Terry Pratchett,
Carpe Jugulum
(Doubleday, 1998; Corgi/HarperPrism, 1999)

Vampires and witches and Terry Pratchett are a wonderful mix!

As in most Discworld novels, the plot isn't really the point; it sets the stage for the interactions of the characters. Carpe Jugulum (or "seize the throat") is exactly what the vampires -- or, rather, vampyres: as Vlad says, it's more modern -- here intend to do, and to as many of Lancre's inhabitants as possible. It's up to Lancre's witches to save their homeland from the vampyres, who have developed new techniques to overcome many traditional vampyric weaknesses and who have decided to take over Lancre and turn it to their purposes.

Meanwhile, the witches are having problems of their own. Granny Weatherwax is mysteriously absent although expected, and when Nanny Ogg figures out why, she doesn't much care for the answer. Queen Magrat has had a baby, and Agnes is (still) having problems with Perdita, although these problems prove to have their benefits.

And just how many phoenixes are there, anyway?

Add an evangelical but confused priest, pixies (or pictsies) who steal cattle, and a traditionalist Igor who doesn't hold with the New Vampyre....

It's a wild ride, and we get to learn more about Lancre, Nanny's family, the nature of witchcraft on the Disc, and in what ways belief does -- and doesn't -- affect reality (or whatever passes for it in Discworld!). And we get to laugh a lot! One good bit refers to the rebel adolescent vampires, who defy vampyric convention by renaming themselves "Wendy" and "Tim," filing their fangs down, and sometimes even drinking port, to their parents' horror.

The plot and subplots in Carpe Jugulum all relate to the power of belief and how it affects the world. Can the vampyres truly acclimate to garlic, holy symbols and sunlight by believing themselves immune? Must a coven -- or a loose affiliation of witches -- have a fixed form with specific roles? Must it be so fixed if the witches believe it necessary? But this all seems so serious, and I promise that deep metaphysical issues won't be on your mind until after you've read the last page.

Pratchett adds intricacy to the Discworld with every book, focusing on the characters and their interactions with each other and their worlds. New possibilities arise with every volume. So while it's not necessary to have read the other Discworld books to appreciate this one, it's probably most enjoyable if one is somewhat familiar with the witches from reading Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies or Maskerade.

In my opinion this isn't one of the very best Discworld novels, but it's a great read nonetheless. I wonder if Pratchett will be exploring Uberwald, the home of the Disc's vampires, werewolves and the like, in future volumes. In any case, I look forward to the next one!

[ by Amanda Fisher ]

Buy Carpe Jugulum from Amazon.com.