Most helpful critical review
Didn't entrance me
on November 20, 2002
2 stars only as compared to the rest of Pratchett's novels. As a general book, I'd give it at least 3.5.
This book had something missing. Some of it was amusing, secondary characters such as Otto the recovering vampire were funny and we got to see cameos by Watch members and some of the Wizards, but it left me feeling pretty flat. This was made all the more noticeable by the fact that I read this directly after the Fifth Elephant, which has to be my favorite Discworld book.
Of course, this is purely a subjective review. To make it clearer where I am coming from on this: I like Pratchett's later books much better than his earlier ones, and as for his cast of characters, I love the ones in the Watch books and find myself bored by those in the Witches' books.
Some of the problems with the book were:
1. The villains. Neither scary nor original nor amusing. And the "-ing" got VERY tiresome after a while.
2. The plot: there are two many missing holes in the story, giving you the feeling that you've skipped something.
3. Most important: the lack of truly interesting characters. The reason I like the Watch books the best is because the characters in those books fascinate me. When I read a book, even a funny one, I want to care if a (semi)-main character will be in danger, even if it's only out of curiousity as to what facets of his/her personality I might have not yet discovered or in worry of losing comic relief. Well, Otto was welcome to dine on the whole staff of the newspaper as far as I was concerned.
Sacarissa and William were were flat characters. They did not amuse me, they did not intrigue me, and they certainly did not inspire me with a deep affection for them. The problem was made all the stronger because there were cameos by the characters I certainly wanted to read about (e.g. Vimes. Carrot, Angua, the Patrician, Nobby and Colon, and even Bursar and ArchChancellor), and yet the whole book was about those two boring, bland and (in William's case) even grating characters. I kept wanting to switch into the Watch House to see how the investigation was going, or go to the Unseen University, or even to hang out more with Gaspode under the bridge.
4. William: a big problem. I think this was a love it or hate it character, and I found that he intensely annoyed me. Maybe because a journalist as champion of truth, or milquetoast makes good, or sensitive boy frees himself from a tyrannical father are all such cliches (and are taken seriously in this book), or maybe it was his overall personality which failed to interest me even once over 300 pages, or his lack of charisma. I don't know what it was, but when Vimes had him temporarily locked-up, I wanted him to stay there.
I like Pratchett's later books better because all along with great humor they have well developed plots, intriguing characters, and even some serious issues. This book does not score high for any of those.