The 15th Discworld novel and the second in the City Watch theme after Guards! Guards!Within the week, Sam Vimes will marry Lady Sybil and retire from the Watch. At the same time, the Watch has been forced to take on three new constables from ethnic minorities - Cuddy the dwarf, Detritus the troll, and Angua the w- (oman)? Meanwhile, a penniless noble and retired assassin, Edward d'Eath, spots Corporal Carrot around the city and deduces that he is the true heir to Ankh-Morpork's vacant throne. After failing to convince other nobles that they should work to restore the kingdom, d'Eath achieves full marks at the postgraduate course at the Assassins' Guild and finds a reference to a certain banned weapon...Notable for setting up the Watch status quo that forms the setting for many future books.Preceded by Lords and Ladies, followed by Soul Music. Preceded in the Watch series by Guards! Guards!, followed by Feet of Clay.
Contains examples of:
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Big Fido is an obvious dog analogue of Adolf Hitler being a small nervous poodle who nonetheless rants about the Natural Superiority of the Canine Race and how all dogs are spiritually wolves (just as Hitler was short and dark but presented tall blond Aryans as being the superior German race).
Angua, who has run with wolf packs, is amazed at how off his idea of wolves is. It's basically just a collection of traits that humans don't want to acknowledge in themselves (and wolves lack altogether because they're not inventive enough to be cruel).
A possible variation on the concept is the Clown Museum, with hundreds of clown faces (each a registered creation of a specific clown) painted on eggs - what an odd, creepy thing, which just happens to exist in the real world.
Anti-Villain: d'Eath is probably the closest any Discworld villain comes to this, as his reasons for wanting to restore monarchy are based on a misguided and idealistic impression of that system, and he's used as a pawn by less well-intentioned characters. Plus, it turns out he's been dead most of the book.
Vimes (despite hating Assassins) admits that Dr. Cruces was probably a decent man before the Gonne took hold of his mind.
Automatic Crossbows: Frequently averted. On several occasions, the plot revolves around the fact that the crossbow has either just fired or will leave the wielder unarmed for a time if it is fired. What makes the gonne dangerous is that it lacks that disadvantage on top of being longer range and almost always lethal.
Breast Plate: Angua doesn't have one, and won't until someone takes one to the armourer and has him beat it out really well here and here.
Brick Joke: Probably one of the most extreme ever written. There's a brief aside near the beginning of the book where Vimes and Carrot look at the disused Post Office building and its sign reading "NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW NOR GLOM OF NIT..." (a parody of the motto on the US Postal Service building in New York). In its place, this seems to be just a typical joke about bad mediaeval spelling on the Discworld, but a full eleven years later, Terry Pratchett wrote Going Postal, in which it's revealed that the sign is spelled like that because several letters were stolen to make up the sign of a nearby hairdresser's called Hugos (no apostrophe).
That tiny little thing about "cohorts", as it was Moist von Lipwig who mentioned that he used to think it was a piece of armor, and would imagine people polishing them... like the Watch did near the end.
Detritus recruits two trolls named Flint and Moraine to the Watch. Could be the same two from Moving Pictures, though "Flint" changed his name a couple of times in that book.
Character Development: Compare Vimes and Carrot here to how they appear in Guards! Guards! Right from his first moments in the book, Carrot has significantly more depth than he did in his first appearance.
Possibly justified in that here, he is interacting with his fellow nobles, which allows him to come across as clever, and even kind of likable in how he treats Edward d'Eath. When interacting with commoners, on the other hand...
Another theory is that this Lord Rust is the father of Jingo's Lord Rust.
Early in the book, Carrot talks down about the undead—saying they're just not "our type of people," and they should go back to where they came from. This is a marked contrast with how open, tolerant, and understanding Carrot is of just about everyone in later books.
Chekhovs Gonne: The retirement present watch and how it runs accurately whereas the rest of the city's clocks are slightly ahead.
Coffin Contraband: Carrot gets rid of the gonne by putting it in Constable Cuddy's coffin, thereby also giving Cuddy's spirit a really mighty burial weapon.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: "Prickle, prickle, prickle." Also, it's mentioned that during the troll and dwarf riots, someone tipped over CMOT Dibler's cart and forced him to eat some of his own sausages.
Cool Chair: The "golden" throne of Ankh-Morpork. Subverted in that it's so rotten and woodwormy that it would immediately fall apart if sat on.
Cool Sword: Carrot's nameless blade, which is very specifically and completely non-magical. It's just "bloody efficient" at cutting things, which is more than most Discworld swords, the vast majority of which are magical and thus don't quite exist. In contrast, Carrot's blade is very definitely a sword; the platonic ideal of sword. You can't doubt its existence while you're looking at it.
Dumb Muscle: Detritus had previously appeared in Guards! Guards! and Moving Pictures, but it's here that we start to get particularly acquainted with him and his... difficulties. Poor thing can't even read, and knocks himself out trying to salute. Subverted in that when locked in a freezer, his silicon-based brain becomes a superconductor and he reaches near-godlike levels of intelligence.
Early-Installment Weirdness: Werewolves operate a little differently than in later books. Also, Carrot is more relatable here, having hangups about the undead (see Characterization Marches On) and having a few sections told from his point of view, whereas later books take care not to show his thoughts in order to promote ambiguity about what he's thinking.
Embarrassing Slide: A less filthy but recognizable - in the middle of Edward d'Eath's slides is an upside-down picture of a vase of delphiniums.
Another contains a Stealth Pun. He shows the "bust" of a past noblewoman, presumably meaning a statue of her head and shoulders, but the man who made the slides got confused. "More of her face, however, would have enabled us to be certain of the likeness..."
Entertainingly Wrong: The book pulls one of these on the reader (and Corporal Carrot). We're introduced to Angua, a new female recruit to the Night Watch, very much a Boy's Club. Both Vimes and Colon complain about her being the worst of the new recruits brought in to diversify the Watch, because she's "a w—" before being interrupted by an explosion. As it turns out, they're complaining about her being a werewolf.
Exact Words: Carrot gets some facts out of the head of the Fools' Guild with the implied threat of "If you do not tell us the truth, I shall have to carry out my orders." The order was to give up and leave.
Fantasy Gun Control: Analysed. Vimes muses that gonnes would change the world because, instead of simply storing the power of your own muscles like crossbows, they 'give you power from outside' - the comparison to magic is obvious, and just as wizards try to restrict the availability of magic, assassins hate the gonne as it would make killing so easy. So there are forces actively keeping gonnes from becoming available.
Five-Token Band: One male human who was raised (er, figuratively speaking) as a dwarf, one actual dwarf, one troll, one female werewolf, and one Nobby Nobbs (disqualified from the human race for shoving). Lampshaded, as the nonhumans were hired due to affirmative action. Vimes and Colon are the only normal people on the Watch, and that's using "normal" loosely.
Minor example from early in the book. Angua is incredulous at Carrot's claim to likes long walks. Later on we find that it probably wasn't because she's a w -oman but a w -erewolf.
Vimes sees a clockwork toy soldier early in the book and decides to disobey Vetinari's instruction to ignore the theft at the Assassins Guild: "What did Vetinari think he was? Some kind of clockwork soldier?". Later in the book, Vetinari tells Leonard that some people must be wound one way to make them go the other way, like winding up clockwork. This also comes up later, when Cuddy makes Detritus a special helmet to cool his brain, so he becomes more intelligent. The helmet is powered by clockwork, so Colon remarks; "So we've got a clockwork soldier, have we? We're a real model army."
Gaspode tells Angua that other dogs don't bother him because "I got the Power". When he is eventually forced to use it against Big Fido's minions, this turns out to be The Power of Speech, something Hidden in Plain Sight all along because we always knew Gaspode can speak like a human, but to dogs this is treated like a Compelling Voice.
"You'd have to be a fool to break into the Assassins' Guild." The person who broke in was dressed as a literal Fool.
From The Latin Intro Ducere: Carrot points out that, as a policeman — from polis, city — he is a man of the city. Later, Vetinari points out "politician" comes from the same root.
Gadgeteer Genius: Leonard, of course. The only place where his genius falls down is in coming up with names for his inventions. (Except mechanical flying machines, which appear to be the only things that have actually maintained his interest — possibly because he has never successfully built one.)
Gag Boobs: While being only realistically large for a sexy lady with an athletic lifestyle, and thus far smaller than the pair used for this trope, Angua's are the subject of a throwaway joke related to their size.
There is also a literal example of gag boobs in the form of the Fools' Guild main gate door-knocker, "shaped like a pair of artificial breasts, the kind that are highly amusing to rugby players and anyone whose sense of humour has been surgically removed."
Carrot too, see Don't Touch It, You Idiot! above. Though with Carrot, it was less Heroic Willpower, and just that the gonne didn't affect him at all. He is a good man through and through, so the gonne had no way to influence him. Whereas Vimes has hatred for wrongdoers that he constantly has to keep in check with rules and willpower and a literal watchman in his head who keeps the darkness in him from spilling out, as seen in Thud.
Hidden Depths: Detritus isn't nearly as stupid as he might appear, he's just not in the right environment and counts in twos instead of tens.
Because his silicon brain thinks in binary!
Hold Your Hippogriffs: "Is the High Priest an Offlian? Does a dragon explode in the woods?" is the Discworld version of "Is the Pope a Catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods?"
I'm Thinking It Over!: "Dwarfs are very attached to gold. Any highwayman demanding 'Your money or your life' had better bring a folding chair and packed lunch and a book to read while the debate goes on."
When he picks up the gonne, which had previously taken the minds of every person who touched it, and even those aware of its poisonous influence could not bring themselves to destroy such a perfect, unique weapon. Carrot crushes it against a wall, instantly and effortlessly.
"He really got burned on that deal." (One gets the impression Pterry just couldn't stop himself.)
Bjorn, the dwarf who believes in reincarnation. Meaning he'll be Bjorn-again. Made more hilarious the fact that the one making the comment is Death, and he's saying it to a race that generally doesn't understand figures of speech, puns, etc. And Death himself, generally completely unable to get even the simplest of humor and wordplay, is immensely proud of having come up with "Bjorn-again" all by himself.
On Vimes's retirement gift: "A Watch from, your Old Freinds in the Watch" (sic)
After Cuddy explains about Detritus' brain-cooling helmet-mounted fan to Colon: "Oh, so now we've got a clockwork soldier? We're a real model army, we are". (Also a reference to Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, and Vimes' ancestor Old Stoneface is a Captain Ersatz of Cromwell).
Inner Monologue: Parodied. After Carrot chases a wolf out of his bedroom, his inner voice chews him out for driving away the one he loves. No, wait, it's Gaspode.
Just Between You and Me: Analysed when Vimes muses that if you're held at crossbow-point, hope like hell that your captor is an evil man - because he'll talk, and gloat, and you have time to think of an escape. But a good man will kill you with barely a word... which, indeed, Carrot does to Cruces at the end.
Locked in a Freezer: Cuddy and Detritus, literally. This just results in Cuddy's learning about a) Detritus's Genius Bruiser status when it's cold and b) what it's like to be thrown through a window.
Interestingly, Detritus mentions he had worked in the Pork Futures Warehouse previously, but was fired for being too stupid.
Loss of Identity: The clowns at the Fools' Guild consider a clown's distinctive and unique makeup, his 'face', to define his identity. None of them would ever think to copy another's face, thinking it a taboo. This means they are easily fooled when d'Eath kills Beano and copies his makeup, stealing his identity.
Madness Mantra: (In an inner monologue form) "It was like being a god".
Magnetic Hero: Very subtly played out with Carrot, and part of what attracts Angua to him.
It also gets Deconstructed a bit too, in that Carrot doesn't really like the idea of people following his lead simply because it's him.
Medieval Stasis: Like Moving Pictures and Soul Music, the book involves an invention threatening to break the Disc's stasis, but the Reset Button is pressed at the end. Arguably Soul Music is the last time in the series that this trope is played straight, with later inventions like semaphore lines (the Clacks), the printing press, postage stamps and (presumably) paper money sticking around.
The actual gonne even remains, despite Reset Button, in the form of the "spring-gonne" crossbow.
Metaphorgotten: Parodied with Captain Quirke, whose nickname is 'Mayonnaise'.
Angua: Don't tell me. He's rich, thick and oily, right?
Colon: And smells faintly of eggs.
Mister Muffykins: Big Fido may have been one... once. He's something altogether different now. Completely batshit, for one.
Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Cruces head of the Assassin's Guild and user of the gonne and the terrifying head of the Fools' Guild, Dr. Whiteface.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Uncharacteristically, Vetinari's attempt to manipulate Vimes into solving the murders backfires to a nearly catastrophic degree as he actually drives Vimes over the edge into genuine retirement.
No Badge? No Problem!: In the absence of Captain Vimes, Lance-Constable Carrot Ironfoundersson assumes command not only of the night watch, but also the whole City Watch and an increasingly large and well-armed Citizens' Militia. He does this by force of personality and the (unspoken) fact that he is the heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork. Effectively he is assuming a police rank he has no official title to, but he is only called out twice: once when Sergeant Fred Colon attempts to re-assert his superior rank (but Fred bows to the inevitable and ends up calling Carrot "sir" and taking his orders). A second attempt is made by the soon-to-be-disgraced Captain Quirke, but Carrot deals directly with this. The next morning, even Lord Vetinari is certain Carrot is out to usurp his rank too...
You expect gratitude? He would have made another gonne.
Noodle Incident: In one of the other universes, "Corporal Carrot became Sergeant Carrot and, in the fullness of time, died in uniform aged seventy in an unlikely accident involving an anteater." And a localised hurricane painted the Watch-House pastel (as well as fixing a window and doing some other odd jobs around the place).
A few pages later, a minor character is said to have died when an armadillo fell on his head, so perhaps a similar incident happened to Carrot in the other timeline.
Vetinari seems to be considerably off his game throughout this story. Whether he actually is or not is never directly specified, though tantalising inferences can be made by reading Feet of Clay.
Not What It Looks Like: Angua mistakes Vimes's list of women, girls, and prices for a list of prostitutes and is disgusted by it. Then she learns he's giving away half his pay to widows and orphans of the Watch.
Angua: Annabel Curry couldn't have been much good, for only two dollars.
Off The Wagon: Still early in his resolution to become teetotaler (made at Sybil's insistence), poor Vimes falls prey to temptation in the face of his impending retirement.
Oh Crap: When Detritus recovers from his Heroic BSOD, he gets up and proceeds to the Assassin's Guild with bloody murder in mind. It is then we learn that some of the best trained killers in Anhk-Morpork have absolutely no way of dealing with a Troll... and they learn it too. Specifically, they have no way to fight a troll head-on. An assassin in Soul Music was confident he could kill a troll by surprise if he hit the right spot in the back of its neck. (In a display of possible continuity, Soul Music happens after the events of Men at Arms, when the assassins probably figured out the back-of-the-neck thing because the Detritus made them realise how helpless they were against Trolls.)
When Colon orders two other Trolls to try and stop Detritus, they request time off to go to their grandmother's funerals. As one put it, "It her or me sir."
Then there's Vetinari when he realises he's miscalculated his pushing of Vimes' buttons (previously in the book, Vimes always punches the wall outside Vetinari's office in anger after leaving).
Only a Flesh Wound: Lord Vetinari attempts to invoke this trope when he is shot in the leg. He fails. (Evidence that the gonne really was a Game Breaker, as Vetinari was never wounded or incapacitated before.)
'There's no need,' said Vetinari, trying to smile and stand up. 'It's just a flesh-'
Pretend Prejudice: Vimes is a self-described speciesist, but with the caveat that he isn't too crazy about humans, either. But when he hears an Upper-Class Twit go on about how terrible trolls and dwarfs are (despite never meeting one of either in his life), Vimes makes a series of outrageously prejudiced and contradictory comments to make the nodding nobles look like idiots.
Meta example: The reader is led to believe that Vimes objects to Angua joining the watch because she's a woman. It's really because she's a werewolf.
Prophecy Twist: Nobby and Colon are discussing Royal Blood prophecies such as the king being able to pull a sword from a stone. Colon argues that being able to shove a sword into a stone is a more impressive feat. Then at the end, Carrot stabs his sword through Cruces, who has his back to a stone pillar, and when he withdraws it there's a perfect rectangular slot all the way through.
Pun-Based Title: "Men-at-arms" is a real phrase for soldiers or guards, but "arms" can also refer to weapons. So we have "men at arms" who are also men (though Angua would object) "at" (against) "arms" (the Gonne.)
Punch a Wall: Something Vimes usually does, which becomes a warning when he doesn't do it.
Resist The Beast: Vimes does this when the Gonne tries to take control of him. It will become a running theme for his character in later books.
Rhetorical Question Blunder: Dr. Cruces asks Vimes what makes him think he can come in like he owns the place. Vimes's reply is to produce the document that shows that in fact he does own the place.
A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: When the clowns ask Colon to search for their late compatriot's real nose, despite the fact he had one, Vimes, reading the report, reflects that "the whole nose business looked like a conundrum wrapped up in an enigma, or at least in Sergeant Colon's handwriting, which was pretty much the same thing".
Room Full of Crazy: When Detritus is locked in the freezer, he starts working out maths problems. He gets all the way through calculus and out the other side, and was probably up to a Unified Theory of Everything when they got him out and the warmth erased all his work, which he promptly forgot.
Science Marches On: Big Fido's "all dogs are wolves" spiel, and the other dogs' reactions to it, become particularly Hilarious in Hindsight because right about the time the book came out, dogs were reclassified from the separate species canis familiaris to the subspecies canislupusfamiliaris, making every dog a wolf. Yes, even a poodle.
Shout-Out: The Patrician sits in a plain chair at the foot of the steps leading up to the ancient golden throne of Ankh-Morpork, taken from the Steward's seat in The Lord of the Rings. However, at the end Carrot learns that the throne is actually just gold foil over wood, the real gold having been stripped and sold long before. As usual on Discworld, it's belief that's important.
The showdown between Vimes, Cruces and Carrot is an homage to the end of For a Few Dollars More. Vimes' watch even plays the same tune as El Indio's music box.
This should be noted, that with nothing but a few italicized bings Pterry managed to accurately reproduce musical sound in text.
Simple Yet Opulent: Sybil's lifestyle is discussed this way, as well as why expensive boot last so long compared to cheap ones (although Vimes prefers the latter).
Smash Cut: Narrative version — it cuts straight from Nobby finding the on switch for the Klatchian fire engine to "They put out the flames eventually".
Smug Snake: Captain Quirke of the Day Watch. Don't worry, he gets a hilarious comeuppance.
Something Only They Would Say: In this case, Something Only They Would Do. Vetinari realises he's gone too far when he tries to invoke the Turn in Your Badge trope, when he notices that Vimes didn't punch the wall after he left. (Which is what he usually does when he's angry and determined.)
Standing Between The Enemies: Carrot had a truly epic example when he successfully shamed two armies of trolls and dwarves. They were ready to rip each other apart until he came and basically told them to stop it or he'll arrest the lot of them. When it works, the other Watch members are astounded and a little alarmed.
Still The Leader: Vimes, although Carrot gets a lot more respect than he really wants.