Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch admits he may not be the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer -- he might not even be a spoon. But he's dogged and honest and he'll be damned if he lets anyone disturb his city's always-tentative peace -- and that includes a rabble-rousing dwarf from the sticks (or deep beneath them) who's been stirring up big trouble on the eve of the anniversary of one of Discworld's most infamous historical events.
Centuries earlier, in a gods-forsaken hellhole called Koom Valley, a horde of trolls met a division of dwarfs in bloody combat. Though nobody's quite sure why they fought or who actually won, hundreds of years on each species still bears the cultural scars, and one views the other with simmering animosity and distrust. Lately, an influential dwarf, Grag Hamcrusher, has been fomenting unrest among Ankh-Morpork's more diminutive citizens with incendiary speeches. And it doesn't help matters when the pint-size provocateur is discovered beaten to death ... with a troll club lying conveniently nearby. Vimes knows the well-being of his smoldering city depends on his ability to solve the Hamcrusher homicide without delay. (Vimes's secondmost-pressing responsibility, in fact, next to being home every evening at six sharp to read Where's My Cow? to Young Sam.) Whatever it takes to unstick this very sticky situation, Vimes will do it -- even tolerate having a vampire in the Watch. But there's more than one corpse waiting for him in the eerie, summoning darkness of the vast, labyrinthine mine network the dwarfs have been excavating in secret beneath Ankh-Morpork's streets. A deadly puzzle is pulling Sam Vimes deep into the muck and mire of superstition, hatred, and fear -- and perhaps all the way to Koom Valley itself. (from Goodreads)
Thud is basically chess, only played with trolls and dwarves instead of knights and queens and whatever. It’s a totally cliched thing, even in the context of the story which has got political maneuvers and whatever up the wazoo. But it still works as a story device, and it doesn’t overwhelm the greatness that is the characters.
In all the Night Watch books, the characters start off as one thing and slowly evolve into something else. Usually that something is greater than what they once were, as their experiences allow them to scrape off the muck and let their inner light shine. Vimes is actually one of the characters who doesn’t change all that much. (Captain Carrot is the other one.) His core basics are the same throughout the entire series, he just gets more chances to show off how amazing those basics are.
The other characters, though, do go through lots of changes. Mostly through interacting with people they’d previously held in contempt! (Example: troll officers working with dwarf officers.) And also through being in Ankh-Morpork, which tends to change people no matter what they want. Thud! has lots of things about “blending in” while also maintaining one’s history, and how much that history should dictate how you do things in the present. Both the dwarves and the trolls get some new backstory/insight into their species history revealed in Thud!, which makes for some very good reading.
It also kind of makes everything tense and exciting and fast-paced! Plus the mystery is excellent; it’s a murder mystery! Though the focus does seem to be mostly on the political/social tensions between the trolls and dwarves, there’s still plenty of room for development of the mystery, too.
My favorite part is, uh, everything? Honestly, I could read and reread the entire Night Watch subseries every month and be entirely happy.
Read: August 26-27, 2013