettled. The undertaker is actually Death and Mort is to be his apprentice in the ushering of souls from this world to the next.When Mort saves a princess from death at her properly appointed time things become...complicated.

Though Death appeared in the previous novels, here his character is more fleshed out (as it were) and Mort has often been voted a fan favourite. Death has appeared in all but 2 of the Discworld novels, which should tell you something about the survival rate amongst Pratchetts characters. GRRM eat your heart out.

“It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever," he said. "Have you thought of going into teaching?”
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5. Board Game: Sorcerer [Average Rating:5.45 Overall Rank:14189]
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Sourcery (1988) opens with an ex-wizard explaining to Death why he was banished from the Unseen University. He married and had children, something wizards are not supposed to do. And the reason they're not supposed to is the small child the wizard cradles as he dies, his son, his eighth son, a wizard squared, a source of magic - a sourcerer. The wizard attempts to set his sons fate on a path of revenge against the university but Death forces him to leave a loophole in his plans that will allow the boy to escape this destiny. But when the wiley wizard tricks Death, it appears that he will have his revenge, especially when the only one who can stop him is a certain cowardly mage by the name of Rincewind.

Sourcery is the only Discworld book I've not re-read since I was a teenager and I remember it being a lesser Pratchett. Feel free to vehemently disagree in the comments.

“I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?"
Death thought about it.
CATS, he said eventually. CATS ARE NICE.”
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6. Board Game: The Witches: A Discworld Game [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:3049]
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Wyrd Sisters (1988) sees Granny Weatherwax return, along with her coven consisting of the irrepresably vulgar Nanny Ogg and the irritatingly new age Magrat Garlick. Probably the best way to see this novel is as a retelling of Macbeth, but from the witches point of view.

There was a long period where the Witches were my favourite characters and this is my favourite of the witches books. It mixes clever and stupid in a perfect balancing act of comedic genius, which could be a description of the series as a whole.

“Witches aren’t like that. We live in harmony with the great cycles of Nature, and do no harm to anyone, and it’s wicked of them to say we don’t. We ought to fill their bones with hot lead.”



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7. Board Game: Pyramid [Average Rating:5.91 Overall Rank:12319]
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Pyramids(1989) tells the story of Teppic, first of the princes of Djelibeybi to be raised outside of the kingdom. His return leads to a confrontation with Dios, high priest of Djelibeybi and a stickler for tradition. Can Teppic succeed in bringing his country kicking and screaming into the century of the fruitbat?

The setting of this story allows Pratchett's finely tuned silly name generator to run rampant, my personal favourite being the name of the love interest, 'Ptraci.' This is the first novel that directly addresses organised religion as the central theme, though not the last.

“Her singing always cheered him up. Life seemed so much brighter when she stopped.”
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8. Board Game: Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:14545]
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Guards!Guards! (1989) introduces my all time favourite Discworld character, Samuel Vimes. Vimes is a beat cop, working in an underfunded department rife with corruption. When a killer arrives in town, it's up to the 4 man nights watch to stop it. Unfortunately, the killer in this case is a magical dragon, called forth by shadowy forces within the city of Ankh Morpork to help them overthrow the cities Patrician, Lord Vetinari.

This is a spot-on subversion of both crime stories and fantasy dragon tropes. Vimes leaps off the page as a great character, but the supporting cast are equally fantastic. Carrot Ironfoundersson, the six foot tall dwarf, Sergeant Colon, who wants nothing more than a hot cuppa and somewhere to stand out of the wind and Corporal 'nobby' nobbs who carries a piece of paper proving himself to be a human, make great company. This isn't the best of the watch books, but it has a special place in my heart.

“They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.
This book is dedicated to those fine men.”
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9. Board Game: Doctor Faust [Average Rating:5.25 Overall Rank:14176]
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Eric (1990) is a retelling of Faust in which the part of Faust is played by a spotty teenage nerd and the part of Mephistopheles is played by Rincewind, the cowardly wizard who was the face of the Discworld in these early books.

This is really a novella that started life as an illustrated Discworld 'story' but it really is a fantastic little book. The Trojan horse section is worth the price by itself.

“The consensus seemed to be that if really large numbers of men were sent to storm the mountain, then enough might survive the rocks to take the citadel. This is essentially the basis of all military thinking.”
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10. Board Game: Movie Mania [Average Rating:4.56 Overall Rank:15043]
Stephen Mould
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Moving pictures targets Hollywood and proceeds to rip it to humorously shaped shreds over a couple of hundred pages. When Ankh Morporks Alchemists manage to stop blowing themselves up for long enough to invent 'moving pictures' people begin making their way to Holy Wood, dreaming of making it big in 'the flicks.' Unfortunately, the moving pictures have a terrible effect on the structure of reality and as the things from the dungeon dimension threaten to break into our world, it's up to Victor Tugelbend ("Can't sing. Can't dance. Can handle a sword a little."), Theda "Ginger" Withel, a girl "from a little town you never ever heard of" and Gaspode the sentient dog to save the day.

“The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”
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11. Board Game: Reaper Madness [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Reaper Man(1991) Is the second novel staring Death himself. The mysterious 'Auditors' decide Death is becoming too human and pension him off, sending him off to live a normal mortal life as a hired hand on a small farm under the assumed name of Bill Door. This causes all kinds of problems as humanity takes its collective time inventing a new Death to take the old ones place. These problems includes the creation of accidental zombies, all manner of paranormal phenomenon and the appearance of a living shopping mall that feeds on cities.

This is a fantastic novel, with a ton of the philosophy, satire and pathos that make Pratchett such an engaging writer.

“It was amazing how many friends you could make by being bad at things, provided you were bad enough to be funny.”
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12. Board Game: Wicked Witches Way [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:2121]
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Witches Abroad (1991) in which we catch up with our favourite coven of witches, who are a little irritated when one of them inherits a magic wand that makes her fairy godmother to a young woman, whose most fervent desire is to not marry the prince. The novel is essentially a series of parodies of well known fairy-tales.

I always particularly liked the way the stories staring the witches attacked the patriarchal under-pinnings of western mythology. And the willy jokes.

“It's daft, locking us up," said Nanny. "I'd have had us killed."
"That's because you're basically good," said Magrat. "The good are innocent and create justice. The bad are guilty, which is why they invent mercy.”
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13. Board Game: Age of Gods [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:3319]
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Small Gods(1991) Tells the story of the fallen god, Om and the man he chooses as his prophet, Novice Brutha. In Discworlds, God's only exist because people believe in them and, despite the huge number of followers who claim to have faith, Brutha is the only one who truly believes. Now, trapped in the body of a turtle and with only an idiot savant to help him, Om must renew his peoples faith to retake his rightful place in the pantheon.

This is one of my all time favourite Discworld books. It is at times scathing about organised religion but never has anything but respect for personal belief. It's similarly biting on Philosophy, Democracy and Nationalism. But unlike some satire, Small Gods is genuinely funny.

“His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools -- the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans -- and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, 'You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink.”

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14. Board Game: Lords & Ladies [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:5386]
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Lords and Ladies(1992)the third Witches novel sees Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick fighting off an incursion by Elves into Discworld, whilst dealing with the problems caused by the various men in their lives.

I was never a huge fan of Lords and Ladies, but there's no denying that the Elves are supremely creepy and arrogant in the classic Celtic manner. I have wondered whether this novel marks the end of the 'early Discworld' novels that focus on fantasy, mythology and magic. Although, it's entirely possible that doing this list is making me think far too much about the whole thing.

“Nanny Ogg looked under her bed in case there was a man there. Well, you never knew your luck.”
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15. Board Game: Men At Arms [Average Rating:4.61 Overall Rank:15378]
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Men at Arms Is my absolute favourite Discworld novel. It is the second book dealing with Ankh Morpork city watch and the book in which all the main players in what will become a fairly extensive series within a series arrive on the stage. Captain Vimes is ordered to make the watch more ethnically diverse, in order to better represent the cities inhabitants. 'Be a man in the city watch! the city watch needs men!' shout the recruitment posters. What they get is a dwarf, a troll and a female werewolf. The book is essentially a whodunnit, with the watch and its new recruits investigating a series of murders committed with 'the Gonne' Discworlds first firearm.

The quote below is one of the main reasons why this remains my favourite Discworld and Vimes my favourite character.



“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”
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16. Board Game: Rock 'N' Roll...The Music Biz Game [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
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Soul Music(1994) does for the music business what Moving pictures did for Hollywood, that is, prod it mercilessly in the ribs until it squeals for mercy. It tells the story of a young harpist who has moved to the big city to become a professional musician. when his harp is destroyed, he comes into possession of a magical guitar, which essentially contains the living embodiment of rock 'n' roll. At first things seem to be working nicely but as we know, great music never dies, it just fades away. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the musicians...

Superficially, Soul Music treads similar ground to Moving Pictures but where the latter dealt with greed and lust for fame, this deals with obsession. Both betray a great affection for their subjects, without being afraid to puncture their self-importance. This book also introduces Susan Sto Helit, Death's Grand-daughter. It's also 1 of 2 Pratchett books that I got signed by him at a talk when I was about 14. Queued for an hour to see him and stood in slackjawed awe as he tried to make small talk with me.

“Certain things have to happen before other things. Gods play games with the fates of men. But first they have to get all the pieces on the board, and look all over the place for the dice.”

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17. Board Game: Controlling Interest [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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Interesting Times (1994) sees the reuniting of Rincewind and Twoflower, as the 'wizzard' is ordered to Twoflower's homeland, the Agatean Empire by Lord Vetinari. It appears that Twoflower's travelouge, detailing his adventures with Rincewind, has been misinterpreted as a revolutionary tract and Rincewind is there to prove that the malign influence of foreigners is to blame for the troubles it has caused.

Featuring the return of Cohen the barbarian and the introduction his Silver Horde of geriatric former heroes, I remember being very excited when Interesting times was released.

“Probably the last sound heard before the Universe folded up like a paper hat would be someone saying, “What happens if I do this?”
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18. Board Game: Mascarade [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:904]
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Maskarade (1995) is the fourth book focussed on the Witches. In it, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg follow local girl Agnes Nitt to Ankh Morpork in an attempt to recruit her into the Coven, to replace the newly married and crowned Magrat. Agnes is headed to the cities opera house to pursue a singing career and Granny uses the unpaid royalties from Nanny's cook book as an excuse to chase after her without actually appearing to chase after her. What follows is an extended Phantom of the Opera parody, with a murder mystery and some excellent undercover work.

I always though this one was a bit light. Still funny, but not much more than that. I do like Agnes though and think she's a stronger foil for the two older witches than Magrat was.

“Well, basically there are two sorts of opera," said Nanny, who also had the true witch's ability to be confidently expert on the basis of no experience whatsoever. "There's your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like "Oh oh oh, I am dyin', oh I am dyin', oh oh oh, that's what I'm doin'", and there's your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes "Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!", although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That's basically all of opera, reely.”
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19. Board Game: Golem [Average Rating:2.90 Unranked]
Stephen Mould
United Kingdom
Sheffield
South Yorkshire
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Feet of Clay(1996) returns to the Ankh Morpork city watch. Vimes, now commander of the watch, is assigned the task of finding out who has poisoned the Patrician, and how they've done so. This leads the watch and their new forensics department to the cities small Golem population, who are somehow involved in the conspiracy to remove Vetinari. Vimes must figure out which of Vetinari's enemies were stupid enough to think that the city would be better of without him.

Another strong outing for the watch, feet of clay explores some interesting ideas about free will and freedom.

“Just because someone's a member of an ethnic minority doesn't mean they're not a nasty small-minded little jerk.”
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20. Board Game: UNO: The Nightmare Before Christmas [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Stephen Mould
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Hogfather (1996) Death is forced to take over as the Hogfather, Discworlds version of Santa, when the Auditors decide to eliminate the real thing. The Hogfather is just the sort of messy, anthropomorphic being that disrupts the Auditors ordered view of the universe. Deaths literal frame of mind causes some problems when interpreting the wishes of the children he visits while his granddaughter, Susan, attempts to find out who is responsible for the Hogfathers disappearance.

This is Pratchett's Christmas book, and I think one of his darker pieces. It has one of his creepier villains in the dreadful Mr. Teatime, but the whole novel is just a little creepy. The tooth fairy's castle made entirely of children's teeth, the scissor monster who chops of the thumbs of little boys who suck them, the Hogfather's own backstory. Pratchett was so good at taking things we think of as benign, like fairy tales or in this case Santa, and finding the darkness at it's core. He also understood children and childhood fear really well.

“And then Jack chopped down what was the world's last beanstalk, adding murder and ecological terrorism to the theft, enticement, and trespass charges already mentioned, and all the giant's children didn't have a daddy anymore. But he got away with it and lived happily ever after, without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done...which proves that you can be excused for just about anything if you are a hero, because no one asks inconvenient questions.”
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21. Board Game: Jingo [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Stephen Mould
United Kingdom
Sheffield
South Yorkshire
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Jingo (1997) War is brewing between Ankh Morpork and Klatch over the recently re-appeared land of Leshp, hidden for 2 centuries under the sea between the two countries. A Klatchian prince, in Ankh Morpork to receive an honorary degree and become Doctorum Adamus cum Flabello Dulci (doctor of sweet fanny adams) is the subject of an assasination attempt. It's up to Sir Samuel Vimes, head of the city watch, to unpick a messy tangle of politics and crime to prevent a war that everyone else in the city seems eager to start.

This is Pratchett raging against the idiocy of war and nationalism. War and Peace with funny names.

“Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.”
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22. Board Game: Australia [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1963]
Stephen Mould
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The Last Continent Rincewind is magically transported to the fabled land of Xxxx after a miscalculation on a teleportation spell by the Wizards. There he meets a magical kangaroo who explains that Rincewind is fated to bring the rain back to the desert continent. So begins an epic journey that will show the invention of the cork hat and explain the platypus.

This is the last novel in which Rincewind is the main character, though he does appear in a couple more books. The Last Continent has many of the most laugh out loud moments of the whole series as Rincewind bumbles his way across a thinly veiled Australia.



"To tell you the truth, I'm something of an atheist.”- The God of Evolution.
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23. Board Game: Vampire [Average Rating:5.91 Overall Rank:5272]
Stephen Mould
United Kingdom
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Carpe Jugulum(1998) The last of the witches appearences in the main strand of Discworld novels (although they would appear again in the Tiffany Aching books, which to my shame I haven't read) is a spoof of vampire stories. A family of Vampires have taken up residence in Lancre castle and have taken over the kingdom, a state of affairs that everyone seems perfectly happy with. Nanny Ogg and Agnes Nitt manage to escape the hypnotic influence of the vampires and go to Granny Weatherwax, who is sulking about not getting an invite to the christening of the kingdoms prince. Can they stop the evil vampires? The title is a play on the phrase 'Carpe Diem' and can be translated as 'Go for the throat'

A suitably meaty final outing for Granny Weatherwax and her coven in the main line of Discworld books. Man, I really need to read those Tiffany Aching Novels.

“This is Morbidia," said Vlad. "Although she's been calling herself Tracy lately, to be cool.”
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24. Board Game: Nutty Elephant [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Stephen Mould
United Kingdom
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The Fifth Elephant (1999) When the Scone of Stone is stolen from the Dwarf bread museum just as the crowning of a new Dwarf Low King is approaching, it's up to Vimes and the Watch to find this vital element in the ceremony in order to ensure the crowning of a king open to trade with Ankh Morpork. The Low Kings fat mines are vital to the smooth running of the city, the fat said to have been deposited by the impact of a fifth Disc supporting elephant in ancient time. Not for the first time, Vimes will find himself immersed in the murky world of politics.

Another fantastic Watch story. By this time, you're as interested in whats going on in the characters lives as you are in the story.

"He'd noticed that sex bore some resemblance to cookery: it fascinated people, they sometimes bought books full of complicated recipes and interesting pictures, and sometimes when they were really hungry they created vast banquets in their imagination - but at the end of the day they'd settle quite happily for egg and chips. If it was well done and maybe had a slice of tomato.”
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25. Board Game: Truth Be Told [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:9791]
Stephen Mould
United Kingdom
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South Yorkshire
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The Truth (2000)William de Worde is an estranged member of an aristocratic family, who makes a living as a scribe and writing a gossip newsletter for foreign clients. During the course of the book William accidental invents investigative journalism, foiling a plot against Lord Vetinari in the process.

In my head, this book forms a little trilogy with Going Postal and Making money, about public institutions and their value. I guess Raising steam might make it a quadrilogy, but I'm yet to read that one. The book also introduces the Vampire photographer Otto, who is turned to a pile of ash every time his flashbulb goes off. Makes me chuckle just thinking about it.

“Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.”
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