REVIEW: The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

REVIEW: The Fifth Elephant by Terry PratchettThe Fifth Elephant (Discworld #24) by Terry Pratchett
Published: HarperTorch (1999), Paperback, 370pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction

Everyone knows that the world is flat, and supported on the backs of four elephants. But weren't there supposed to be five? Indeed there were. So where is it?...

When duty calls. Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork constabulary answers. Even when he doesn't want to. He's been "invited" to attend a royal function as both detective and diplomat. The one role he relishes; the other requires, well, ruby tights. Of course where cops (even those clad in tights) go, alas, crime follows. An attempted assassination and a theft soon lead to a desperate chase from the low halls of Discworld royalty to the legendary fat mines of Uberwald, where lard is found in underground seams along with tusks and teeth and other precious ivory artifacts. It's up to the dauntless Vimes -- bothered as usual by a familiar cast of Discworld inhabitants (you know, trolls, dwarfs, werewolves, vampires and such) -- to solve the puzzle of the missing pachyderm. Which of course he does. After all, solving mysteries is his job. (from Goodreads)

First off: this is not a story about an elephant. Instead, it’s about what an elephant left behind as it hurled into the Discworld– namely: deposits under the earth. It’s also a murder mystery, like all the other Night Watch books! Also like in all the Night Watch books, there’s things about what makes a person a person, what it means to be an immigrant and adapt to your new home’s culture, whether that new home town culture should be allowed to impose its values on other cultures, and lots of other great stuff like that.

Here’s what I liked: There are dwarves! There are vampires and werewolves! There are aristocrats and politics and nice things with Vimes and his officers. The mystery part was very good, too! I had no idea what was going in, in a good way.

My FAVORITE part was when one of the Uberwald aristocrats asks Vimes if civilization = how Ankh-Morpork does things. Because it’s true! Just because a city is powerful and thinks it knows best, doesn’t mean that any other city needs to go the same way. 1

The only thing I didn’t like comes from having most of the story take place outside of Ankh-Morpork. Vimes and his officers do best when they’re in their home town (or what they’ve made their home town) and any time they go outside of it, things get weird.

Anyway, this is a solid entry in the Discworld series and I definitely recommend it if you like mysteries and fantasies and books about what makes a person a person. But I’d probably read it after reading the earlier Night Watch books, as it has characters and situations that build directly off of Guards! Guards! and Jingo.

Read: March 8-10, 2014


  1. This question continues its answer in another Discworld (with hints of Night Watch) book, Monstrous Regiment.

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