Commander Vimes arrives as Ankh-Morpork's ambassador but he soon finds he's an escaped prisoner--out in the icy woods, wearing only the gloomy trousers of Uncle Vanya and being chased by a pack of fascist werewolves who don't play by the rules.
Pratchett is always at his best when the comedy is combined with a real sense of jeopardy that even favorite characters might be hurt if there was a good joke in it. As always, the most unlikely things crop up as the subjects of gags--Chekhov, grand opera, the Caine Mutiny--and as always there are remorselessly funny gags about the inevitability of story:
They say that the fifth elephant came screaming and trumpeting through the atmosphere of the young world all those years ago and landed hard enough to split continents and raise mountains.
No one actually saw it land, which raised the interesting philosophical question: when millions of tons of angry elephant come spinning through the sky, and there is no one to hear it, does it--philosophically speaking--make a noise?
As for the dwarfs, whose legend it is, and who mine a lot deeper than other people, they say that there is a grain of truth in it.
All this, the usual guest appearances, and Gaspode the Wonder Dog. --Roz Kaveney, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
In particular, the much-reviled police captain Vimes and the much-honored Duke Vimes move forward. I mean, like a glacier moves forward. Not the fastest one around, I won't even warn you to get out of his way. Glacier-like, it wouldn't matter. Go ahead, get in his way - he might even notice. Probably not.
This time, in his ducal capacity, he has been appointed to an ambassadorship by Lord Vetinari. Vetinari is not a bad man (by local standards, at least) and doesn't do bad things (again, by local standards). Pray that you're nowhere near when he attempts something good. It might be like lighting a candle in the darkness, with you as the match.
Or it might be like lighting the fuze on the powder-keg. Vimes isn't much the candle type. Around him are many people. There's his finishing-school wife who can finish off dwarves and lots of others, six against one, in unarmed debate. There's Officer Angua of the city watch. A very capable woman but watch out for her "monthlies". You know, new moon, howling over the heath, and and all that were-sort-of-thing. Then ... well, Angua is the predictable one. There are lots of others who aren't.
This is a long-running series with lots of character development in previous volumes. Pratchett is uncommonly well tuned to the newcomer, though. Even if the writer knows the two-dozen stories before this one (and a dozen-squared he never wrote), this story still stands well on its own. The newcomer may as well start here as anywhere. The tone is a bit more serious and less haha than most of the Discworld series, but it fits well.