Before we go any further, I’d like to state the obvious: this book is not urban fantasy. It’s set in another realm, so it’s traditional fantasy. But. One of the things Pratchett does really, really well is strong heroines, so I felt this book worthy of mentioning here for anyone who likes strong heroines, great comedy, fantasy, and some very well-played social commentary. [Though not labeled a YA, I would recommend this book to teens.]
Discworld series, book 31
Corgi Books, 2003
This is the story of Polly, a teenager wise beyond her years, who joins up with the army to find her missing-in-action brother. But in Borgravia women are not permitted to join the army, so she chops off her hair and disguises herself as a young man. The army, having used up the country’s supply of men, greedily accepts her into the Ins-and-Outs Regiment, and Polly finds herself alongside a vampire with a lust for coffee, an Igor with a lisp and the ability to sew body parts back together, a large troll, and a lad who hears the Duchess (the ‘sort of’ deity of this land), and a few other reluctant young men.
More behind the cut.
Polly is the perfect character to tell this story. I loved how she put to use all the skills she’d learned working in the family inn & tavern. She’s also compassionate and caring, and throughout the story I came to know and care about the other characters as she did.
The thing Pratchett does well besides the comedy– and there are many, many laugh-out-loud moments in Monstrous Regiment– is the meaningful but veiled social themes. Pratchett does not preach. I didn’t even notice the themes until I reached the end of the book, realized it was a satisfying read, and tried to analyze what I loved about it. It was that entertaining.
The other thing Pratchett does very well is delivering a satisfying ending without a pat solution for every problem. In fact, most problems have no solution, and yet the ending is satisfying anyway.
This book is not for anyone who hates military stories, as this is most certainly a military story. But it’s also so much more, as Pratchett also tackles religion, propaganda, and bureaucracy.
Rating: A ~ I will certainly be reading it again.