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Literature / Night Watch (Discworld)

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A Discworld tale of intrigue, rebels, street urchins, assassins, torturers and time monks. May or may not have anything related to this picture.

"He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew... Then it was too high. History finds a way? Well, it would have to come up with something good, because it was up against Sam Vimes now."

The 27th Discworld novel and the sixth in the Watch theme. The framing events take place at the same time (such as it is) as the previous novel Thief of Time and also set up events for the following novel Monstrous Regiment. The Watch is on the hunt for a serial killer named Carcer, who has murdered Sergeant Stronginthearm. Vimes has him trapped on the University Library's roof, but when a lightning boltnote  strikes, it causes a freak magical incident that catapults Vimes and Carcer thirty years back in time. Vimes soon inadvertently steps into the shoes of his old mentor, John Keelnote  and lands himself right in the middle of the Ankh-Morpork civil war. Now he has to stop Carcer, fill his mentor's role in his younger self's life, and protect the citizens of Ankh-Morpork and his fellow Watchmen from the impending war. Except that if he succeeds, he will no longer be able to return to his timeline. Basically Life On Mars meets Les Misérables.

This novel is hailed by both fans and critics as one of the best installments of the series despite, or maybe because of, its much darker than usual tone, with fewer obvious jokes (though there's still plenty) and a more serious story than previous installments.

A five-part BBC radio adaptation, starring Philip Jackson (best known as Chief Inspector Japp from TV's Poirot) as Sam Vimes and Carl Prekopp as Young Sam, was first broadcast in 2008.

Should not be confused with the Night Watch series of books by Sergei Lukyanenko, or its film adaptation, or the Night's Watch. The front cover art by Paul Kidby is an homage to Rembrandt's famous 1642 painting The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq, also commonly referred to as The Night Watch, a reproduction of which adorns the back cover in the Hardcover edition. This is the first cover by Kidby who took over the role of cover artist after the death of Josh Kirby.

Preceded by Thief of Time, followed by Monstrous Regiment. Preceded in the Watch series by The Fifth Elephant, followed by Thud!.

Night Watch provides examples of:

  • 2 + Torture = 5: Captain Findthee Swing uses craniometrics to determine whether someone was a criminal or not. And funnily enough, after a short stay in the care of his much more direct underlings and their pointed questions, he would inevitably be proven right when the criminal confesses to all the charges they're accused of.
  • Accomplice by Inaction: When one of the old Night Watch asks what they ever did to make the citizens hate them so much, Vimes says "nothing." As in, the Watch doing nothing to stop the gangs and the Unmentionables is what hurt people.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: Winder's food taster is said to have eaten so much poison that he's proof against almost anything and can turn silver black by breathing on it. He's taken to eating toads just to stay in practice and talking about poisons like mild seasoning.
  • Admiring the Abomination: This is implied to be why Captain Swing recruits the murderous sociopath Carcer Dunn, with Vimes bitterly snarking at him on the reveal that he's a member of the Particulars: "Well done, Carcer. You're just what Swing has been looking for: the Complete Bastard."
  • A Father to His Men: While Vimes very much is (and he's implied to have learned it from the real Keel) he's noted to avoid describing the Watch as a big happy family - as these are men who have seen enough real families in domestic disputes to treat speeches like this with total contempt.
  • Almighty Janitor:
    • Discussed twice. When young Vetinari expresses disbelief that a man as clever as John Keel/Vimes is a mere sergeant, Madam points out that it's the perfect rank, giving him the right balance of authority and responsibility. The narration then notes this a second time during the actual revolution; the military simply would not work were it not for the few intelligent people in unglamorous yet vital positions.
    • Lu-Tze himself is also a good example (being quite literally a sweeper), not having an official position with the History Monks but being possibly the best one and as such the perfect person to take care of those jobs that need to be done but can't be done officially because of politics.
  • Annoying Arrows: Justified; they didn't bother Reg much because he was practically born to be a zombie. They did kill him, though they didn't keep him down for long.
  • The Apprentice:
    • Young Sam Vimes learning from his older self.
    • Jocasta Wiggs realising, at her mentor's devising, there's a long way to go before she's good enough to graduate as an Assassin.
  • Arc Words: "Just do the job in front of you." and its variations.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Truth! Freedom! Justice! Reasonably priced love! And a hardboiled egg. Because Vimes won't be finding truth, freedom nor justice by the next morning, but he might just be able to eat a hardboiled egg. He doesn't.
  • The Artful Dodger: Young Nobby.
  • Assassin Outclassin':
    • An assassin sent after "Keel" comes clattering down in front of a tense crowd, having been struck by an unidentified assailant (young Vetinari).
    • Winder's paranoia means that after eleven years the Assassins Guild have had no luck getting to him, which he's naturally proud of.
      • Subverted in the most anticlimactic way the Discworld could muster. Winder is so paranoid that when an assassin, (young Vetinari, again) walks up to him in a crowded room, in full plain sight, he has a heart attack before Havelock can even draw his blade. Vetinari realizes this, sheathes it, and merely ... pushes Winder over.
    • Vimes' house and paranoia has made it practically impossible for Assassins-in-training to get to him, being littered with Fake Out Death Traps.
  • Asshole Victim: Lord Winder brings his own death upon him by being too venal and corrupt even for Ankh-Morpork, and just a generally unpleasant git all around. Madam assures herself moments before Havelock does him in that this helps assuage any feelings about getting rid of him, and once he's gone his removal and Snapcase's investiture happen with surprising speed. Speaking from a historical perspective, Vimes figures everyone felt this way about him, which was why the cause of his death was never investigated terribly hard.
  • Ass Shove: Vimes does this... to a couple of oxen. With ginger. The ensuing carnage alters the course of history.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: Parodied; it's the reason Nobby isn't sent out to inform the family when a Watchman is killed - just once is far too much of the "bet-you-a-dollar-you're-the-widow-Jackson" nonsense.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: After the explanation of the tradition of the Bean King (to whit: in Ancient Times a man was chosen as king by a bean hidden in a meal, and once things started going poorly the druids who chose him got out the knives and chose a new king), the narration states that these days, things are done differently... no-one has to eat beans.
  • Banana in the Tailpipe: Well, cars don’t exist on Discworld, but you can create quite a bit of havoc with oxen and a handful of fresh ginger... which combines with a Brick Joke and Truth in Television. A jade is a worn out, tired horse. To sell it, you make it look more youthful and lively. To do that, you fleague it. What you do is shove a bit of ginger in its keister, which makes it a little antsy. If you've ever heard the saying "gingering things up" i.e. make them go a bit faster, you have the rough idea already.
    • Apparently after seeing Beverly Hills Cop, Terry Pratchett was wanting to make a reference to this trope in a Watch book. He finally does it here.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill:
    • Vimes pulls this well enough to make Moist von Lipwig weep. First he talks himself into becoming Sergeant-at-Arms to his superior. Who has him currently arrested. Then later, using this and a combination of Obstructive Bureaucrat and Obfuscating Stupidity, he manages to get one up on Unmentionables.
    • Also how he feagues up Big Mary.
    • Carcer also makes his way up the ranks this way, first becoming a Sergeant in the Particulars, he then frightens the army into following his command, before becoming Snapcase's Captain of the Guard.
  • "Begone" Bribe: Young Nobby follows people around until they pay him not to.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Although he doesn't exactly say it out loud, at the beginning of the book Vimes longs for the old days when things were simpler and he actually did real copper work. Then he gets transported back to really old days.
  • Beneath Notice: Just to give an idea as to how good Lu-Tze is at this, after a young Rosie Palm pulls a Sherlock Scan on Vimes, she's shown to not give a rat's arse about the strange little monk who knew who she was looking for and where he went, because he's just some sweeper. Even Vimes, one of nature's suspicious bastards, has to take a moment to connect the dots.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Normally amiable Fred Colon's reaction to young Corporal Ping asking why they were wearing sprigs of lilac (and whether Ping should be wearing one) seems quite disproportionate, as it seems like a fair question on the face of it. However, when at the climax it's revealed that the lilac was used by those who were there at the end as an impromptu plume, in a fight where many watchmen were killed, it becomes a lot more understandable.
    • Vimes' rant to Vetinari when the Patrician wants to put up a monument to the dead watchmen makes it clear that this is a sore spot for him.
  • Bitter Almonds: Cyanide is mentioned by Winder's poisons tester. Having an Acquired Poison Immunity, it doesn't affect him, of course.
  • Bizarre Beverage Use: Played for Drama when a character realizes why a Torture Technician would use bottles of ginger beer.note 
  • Blofeld Ploy: A non-lethal instance in the first confrontation between Vimes and Carcer after Carcer becomes an officer in the Particulars. Carcer and his men have Vimes outnumbered six to one, and are clearly prepared to give Vimes a pounding. While Carcer and Vimes have a mock-polite conversation, Carcer slowly and obviously pulls out a set of brass knuckles, puts them on — and then turns around and hits one of his own underlings for being insufficiently respectful of his rank (i.e. calling him "sarge" instead of "Sergeant"), then immediately puts the brass knuckles away again.
  • Book Burning: A young Downey does this to the book Vetinari’s reading, because he thinks it's clever. Vetinari later confides that he's glad. He was worried Downey would've tried reading it.
  • Boring, but Practical: The People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road doesn't contain any grand civic buildings, temples, banks, or other showy symbolic places that revolutionaries usually, it just has unimportant things like the gates by which food comes into the city, grain silos, warehouses and food markets.
  • Bothering by the Book:
    • The oath for joining the Watch. "... uphold the Laws and Ordinances of the city of Ankh-Morpork comma serve the public trust comma and defend the subjects of His stroke Her bracket delete whichever is inappropriate bracket Majesty bracket name of reigning monarch bracket..." Nothing in there about obeying orders. It also doesn't say anything about serving or defending the ruler (King, Queen, or otherwise). Just the public.
    • Vimes also pulls an Obstructive Bureaucrat on Unmentionables with paperwork to sign when he has to hand over curfew breakers to them. The Unmentionables are expectantly uncooperative and Vimes gets them off the hook.
    • Also, one of the reactions of the coppers to Vimes insisting they do things by the book. They get very precise. "Obeying Orders To The Letter, With Gleeful Malignancy."
  • Break the Cutie
  • Briar Patching: When Captain Swing tries to get Vimes transferred into the Unmentionables, Vimes mentions to his current Captain - one R. Rust - that he's looking forward to it, counting on him to block the transfer out of spite.
  • Brick Joke:
    • A very quick one, when Vetinari and his aunt Meserole meet. Vetinari notes that her cat farts. At the end of the conversation, she asks him if he can crank open a window.
    • The briefly-mentioned trick of "fleaguing a jade" (see Banana in the Tailpipe) is used during the revolution to take out the oxen pulling the anti-barricade siege engine.
  • Bring My Brown Pants:
    • Vimes and his men soften up Ferret by making him listen to his friends undergoing 'questioning' in the next room. They know it's working when a trickle of yellow liquid appears in the rooms' shared guttering.
    • Vimes fondly recalls a time when he was on patrol and stood so unobtrusively that a thief fleeing some other guards hid in the same patch of shadow and leaned on Vimes while catching his breath. His reaction when Vimes suddenly made his presence known was to do "in his trousers what his dear mother, some forty years before, had very patiently taught him not to do."
  • Broken Record: After Snapcase sends Carcer to murder Keel and his men, Dickens can only repeat "there was an amnesty" over and over, first in confusion and horror, and then in outrage.
  • Call-Back: Shortly after his arrival in the past, Vimes thinks of something Visit once quoted "here and now, we are alive", which is used to introduce this book's arc words, "do the job in front of you."
  • Call-Forward
    Dibbler: It's called victory stew, Sergeant. Tuppence a bowl, or I'll cut my own throat, eh?
    Vimes: Close enough.
    • More cynically, the new would-be ruler Snapcase is spoken of with praise by some characters... both Vimes and the readers know that he will become Mad Lord Snapcase and be hung up by his figgin.
    • Another particularly ironic one happens when Vetinari arrives to assassinate Lord Winder. Winder asks the assassin who he is, and Vetinari answers poetically "Think of me as... your future." While he presumably didn't intend it at the time, Vetinari would become Patrician after the death of Winder's replacement, Lord Snapcase.
    • Related to Vetinari, he makes a polite enquiry about the Assassin Guild doorman's son, a precursor to how in the future he makes a point of knowing about the guild heads' families.
    • Madame Meserole makes a point of getting "Keel" angry to see where he goes, just as her nephew will.
  • Can't Take Anything with You: When going forward in time, because there isn't a huge mystical lightning storm powering the journey like there was on the way back, Vimes can't take anything that wasn't among the clothes and personal items he brought back with him. And because he's changed into different clothes, those are left behind and he arrives naked.
  • Captain Obvious: Imposed on Lords Selachii and Venturi, who due to their history have to avoid any topic that they might possibly disagree on. Leading to conversational topics like "I see you are standing up."
  • Cerebus Retcon: We first met Reg Shoe in Reaper Man, already dead and working as a comically over-enthusiastic zombie activist, with no mention of how he actually died. In this book, we find out. We also see why the watch was willing to hire him. They know he has what it takes when it really counts.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Remember when Vimes was bullied by the Patrician Guards, scared of the "Shades" and was reluctant to enter the Broken Drum to save one of his comrades? Neither can we.
    • The ending of Night Watch even justifies the Vimes from early Guards! Guards! After waking up to find his mentor and six other Watchmen dead on the Patrician's orders, Vimes spent about three decades having the potential to be the badass we know and love but not being able to do anything for fear of another attack on the Night Watch. That or his lack of confidence in the Law meant that the bottle was the only thing keeping the Beast at bay.
    • Lampshaded when Vimes wonders "Was I ever this young?" and ruefully recalls that he'll spend the next thirty years and half-dozen books becoming himself.
    "Thirty damn years of being hammered on the anvil of life, you poor bastard. You've got it all to come."
  • Cheated Death, Died Anyway: In the original timeline all seven of Vimes' fallen friends died when the barricades fell. In the new one Keel died earlier and two still died on the barricade, but the other four survived when Vimes changed history and the battle was won. Then the same four died in a skirmish that never happened in the original timeline.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The steel ruler in the clerk's office, which ends up being used as an improvised sword when a weaponless Vimes is fighting against Swing.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Vimes' ability to booby-trap damn near everywhere, when some of the Unmentionables are sent to get him.
    • We first learn about "fleaguing a jade" when Nobby tests Vimes on his street slang. Later Vimes uses this technique to sabotage a siege engine.
  • Circling Monologue: The early part of Vimes vs. Swing.
  • Circular Reasoning:
    • The wizards' agreement with the city regarding taxes. They will pay taxes if the city asks, on the agreement the city never asks them to pay taxes. The voluntary contribution of the same amount they owe is unconnected.
    • Everyone knows the Unmentionables torture people, but no-one does anything because the Unmentionables torture people.
  • *Click* Hello: The two Vimeses' first meeting.
  • Clueless Boss: Captain Tilden is a decent man who does his best, but sadly his best isn't very good when it comes to law enforcement (he was a career soldier). Vimes failed to recognise this at the time but it's clear to his older, more experienced self. This really gets shown when Tilden is abruptly relieved of command: the younger version of Vimes is outraged that the well-meaning Tilden is removed, while the older Vimes now knows that Tilden is horribly out of place as a police captain and way behind the times, and essentially thinks that Tilden is a nice old man who's better off out of the way of the chaos that is about to unfold.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Cable Street Particulars' method of extracting confessions.
  • Colour-Coded Timestop: During the brief moments time is "stopped" by Lu-Tze just before Vimes faces off against Carcer, the whole world becomes grey.
  • Comically Missing the Point: After the rest of the Nightwatch meet Carcer for the first time, they guess that he and Vimes know each other. Vimes reveals that Carcer's a cop killer - and the last one he killed was off duty and eating a pie. Fred Colon wants to know what sort of pie.
  • Composite Character: In the radio adaptation, Cheery Littlebottom performs Carrot's role and dialogue from the book in addition to her own, as well as serving a similar function to that of Buggy Swires' minor role in the novel.
  • Continuity Nod: Many of them.
    • Thief of Time briefly mentioned lightning having struck Unseen University during the glass clock incident. Here we find out Vimes got caught up in it, a fact Lu-Tze feels rather guilty about.
    • The Night Watch is based at the old watch house that the dragon burned down in Guards! Guards!, Leggy Gaskin from the same book is a young watchman and Vetinari's aunt briefly mentioned by Vimes now appears as a main character,
    • Vimes has a run-in with future Captain Quirke from Men at Arms and is responsible for him transferring to the Day Watch.
    • The Mended Drum is called the Broken Drum (as it was in The Colour of Magic).
    • Sergeant Colon previously mentioned remembering Vetinari's predecessors Lord Snapcase and Lord Winder in Jingo.
    • Early on, Vimes tries going to the wizards in the past for help. Lu-Tze discourages him by pointing out they are not Ridcully's bunch of old duffers. The wizards of thirty years ago are the arrogant, vicious, murderous bastard kind of wizards from the pre-Moving Pictures books, so Vimes will be lucky if the worst they do is laugh at him (and without wizards like Ponder Stibbons, they wouldn't be able to help anyway).
    • Mention is made once against of the neighbourhood Vimes grew up in, Cockbill Street, and how it had Standards, as brought up in Feet of Clay.
    • Lu-Tze is still apparently quoting Ms. Cosmopolite and treating her common sayings as profound knowledge.
    • Young Vimes has a tendency to speak without thinking, a tendency noted to be part of the reason his future self is in the way he's in at the beginning of Guards, Guards.
  • Contempt Crossfire: Carcer fully shares Vimes's view of Knock and Quirke, he just approaches it from "the other direction." And "Ferret" is treated with disdain by absolutely everyone.
  • Cop Killer: Carcer has killed several cops over the course of his career, including at least one who bumped into him by chance while off-duty and didn't even recognize him.
  • Corpse Temperature Tampering: In the new timeline, John Keel (the young Sam Vimes' mentor in the Watch) is murdered shortly before he could join the City Watch. The History Monks tell Vimes that they can send him back, but he has to take on Keel's role up until the "proper" time of death. When that happens several days later, the monks bring Keel's body out of storage, and Vimes says he remembers Keel's body being cold despite having just died.
  • Could Say It, But...: When things start getting dangerous, "Keel" explicitly forbids his men to supplement their equipment with unofficial implements such as coshes, blackjacks and brass knuckles, and specifically instructs them to avoid a particular address where such implements may be bought at reasonable prices. Also, if asked, he will absolutely not give anyone instruction in the proper use of said implements.
  • Creepy Mortician: Legitimate First.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Despite the fact that he’s a complete ass in his youth, it's pointed out that the young Downey is still quite capable and dangerous, such as when he instantly suspects that a dark passageway is a trap, despite being very drunk at the time. He's completely right. Not to mention that he goes on to become Head of the Assassin's Guild.
  • Culture Clash: A military man from Quirm has to have a captain from Ankh-Morpork explain to him why cavalry troops in the Ankh is a bad idea - aside from the natural problems of a horse in a tightly packed city, a man in fancy armor in Morpork is just walking loot and the horse he's riding on is just a meal in the rougher neighborhoods.
  • Darker and Edgier: Night Watch is generally regarded as one of, if not the darkest Discworld book - the story basically begins with the death of a copper and memorial to an event so bad even the normally comic Colon and Nobby treat with solemnity. It quickly goes From Bad to Worse.
  • Death by Irony: Lord Winder is so paranoid about assassins that Vetinari doesn't even have to lay a finger on him — the man just dies from fear-induced shock when Vetinari enters.
  • Decapitated Army: Discussed. When the Monks finally take Vimes and Carcer back to the present, the bad guys leg it and the guards fight like tigers.
  • Declining Promotion: Sam Vimes/John Keel when he's offered a promotion to officer and a transfer to the Cable Street Particulars. He refuses on the grounds that he's not qualified (really because he knows that with his experience he can become the Almighty Janitor almost instantly).
  • Delayed Reaction: After Vimes fleagues the oxen, he's got just enough time to get out of there before the oxen realize what's happened to them, because once they do, it all happens at once.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Past Ankh-Morpork makes present Ankh-Morpork look cute and cuddly. In addition to all the rampant crime, corruption, and insane leaders, racism is still alive and well. Non-humans don't show up at all in the past, and at one point when Vimes mentions it would be a lot easier to hold the siege with a couple trolls, his friends dismiss this idea as "trolls are too thick to take orders." He also notes that the enemy would be able to break the siege in an instant if they had trolls.
  • Dirty Coward: Knock, when confronted by Vimes at the climax, legs it and is never seen again.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Colon and Throat's argument with Leggy about Reg being in his cemetery, with talk of Reg being unable to help being what he is.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Parodied, as the villains consider "You may take our lives, but you'll never take our freedom" to be the dumbest revolutionary slogan ever. Specifically, Carcer replies "Wrong!" and cue the hail of crossbow bolts. Since the speaker is a pre-zombie Reg Shoe, however, it turned out to be nothing but the literal truth.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Vimes wants the citizens to take down their barricade right now... and erect it on the other side of the street! And build it properly this time! (More of "Do Illegal Things I Don't Actually Think Are Wrong, Right" in this case, though.)
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Done with a crossbow, which unaccountably clicks when Young Vimes raises it during the Cable Street raid.
  • Dramatic Irony: In spades.
    Reg: I only regret that I have but one life to give for Whalebone Lane!
    Vimes: (thinking) If only you knew.
    • Reg has another one; he yells "You can take our lives but you can never take our freedom!" Since he came Back from the Dead, he was actually right.
  • The Dreaded: The Agony Aunts, enforcers of the Guild of Seamstresses, are a greater figure of dread than the Watch. The Watch have rules. The Aunts do not, and they can do all manner of creative things with a handbag and a parrot-handled umbrella... they stand as two of the few beings who can walk through The Shades without fear.
  • Dual Wielding: Vimes in an Unstoppable Rage? Scary. Vimes in an Unstoppable Rage with two swords? Run. Run and never look back.
    He wasn't an enemy, he was a nemesis.
  • Due to the Dead: Present day Morporkians remembering the Glorious 25th of May by wearing lilacs and taking care of the graves of the fallen. However, only people who were there can wear the lilac.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Reg, made no less awesome by the fact that he doesn't actually stay dead. Or at least, doesn't stay inanimate.
  • Empty Shell: Vimes finds several people in the Unmentionable's headquarters who've been tortured so much there's nothing of them left and quietly does the needful.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Vimes is introduced dealing with an Assassin in a polite but very definite way, which demonstrates for a new reader his attitude and ability to rig defensive traps and generally be devious, a skill which he puts to great use during the Glorious Revolution.
    • Carcer is immediately established as a ruthless killer rather than a run-of-the-mill thug when he is first mentioned murdering an off duty officer who bumped into him by chance and didn't even recognize him.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Vimes' childhood neighbourhood had Standards, the kind where having clean tables to eat food off of was more important than having food to eat. In this instance, it's explained that part of Standards was selling your clothes at the pawn shop, but never buying clothes there. You got them from the shonky shop, and you never asked where they got them (even though everyone knew).
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Lady Meserole is fairly morally grey, and certainly as power-hungry a schemer as anyone else (albeit one with some scruples, who wants a better leader for Ankh-Morpork, and acknowledges to Vimes/Keel that Snapcase is simply the best of a bad bunch), whose nephew suggested that she let him kill Keel for expediency (though she only gave him empty threats). But when she sees Snapcase turn around and order his death despite the amnesty she's so disgusted she orders Vetinari to protect Keel, and he happily obliges.
    • The Night Watch aren't above accepting bribes and engaging in the occasional bit of police brutality. The Unmentionables' behaviour makes them very uncomfortable, though. Similarly, the Watch don't have many standards even amongst themselves, but you do not drop your mates in the cacky; i.e. you don't sell them out to a superior officer.
  • Evil Counterpart
    • "Carcer had, in his own way, some of Vimes's qualities, only they were inverted."
    • Similarly, Captain Swing is an idealist, he simply looks at the problem the wrong way around.
    • In a smaller example, Sergeant Knock and Corporal Quirke (later Captain "Mayonnaise" Quirke of the Day Watch) are explicitly called out as evil versions of Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs. Like present-day Fred Colon, Knock is an older, incompetent, cowardly fat man but without any of Fred's redeeming qualities, and is corrupt to the core whereas Quirke is presented as an efficient version of Nobby without the amiable incompetence, as well as "bullying, brown-nosing, and a delight in small evils". They also have the same ranks as Colon and Nobby do in the present.
  • Exact Words:
    • Assassins have rules, which they must never, ever ever ever break... for a given value of "never".
    • Part of what does Winder in. Faced with Vetenari, dressed all in black, he asks who he is and who sent him (since Assassins are hired out, after all, and if asked who sent them must answer truthfully). Vetinari answers with "your future" and "the city" respectively, which are technically true.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: Like Keel before him, Vimes gets one of his own.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Upon realizing that Vimes's barricade is actually containing the one peaceful bit of the city, a captain in the military pretends to fail a spot check to avoid being forced to dismantle it.
    The captain: (to a soldier) It's just a pile of furniture, man. People have been spring cleaning, I expect. You'll never make an officer if you can't see straight.
    • A younger Vetinari learns throughout the story how to apply this to other people. The author of the book he learnt it from was apparently eaten by the tiger whose camouflage he was studying.
  • Fantastic Racism: Leggy First doesn't like seeing Reg. No dead people should be in his graveyard, walkin' about the place.
  • Fantasy Keepsake: Inverted, when he's mired in the past Vimes needs an item from his own time (his engraved cigar case) to remind him that his own time is real.
  • Fascists' Bed Time: One of the jobs of the Night Watch is to patrol this and take people breaking curfew to Cable Street House. The first thing Vimes does when he becomes Sergeant-at-Arms of his station is bring this system to the ground, release the people he's captured and make himself a reputation in the process. It's also noted the curfew is more harshly enforced in the poorer parts of the city, rather than in the richer Ankh, whose inhabitants can afford their own security.
  • Feuding Families: The history of Lords Selachii and Venturi.
  • Fingore: Threatened by Vimes to Swing's clerk:
    Vimes: "I see a desk, and it has a desk drawer, and if you ever want to hold a pen again-"
    Clerk: instantly gives up
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: In the attack on the barricade, Vimes warns a seamstress to get away because a stray grapnel could easily kill her. That happens to Nancyball almost immediately after he says this.
  • Food as Bribe: While Vimes is adamantly against cash bribes in any and all forms, he is willing to accommodate free donuts and coffee.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Lots of it. Both the lilac blooming and, as the story starts, with Sam Vimes and other Night Watch survivors of the Glorious People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road solemnly commemorating the anniversary of the deaths of their comrades, among them Sergeant Keel's.
    • A literal example when Vimes spots someone hiding in a doorway because their black clothing makes the shadows too dark. This is reflected later in the story, in young Vetinari's decisions on clothing .
    • Right at the start of the book, the Assassins' Guild's penchant for Honor Before Reason is established with the student's conversation with Vimes. This comes in to play much later on in the book, as to why they fail so often to kill Winder.
  • Free Wheel: Because some things must always happen, even in tragedy, this happens when the oxen destroy the siege engine.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you look hard at an establishing scene in Thief of Time where the History Monks are moving through a time-slowed tableau in a thunderstorm, you can see the Establishing Moment that kick-starts this novel. (the murder of a Dwarf officer by Carcer)
  • Friendly Address Privileges: When introducing himself to Vimes, Lu-Tze says that officially he is Lu-Tze but as they're going to be friends Vimes can call him "Sweeper".
  • Friend or Foe?: How the lilac started: as a badge.
  • Fright Deathtrap: Winder's ultimate fate is a terror-induced heart attack at the mere sight of Vetinari.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: A pretty much Foregone Conclusion, and the way that all revolutions tend towards this is a running theme throughout the book. Snapcase, mentioned as Mad Lord Snapcase in previous books, isn't much better than Winder - something acknowledged by Madam Meserole, who bluntly remarks that he's the best of a bad bunch.
  • Get Back to the Future: Vimes, although only once he's done the job in front of him.
  • The Ghost: The actual Keel is killed offscreen before Vimes is aware of the situation, and we only have his reminiscences to get a sense of what the actual man was like. Vimes doesn't make any particular effort to imitate him, except insofar as it allows him to take the man's place, and muses on whether he was really a revolutionary or just (like Vimes himself) swept up in events, so it's unclear what Keel was really like in the original timeline.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet: Vimes to Young Nobby.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In a non-science trope, Vimes' plan for the barricade. The original John Keel may or may not have been a revolutionary, but Vimes just wanted to keep a few silly, innocent people safe and protect those in his street.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The description of the Torture Cellar, a rare literary variant.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: One would-be rioter looking to start a fight tries doing this to Vimes, but only manages to badly cut up his own hand.
  • Groin Attack: The first thing the coppers who arrest Vimes do, complete with a run-up. Vimes, knowing full well what he's in for, obligingly spreads his legs to save time.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Snouty, as explained by Vimes. The first thing we see him doing is standing in front of a jail cell's open bars at arm's length. Vimes notes that if he were at full strength, Snouty's face would be slammed against those bars quickish. A few lines later, he comes into Vimes's cell alone to handcuff him. Carcer had previously been in the opposite cell, and if he'd tried it with him, Snouty would've died a few days early.
  • Handy Cuffs: Happens with Vimes as part of the "Were we ever really that bad?" sequence. Vimes' internal monologue points out how stupid this is.
    "He had several pounds of metal on his wrists or, to put it another way, his arms were a hammer."
  • Haven't You Seen X Before?: When Ridcully is summoned from his bath, he asks the Watch "Haven't you lot ever seen a wizard before?" Carrot, being the honest soul he is, points out that they've never seen so much of a wizard before.
  • Having a Heart: Sergeant Keel has the eye of a mass-murderer. It's in his other coat.
  • Henpecked Husband: One Spencer Rutherford, who gets dragged into the Glorious Revolution by dint of his father in-law's chair being made part of the Treacle Mine Road barricade while said father in-law was asleep on it, making his wife complain at the police. Vimes sizes him up as the sort of man who wouldn't dream of divorce, but thinks of killing his wife every single day.
  • Heroic BSoD
    • A brief one, but when Vimes realizes that doing everything he can for the people behind the barricades might mean that all his friends, and his wife and unborn son, might never exist, it's not a good day to be him.
      He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew... then it was too high.
    • Reg Shoe also has one when he realizes that the revolution he wanted so badly has only served to put an equally corrupt ruler in power. He sits dejectedly on a cart for a few minutes, then snaps into a rage so powerful not even getting killed can stop him.
    • The bit when Vimes is sitting helpless, staring blankly at a mirror as his son is born; this even shuts down his internal watchman, revealed in later books to be more powerful than a thousand year old pan-dimensional being of pure vengeance.
    • Vimes has an extremely powerful one right when he’s ordered by Rust to take down the barricade. As he starts to tell the people behind the barricade that they shouldn't take the law into their own hands, he realizes suddenly that he has no idea what the law was at that moment. The feeling of despair and disconnection is so powerful in brings Vimes to his knees. Thankfully, the Time Monks show up at that very moment to provide him with the Heroic Reboot Key, a connection to the future that seems so distant: his silver cigar case.
  • Hero-Worshipper: Young Sam becomes this to "Keel".
  • Highly-Visible Ninja:
    • Vetinari when he kills Patrician Winder. He walks right up to him as the crowded hall ignores his presence, and Patrician Winder thinks that this isn't how assassins really operate: this is what happens in dreams. The Assassin's Guild in Discworld always wears the stereotypical ninja black clothes on the job. Vetinari shows the readers how much smarter he is when he reads a book on animal camouflage and goes for more appropriate clothes when they are called for. Downey shows how he isn't a match for Vetinari by burning the book instead of reading it and Vetinari shows what a Magnificent Bastard he is by having destroyed nearly every other copy of the book so no-one else can learn from it.
    • And hiding the rest inside a cover reading Annals of the Great Accountants, Volume Three, which, it’s noted, would do the original author proud.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Captain Findthee Swing has an obsession with anthropological criminology or physiognomy—the idea that a person's physical features can indicate a predilection for criminal behavior—and has a clerk on hand specifically to measure the facial features of prisoners with compasses, rulers, and other such tools. Vimes uses a steel ruler from the clerk's desk to kill Swing during their final confrontation.
  • Honor Among Thieves: The Night Watch are little better than the criminals they police; they bully citizens, openly accept bribes and have few morals to speak of. But if they do have one solid belief, it's that You Do Not Drop Your Mates In The Cacky, and especially not the stupid little rookie who doesn't know better.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Rosie Palm, in a Good is Not Nice way.
  • Hope Spot: Winder is dead, Snapcase is Patrician and just as it seems the barricade can come down peacefully, Carcer's men attack and Sergeant Dickins picks up the lilac as Vimes' gang prepare to fight.
  • Humble Goal: The revolutionaries want a slogan that encapsulates what they're fighting for. After asking each of their members what they want, the result is "Truth, Justice, Reasonably-Priced Love and a Hard Boiled Egg".
  • Icon of Rebellion: The lilac flowers.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Vetinari suggests "They Did the Job They Had to Do" as a slogan when he talks about putting up a monument for the fallen watchmen. Vimes' deconstruction of it as he shuts Vetinari up is both epic and heartbreaking.
    "They did the job they didn't have to do and they died doing it and you can't give them anything."
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: When Lady Meserole asks Vetinari about the secrets of his camouflage (modified to fall in line with the principles of the Guild of Assassins, of course):
    "I could tell you. But then I'd have to find someone to pay me to kill you."
  • If I Had a Nickel...: If Colon had a dollar for every watchman's funeral he'd attended, he'd have $19.50. (One of them wasn't actually dead; fortunately he regained consciousness before they buried him.)
  • I Found You Like This: When Sam Vimes is unexpectedly thrown backwards in time, Rosie Palm finds him unconscious in the street and rescues him.
  • I Hate Past Me: Sort of. While Vimes doesn't hate young Sam, he's certainly put off and ashamed of how incredibly naive and idealistic he is.
    "You're not me. You can't be. I don't think I was ever as young as you."
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Detritus and the Piecemaker. Although in this case, it's more like I Just Almost Blew Up My Boss' House and Its Gardens.
    Vimes: What did I tell you about Mister Safety Catch?
    Detritus: When Mister Safety Catch Is Not On, Mister Crossbow Is Not Your Friend.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: The Watch's Igor sadly laments he might've been able to save Stronginthearm had he been on the scene, and allowed, but dwarfs have opinions on such things.
  • Impersonation-Exclusive Character: The reader knows of the impersionation from the start, but with Carcer Dun killing John Keel offscreen, most of what we know of him is based on how Vimes imitates him.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • When Lord Venturi expresses annoyance that his troops are being beaten by unarmed civilians and old veterans with garden forks, his lieutenant has trouble explaining that garden forks can do a lot of damage when hurled down from twenty feet, and that "unarmed civilian" is stretching the term quite a bit when the civilian in question is a 200-pound slaughterhouse worker with a flensing knife in one hand and a meathook in the other.
    • During the final confrontation with Captain Swing, Vimes ends up weaponless, but gets hold of a yard-long steel ruler. He slaps Swing's sword aside with the forestroke, and brings the tip of it—the sharp tip—across Swing's throat on the backstroke.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Subverted.
    "Did I say they stole anything, sir?
    "Well, no, you didn't. That was me jumping to what we call a conclusion. Did they steal anything, then, or did they break in to deliver a box of chocolates and a small complimentary basket of fruit?"
    • The "box of chocolates" line is a reference to the old Milk Tray adverts in real life, which involved a secret agent delivering the product in question to a lady.
  • In Spite of a Nail: History always finds a way in the end. See the Tricked Out Time entry for details.
    Well, it would have to come up with something good, because it was up against Sam Vimes now.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: One of Winder's more "inventive" ideas: privatising the tax systems. And the thugs hired can find ways to tax people for anything, up to and including Lookin' At Me, Pal. This means a city with not a lot of money, but a hell of a lot of tax being paid.
  • I Reject Your Reality:
    • Vimes, in a fit of exasperated brutal honesty, tells Reg that he doesn't have a file on him, half the cops at Treacle Mine Road can't read, and in fact no-one has a file on him because no-one cares about him. It takes Reg a moment to restore his delusional view of reality.
    • A slightly more tragic version in the attack on the barricade. The Watch officers insist that all Nancyball needs is a visit to Dr. Lawn and he'll be right as rain, despite it being plainly clear Nancyball is dead already. He's just had a massive grapnel to the stomach.
  • Irony: When Vimes refuses to hand over a bunch of curfew-breakers (including Miss Rosie Palm and her actual-seamstress associate Miss Sandra Battye) over to the Unmentionables for "questioning", he tells them that he'll need to conduct the interrogation himself and asks them whether any of them are part of a conspiracy to overthrow Lord Winder, getting the predictable "Well... no?" from Rosie, which he says is good enough for him, so he lets them go. Not only are both Rosie and Sandra with the revolutionaries, but right at that time, Sandra's basket is full of weapons to be smuggled.
  • Jerk Jock: The young Lord Downey. Which he must have really, really regretted when Vetinari became Patrician.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Carcer is introduced as a Serial Killer who has murdered a Watchman without provocation. As the novel progresses, he becomes the eager tool of the oppressors and torturers who run Ankh-Morpork. But towards the end, he commits a completely pointless act of petty nastiness when he eats the hard-boiled egg that is traditionally left on Keel's tombstone every year on the 25th of May purely to spite Vimes.
    • The Night Watch starve their horse, skimming off the food to give to other animals and lying about it. It's one of the first things Vimes comes down on them for. One of the first things Rust does on assuming command is tell them to get rid of the old girl, even send her to the knackers if need be.
  • Killed Offscreen: John Keel never actually, actually appears in the book.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Cable Street House is burned to the ground.
  • La Résistance: But of course.
  • A Lesson in Defeat: An overconfident student from the Assassins' Guild is sent after Vimes (who's beaten a number of assassins sent after him, to the point of regarding it as a hobby, and extensively booby-trapped his home) on a recon mission at the beginning of the book for pretty much this purpose.
  • Lies to Children:
    • Lu-Tze's explanation to Vimes about some of the mechanics of time travel is noted by another history monk as being completely inaccurate but he doesn't care so long as Vimes can wrap his head around it.
    • Mother Vimes told Sam his father was killed by an out-of-control oxen cart. The older Sam is impressed at how good a liar she was.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Strictly speaking the lightning is just the catalyst, the plot is a side effect of the events of Thief of Time shattering the timeline.
  • Like a Son to Me: Perhaps because it’s essentially the same thing, Sam Vimes treats his younger self like his own son.
  • Line in the Sand: Vimes makes one right before training his men for the barricade; later, history books will disagree about what happened but they all agreed about Sergeant Keel and the Line. Young Sam is the first to step over, which Vimes finds almost embarrassing.
  • Little Brother Is Watching: Young Sam has this effect on his future self. Vimes knocks out a torturer instead of killing him and lets refugees into the barricades instead of playing it safe because he knows he has to set a good example. Even once he gets back to the present, he brings Carcer in by the book because he can feel his younger self watching him.
  • Loophole Abuse: Discussed. The minor officers in charge of securing the streets know that the best way to deal with the Treacle Mine Road barricade is to ignore it, and their verbal orders are to secure the streets by "any means necessary". Unfortunately their written down, official orders explicitly call for a full attack on all barricades and they can't pull the trick off. Meanwhile, Vimes uses the exact same trick to essentially seize control of the watch despite not even being an officer.
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: How Vimes un-corrupts the younger Sam before it can really set in - asking what Mrs. Vimes would think if she knew where that dollar came from. Apparently she would have tanned his hide.
  • Mandatory Line: Averted, in that a number of City Watch regulars never appear in the "present day" sequences. Most notably absent is Sergeant Angua, who'd been a main character in every other City Watch book since her introduction, but here is only briefly mentioned in dialogue as being on duty in another part of the city.
  • Mauve Shirt:
    • Sergeant Stronginthearm, who previously appeared in Men at Arms, Jingo and The Fifth Elephant, moving up the ranks but never becoming a main character. He's still well enough known for his death at Carcer's hands to be a shock.
    • Also, Ned Coates. A cynical badass watchman who seems to be on the inside with the real revolution, he seemingly opts out in the middle of the book, comes back to be a big help in the end... and then in the very last pages we learn that he died during the clash between the Watch and Carcer's men.
    • Don't forget Sergeant Dai Dickins, introduced late in the book as another defector to the barricades, who quickly becomes part of Vimes' inner circle, and inadvertently introduces young Sam to "All the Little Angels." He dies in the final skirmish with Snapcase's men under Carcer.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Captain Swing was the name used on a number of threatening letters sent by participants in the Swing Riots in Britain in 1830. In a typical Pratchett twist, Swing is now working for the other side.
    • Carcer is Latin for "prison", where he's certainly bound. And it's only one letter away from 'cancer', which is an accurate description of his effect on Ankh-Morpork, especially if Vimes leaves him in the past.
    • Snouty's name comes from his nose having been broken when he was younger, and it never quite set properly.
    • The keel of a boat is essentially its backbone; it's what the rest of the boat is built around. A fitting surname for John Keel, who acts as the foundation of the Watch.
  • Meet the New Boss: Said by Mr Slant and Dr Follett after Winder dies and Snapcase becomes the new Patrician. In Latin, no less. Then again in Canis Latinicus just for fun.
  • The Mentor:
    • Thanks to time travel, Vimes gets to play this role for himself... though in reality he spends only a small portion of his time training his protégé and much more doing badass and heroic (or anti-heroic) things on his own, and takes pains to keep young Sam from doing anything that'd attract attention to himself. Also spending money like water, because he knows for a fact that he’ll "die" at the end of the week.
    • Madam also plays this role for Vetinari, being an older, Distaff Counterpart version of him, even owning an elderly and smelly tomcat (as he will one day have a smelly old dog). She educates him about the usefulness of men like Keel, and how killing someone isn't always the best answer (though she will if it is the best answer).
  • Mercy Kill: When Vimes finds the most seriously broken of the Unmentionables' torture victims—people driven so far beyond their mental limits and so physically ruined that they're past saving—he... well, it's perhaps the most controversial line in any Discworld novel if fan reaction was anything to go by:
    Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes removed his knife, and... gave what help he could.
    • Terry Pratchett supported assisted death and stated that he wished to take that option before his Alzheimer's disease progressed to a critical point. However, he passed before that could happen.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: In a city where the citizens are attacking Watch houses for being tools of the oppressive state, Vimes wins over his neighborhood and oversees their barricades.
  • Missing Child: Mentioned as being yet another of last straws for the already frazzled Morporkians. Cavalry were sent in to break up a crowd of 'protesters' (or just a crowd of angry people). They ran, and apparently in the panic someone lost hold of their child's hand...
  • Mood Whiplash: Good old Death manages to provide a pretty necessary bit of levity in one of the darkest parts of a pretty dark book, when Vimes is silently wondering about man's inhumanity to man. Death answers his unspoken question twice, before realizing Sam can't actually hear him.
  • Morality Pet: Perhaps the most interesting dynamic is when cynical old cop Sam Vimes meets his idealistic younger self. Vimes had always been shown to be brutal and devious and was always on the edge of releasing the beast; that part of him that never forgave the atrocities of the Unmentionables and which is the collected form all of his fears and rage. But encountering Young Vimes directly reminded him of his ideals and caused him to rethink his actions such as when they freed the prisoners from the Unmentionables:
    The beast tensed...
    Vimes dragged the largest club out of the rack and stepped swiftly to the wall beside the door. Someone was coming, someone who knew about [the torture room], someone who called themselves a copper. Getting a firm two-handed grip, Vimes raised the club-
    And looked across the stinking room, and saw young Sam watching him, young Sam with his bright shiny badge and face full of... strangeness.
    Vimes lowered the club, leaned it against the wall and pulled the leather cosh from his pocket.

    Shackled, not quite understanding, the beast was dragged back into the night...
  • Mugging the Monster: Carcer doesn't think of getting mugged in the Shades as a problem, he thinks of it as a bunch of victims falling over themselves to bring him entertainment, weapons and cash.
  • The Multiverse: Lu-Tze and Vimes discuss the concept of many universes (which Vimes already knows about from Jingo), but Lu-Tze comforts him by telling them that, in all the great bounds of possibility, there is no universe in which Sam Vimes as he is now killed his wife, meaning that people's choices really do matter. This is a reference to a reality in which young Sam Vimes is given guidance by Carcer, if old Sam fails. Hence the as he is now instead of just there is no universe. That Sam recognizes this on some level is alluded to in other parts of the novel.
  • My Future Self and Me: Vimes and Young Sam, although Sam is ignorant of this fact.
  • Mundane Luxury: The young Nobby Nobbs is overwhelmed by the prospect of owning his very own spoon.
  • Mundane Utility: Lu-Tze uses Procrastinators, devices capable of taking objects outside of the flow of time, to keep food fresh. He also talked Qu into creating the 'Temporal Toilet', which discharges its waste 10 million years into the past, into a volcano.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: One of Captain Tilden's problems - he's of a generation who does what his superiors tell him, especially if it involves going to give Johnny Klatchian What For. That the situation has him doubting, out loud no less, his superiors shows how out of his depth he now is.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Although they are not given their epithets in this book of course, regular readers will recognize the Patricians here as Homicidal Lord Winder and Psychoneurotic Mad Lord Snapcase.
  • Necessary Fail: Cleverly played with. In the regular timeline, the resistance put on the barricades but failed to defend against a sneak attack, resulting in the deaths of the 7 men in the cemetery of Small Gods. When Vimes goes back in time and is tasked to fix Carcer's alterations, he’s left with the choice of either doing everything he can to prevent the death of the rebels or doing almost nothing so he could return to his timeline and get back to his wife and unborn child. Vimes manages to organize the barricades and defend against the attacks. But the revolution fouls up and the new Patrician sends the newly promoted Captain Carcer and his squad of rogue guards to murder Vimes and his men. Cornered, Vimes orders his men to retreat but his companions decide to stay and help him bring down Carcer despite their slim chances of survival. In the end, Vimes manages to bring down Carcer but not without casualties on his side, resulting in the end in the death of the same 7 men that died in the original timeline. In the end, Vimes could not prevent the death of these 7 men but he didn't have to. In the end, they willingly put their lives on the line in both timelines for something they thought was important.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Young Vetinari is briefly seen reading Some Notations on the Art of Invisibility, by Lord Winstanleigh Greville-Pipe, before an arrogant young Downey burns it. The thing is, Vetinari himself would later destroy the engraving plates of the book himself and collect the remaining four copies. Despite feeling the need to prevent others from learning too much from the books, he found himself unable to burn them, and instead, honoring the spirit of the writer, had them bound into a new tome with a new title - Anecdotes of the Great Accountants, Vol. III.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Part of why people are so up on Snapcase, because he Asks Them What They Do. Vimes, knowing what Snapcase will be like, isn't impressed by any of this. In private, he's shown to be a condescending jackass to Winder's secretary within minutes of getting the job.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Vimes' first encounter with the Night Watch of the past. Fortunately, they're not terribly good at it.
  • Noodle Implements: The Ginger Beer torture method. Pratchett eventually did reveal what the "Ginger Beer Trick" actually is, although he despaired a bit that people actually had to be told. You shake it up real good to get the fizz going, then you stick it up the poor bastard's nose. Ouch. For those familiar only with Ginger Ale, Ginger Beer is a whole different, and much HOTTER, sort of animal. However, as long as it was still carbonated, any sort of fizzy beverage would likely work, if not as well. (Notably, a dirty cop on Dexter used it in an unofficial interrogation.)
  • Noodle Incident: If Colon had one dollar for every officer funeral he went to he'd have nineteen and a half dollars. A half because in one of them, the officer woke up just in time and banged on the lid and changed the mood considerably.
  • No-Sell: During the climax, Reg gets shot with an absurd number of crossbow bolts, but he's so enraged by the injustice that's unfolding that he simply ignores them! He dies eventually when his body finally realises what happened, only to revive as a zombie simply because he still wasn't done.
  • No Sympathy: Sort of. While Lu-Tze sympathizes with Vimes and tries to help him, we also have... this:
    Vimes: I've been talking to people who are going to die today. Do you have any idea how that feels?
    Qu: Er, yes?
    Sweeper: ... Everyone I talk to is going to die. Everyone you talk to is going to die. Everybody dies.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We get some descriptions of what the inside of Cable Street's basement looks like. And at the same time, it's horrifically vague, and we just get young Sam's reactions (or inability to express thereof).
  • Not in This for Your Revolution:
    • Keel may have been a revolutionary (it's left ambiguous), but Vimes only raised the barricades to keep a handful of people safe.
    • John Keel couldn’t have been a revolutionary because neither known revolutionaries like CMOT Dibbler, Lady Roberta Meserole, Rosie Palm or Ned Coates had included him in their plans before he came to town and Keel sure as hell wasn't aware of the Morphic Street Conspiracy. The best explanation is that Keel was a rebel sympathizer and that Ned Coates convinced him to support the barricades when the riots started out.
  • Not Worth Killing: The assassins Ferret ratted out settle for giving him a bit of a kicking, as killing him would be "an embarrassing and demeaning waste of fist."
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Vimes pulls this on the Unmentionables... by requiring the Secret Police to fill out the prisoner transfer paperwork. Which ruins the whole point of the Secret Police and they refuse to do so. So Vimes is "forced" to let the prisoners go as the proper authorities refuse to fill out the proper paperwork and he has no authority to hold the prisoners as a result.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Just after Vimes has apprehended Carcer in the cemetery after both returned to the present, Lord Vetinari turns up. During the following conversation, it transpires that Vetinari was watching the final fight between the Night Watch and Carcer's gang of Particulars and, after Vimes-as-Keel disappeared, Vetinari joined the fight. It's described by Vetinari over one page, and that's it.
  • Oh, Crap!: Vimes has a serious one when someone names Sam in front of Carcer.
  • One-Liner
    • Vimes tries to do one by saying his authority (as he draws his crossbow) comes from "Mr Burleigh and Mr Stronginthearm." No-one gets it, however, as those two haven't gone into business yet in the past (and the obviously Dwarfish names don't help in past Ankh-Morpork).
    • Another: Vimes finally revealed that he wasn't really Sergeant Keel to Ned Coates. He admitted he traveled through time. This is after a huge melee. Coates looked over Vimes, blood and all, heavily-used swords in his hands, and once he was told Vimes was a time-traveller, he had just one thing to ask: "From how far back?"
  • The Only Believer: Reg Shoe is the only one who truly thinks that a revolution will be a good thing or bring about real change.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Snouty. We find out his real name at the end of the book, though.
  • Opt Out: Ned Coates seems to do that in the middle of the book.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Averted with Lords Selachii and Venturi, who due to their long shared history have to avoid any topic that they might possibly disagree on, in order to avoid fighting at a public ball. Leading to absolutely safe conversational topics like "I see you are standing up."
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Played straight, and ruthlessly complained about by Vimes.
  • Percussive Prevention: Vimes knocks out his younger self to keep him out of a fight at one point.
  • Perspective Flip: Basically, the novel can be read as one of these on Les Misérables, with Vimes as a virtuous Inspector Javert and Carcer as an evil Valjean, and other characters filling roles from the novel. The Annotated Pratchett File described the difference between Javert and Vimes in an interesting way: both are obsessed with justice, but while Javert defines justice as the punishment of the guilty, Vimes defines it as the protection of the innocent.
  • The Peter Principle: Captain Tilden is stated to have been a good military commander, which earnt him a job in the Watch after he retired from the army. Unfortunately, he's long past his prime and appears to be out of his depth in the world of policing.
  • Pet the Dog: Emphasizing the fact that she is Vetinari's prototypical Distaff Counterpart, Madam's façade only cracks around her cat.
  • Posthumous Character: Keel. Vimes makes his moves and decision with Keel's previous acts in mind, and we get a pretty good sense of who he was.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: People are already rioting against Watch houses elsewhere in the city. Vimes gives orders to prevent anything like that happening in his precinct. See To Win Without Fighting below.
  • Present Company Excluded: Pithy slogans have it hard in Ankh-Morpork, a city where no self-respecting god can say so much as "Let there be light," without being greeted by a chorus of "What color?" and an ensuing argument over it, and the result of Reg's declaration "You can take our lives, but you'll never take our freedom!" is chronicled elsewhere on this page. So it should be no surprise that the initial defiant cry of "Death to the fascist oppressors!" from behind the original Whalebone Lane barricade (probably also uttered by Reg Shoe) gets quickly amended to "Death to the fascist oppressors, present company excepted! All right, is everybody happy now?"
  • Produce Pelting: Downey throws an apple at Vetinari, but Vetinari catches it on his fork. Without even looking up from his book. Then he takes a casual bite from it.
  • Production Foreshadowing: Early in this novel Vimes mentioned having to worry about some far-flung country going to war affecting Ankh-Morpork. Said war was the main conflict in the following novel, Monstrous Regiment, and Vimes has a significant (if largely unfeatured) part in sorting that out.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: A clerk Vimes finds in the Cable Street Watchhouse screams as Vimes confronts him that he was just doing his job. Vimes deconstructs his pleas with a brutal "Reason You Suck" Speech.
    "You sat and took notes for a torturer, a bloody torturer!"
  • Rabble Rouser: Discussed at length. Sam Vimes thinks of this as the poor bugger everyone stands behind going "yeah! right!" and then ditch when the law gets rough. Reg Shoe also tries to be this, very hard, but the people around Treacle Mine Road are too busy picking apart the holes in his revolutionary rhetoric to be properly inflamed.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Night Watch were the ones too scruffy, ugly, incompetent, awkwardly shaped, or bloody-minded for the Day Watch.
  • Rain of Arrows: Reg's "death".
  • Rats in a Box: Sped up brilliantly. Vimes finds he has three hitmen in custody, two of whom are thoroughly professional but the third is a showoffy twerp that Vimes has dubbed "Ferret" for his weaselly demeanor. So, in a disturbing scene looking like actual torture, Vimes and his men drag the corpse of another hitman to the backroom in front of them, then drags the two pro hitmen there but leave the door open so that the impressionable Ferret can hear all the screaming when Vimes performs the "Ginger Beer Trick". When it came to Ferret's turn, the guy immediately spilled his guts and Vimes manages to get a written and signed confession that they had been staging riots. Then Vimes reveals that not only was the screaming staged and the two pro hitmen were simply bound, gagged and in perfect health but that the two pro hitmen had been listening to Ferret's entire confession and were now livid with rage at him. Ferret starts doing some mental arithmetic, then demands protective custody.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Vimes, of course, but also:
    • The Abbot of the History Monks. He absolutely forbids Lu Tze to do what he's going to do, but follows it up by acknowledging that when he does, it’ll probably be for the best.
    • The unnamed Captain who met Vimes's barricades during his patrol. Despite the fact that all barricades were ordered to be pulled down, he took time to understand the situation and listened to Vimes's argument that the area behind was much safer than the so called safe zones and eventually filed a report to his superiors that basically told them to ignore this area, estimating that the situation would resolve itself.
    • Major Clive Mountjoy-Standfast and Captain Tom Wrangle. They were the military officers in charge of pacifying the streets and were both decent, reasonable and competent men (well, for a given value of "competent" in Clive's case). Shame that they had to take orders from Carcer.
  • Redshirt: Poor Nancyball, who gets a few lines but no real characterization, before dying due to a grapnel hook to the stomach during the revolution. Deconstructed when Young Sam mentions that he doesn't know much about him, and Wiggins mentions Nancyball didn't speak much about anything to anyone.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised: Mentioned by Vimes numerous times.
    "But here's some advice, boy. Don't put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That's why they're called revolutions."
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Vimes basically does this to himself early on. He's busy brooding about how much paperwork and politicking he has to do, rather than getting his own hands dirty, and wonders what he traded it all in for. The obvious answer, he realises, is comfort, power and a wonderful wife. "Er... which was good, obviously, but..."
    • Played with at one point, when Vimes wonders if anyone knows the deepest, darkest secrets of all mankind. DEATH, who's listening in, obviously does... however, Vimes can't actually hear him.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Vetinari instinctively feels that any cat you're going to stroke while discussing politics should be a white-haired, elegant thing, rather than a flatulent street mongrel. His aunt doesn't seem to mind.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Intentionally invoked and discussed.
  • Rubber-Band History: Vimes and Carcer change many of the major events of the revolution and absolutely reverse the Glorious 25th of May, but the outcome of the revolution is the same: those seven graves are still filled, Snapcase replaces Winder, etc.
  • Save the Villain: Vimes sets fire to the Particulars' HQ but remembers too late that he left one of their thugs strapped into a prisoner's chair inside. He runs back in, deciding that he'll only undo one of the straps before legging it, as it'll be more of a chance than any of their victims got. He runs into Swing, who kills the man.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: The book reveals this is the case for Lord Downey of the Assassins' Guild, who used to bully a student he called "Dog Botherer." He must have been extremely worried when said student grew up to be Patrician of the city.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: In the time since Treacle Mine Road got burnt down, some dwarfs have moved into the cellar. Of course, enough money means less dwarf, and no-one can outbid Vetenari.
  • Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!: Carcer Dun isn’t, technically, insane. It's merely that he's realized that all those little rules that keep society ticking over nicely only apply to you if you let them, and therefore the only thing between him and murdering a coach full of accordion players for shits and giggles is his own inhibitions. He’s, in fact, more in tune with objective reality than the average man on the street; a sort of inverse psychosis if you will.
  • Secret Police: The Unmentionables. A rather unfortunate nickname (a play on The Untouchables) since it's British slang for underwear, but it does manage to evoke "They Who Must Not Be Named" at the same time.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The Cable Street Particulars were instructed by the paranoid Lord Snapcase to round people up under suspicion of being plotters and schemers. The narration points out that if you start rounding up people for this, pretty soon there are going to be actual plots and schemes happening.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: Somewhat-comic gravedigger Legitimate First ("Leggy" to his friends).
    "I've always wondered about his name. I mean... Legitimate?"
    "Can't blame a mother for being proud, Nobby."
  • Serious Business: When even Colon and Nobby are deeply offended by someone who wasn't "there" wearing a lilac, and are completely serious in explaining the situation to him, you know this has happened.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Played with- originally Vimes is encouraged to maintain the timeline as close to the original sequence of events as possible, but when the revolution starts he decides it's not in his nature to do anything less than his best to save the situation. As it happens, his efforts are countered more or less exactly by Carcer trying to Make Wrong What Once Went Right, so the end result is a Close-Enough Timeline.
  • Shadow Archetype: Carcer to Vimes. The book goes a long way to set them up as equal adversaries, and even describes Carcer as such, but "twisted".
  • Sherlock Scan: Despite Vimes' disdain for the idea in other books, Rosie manages one on "Keel" to figure out he's not really who he says he is, and gets well within the ballpark. The infield, in fact. Of course, for "seamstresses", sizing up men quickly on little information is a valuable trade skill.
  • Shoo the Dog:
    • When he goes to arrest Carcer, Vimes has Carrot go see to another copper. Carcer and Sam know it's because Vimes is planning to use methods Carrot wouldn't approve of, namely beating Carcer to a pulp.
    • Just before the final massacre, Vimes makes sure to distract his younger self, then lays him out, so young Sam will miss what comes next.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To John A. Keel, writer of The Mothman Prophecies. But the name was almost certainly also a shout-out to Sir Robert Peel, the Father of Modern English Policing, who founded the Metropolitan Police Service.
    • As the book is Discworld's take on Les Misérables, this is to be expected... but honestly, Gavroche's parallel turning out to be young Nobby Nobbs is somewhat unexpected. On the other hand, Reg Shoe as [ZOMBIE] Enjolras is made of all kinds of win.
      • Carcer even claims to have only stolen a loaf of bread.
    • Qu, the history monks' Gadgeteer Genius, is a parody of James Bond's Q. We're introduced to him in a scene that pays homage to Desmond Llewelyn's iconic portrayal, including funny background events of his creations being tested out, gadgets going slightly wrong, his general air of peevish exasperation, and even a borrowed catchphrase or two ("Please pay attention!").
      • This was not lost on Jon Culshaw when he narrated the 2023 audiobook, with Qu's voice being a very definite impression of Desmond Llywelyn's Q.
    • Also contains a shoutout to Braveheart with the worst battlecry ever: "You may take our lives but you'll never take our freedom."
    • Major Clive Mountjoy-Standfast is a possible reference to The Duke of Wellington as he was born in Quirm but considers himself a patriotic Ankh-Morporkian, just like how Arthur Wellesley was born in Ireland but thought of as the greatest English general of all time.
    • The "...and a hardboiled egg" addendum to the revolutionaries' demands is likely a reference to "...and two hardboiled eggs" from A Night at the Opera, which already had a more obvious reference to it in Soul Music.
    • Dickins of Llamedos is a retired army sergeant from the Discworld equivalent of Wales, who is obsessed with military history - could he be any relation to Fluellen in Henry V, who is also a Welsh army officer obsessed with military history? Arguably the City Watch series in general could be seen as an alternative outworking of Henry IV and Henry V, with Vimes and Carrot offering alternative pictures of what Hal might have done if he had learned to be a hero without becoming king and without rejecting his former friends. The stoic Welsh sergeant in Zulu - a man who also defended a barricaded position against overwhelming odds - also emerges as a correspondence.
    • Captain Findthee Swing also has a lot of correspondences with the deranged secret policeman Liutnant Verkramp in Tom Sharpe's Indecent Exposure and Riotous Assembly. Verkramp is also borderline insane with an obsession with how far racial impurity in White South Africans can be measured and quantified - a big deal in The Apartheid Era - and also works for a controlling and pernicious secret police force which routinely tortures political suspects (BOSS).
    • Twice, Vimes asks "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" The second time gets the unheard answer ME.
    • On returning back to his own time, Sam thinks that time-travel should look a little more impressive, like a swirling blue tunnel or something.
    • When Downey throws Vetinari's book on camouflage into the fire, the narration notes that the tiger briefly burns brightly.
    • One too many statements taken at face value by his naïve younger self has Vimes musing that dark sarcasm should be taught in schools.
    • After Snapcase plots to have Keel killed, Mr. Slant recalls an old saying: Ave! Duci novi, similis duci seneci! Or "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
    • The declaration of The People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road — Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love, and a Hard-Boiled Egg! — is likely a nod to the Arc Words of Moulin Rouge!: "This story is about beauty, freedom, truth, and above all things, love."
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Vimes gives this little speech to Carcer after he finally subdues and arrests him at the end of the book.
    "The machine ain't broken, Carcer. The machine is waiting for you. The city will kill you dead. The proper wheels'll turn. It'll be fair, I'll make sure of that. Afterward you won't be able to say you you didn't have a fair trial."
  • Slasher Smile: Carcer, with the added wrinkle that he's got an outwardly friendly smile, but his eyes show the killer behind it and he'll sport that same smile while covered in blood.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Reg Shoe is... not exactly the big-league revolutionary he imagines himself to be. When he first meets with Vimes, he assumes the Watch must have a file on him a mile thick, and even demands to see it. Vimes flatly tells him they haven't and they're just not interested in him; Reg deals with this information by mentally erasing it from his world.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: Played with. Archchancellor Ridcully's swearing is drowned out by the tolling of the bell in the University's clock tower — which, being a magical bell in a magical University, makes silence instead of noise, giving the effect of a less diagetic kind of censorship.
    Ridcully: Now, will     care to tell m    at the      is going on?
  • Staged Populist Uprising: The rebellion against Lord Winder is being subtly masterminded by Madam Meserole. In fact for the most part it isn't really happening at all; the military is being sent in to break up protests (turning them into massacres and riots), and most of the barricades are just the neighborhoods trying to keep the chaos out of their own area until the whole thing dies down.
  • A Storm Is Coming: The book begins with a heavy storm coming in to Ankh-Morpork, hitting by the time Vimes catches up to Carcer.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Carcer, as he's described, is basically what Dick Van Dyke's character in Mary Poppins would be like if he were a violent psychopath.
  • Super Doc: Dr. Mossy Lawn.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Wiglet, the second member of the Treacle Mine Road crew to die, gets an arrow straight through the body and drops dead in the space of a sentence.
  • Sword Cane: Swing has one, and surprises Vimes by being dangerously good with it.
  • Take That!:
    • A gentle one on the subject of the kind of ostentatious patriotism in the United States that perplexes non-Americans (and some Americans) (and also a self-deprecating nod that less ostentatious patriotism can be just as jingoistic):
      "I'd be very worried if I saw a man singing the national anthem and waving the flag, sir. It's really a thing foreigners do."
      "Really? Why?"
      "We don't need to show we're patriotic, sir... We don't have to make a fuss about being the best. We just know."
    • Another at Braveheart: At one point, Reg Shoe turns to the enemy and shouts out, "You can take our lives, but you can never take our freedom!" There's a long pause and some mumbling while everyone runs that sentence through their heads again and decides that, yes, it's the stupidest battle cry they've ever heard. Finally, Carcer just shouts, "Wrong!" and shoots him. Then again, given what the audience already knows about Reg Shoe, it's also the literal truth, and he responds to it by punching his aggressors in the face and fighting bravely before eventually realizing he's dead.
    • Another is about the problems with weapon bans to deter crime; the law-abiding citizens promptly disarmed themselves while the criminals couldn't believe their luck and robberies shot through the roof.
  • Tap on the Head:
    • Vimes has to stop his younger self doing this to an Unmentionable, since Sam is too young to know how to do it without killing the guy, noting this is a problem with hitting people hard on the head.
    • One of the Agony Aunts does it to Vimes later on, but they're experts at knocking people out.
  • Tautological Templar: Vimes even acknowledges he's being like this at one point, justifying his actions with "because it's me doing it", then follows up by admitting this isn't a good line of reasoning.
  • Terms of Endangerment: The Agony Aunts tend to referring to people as "kind sir / lady" and "dearie". But the parrot-handled umbrella is always there...
  • That Came Out Wrong: When Corporal Colon returns with the ginger beer Vimes had ordered, he announces to the room: "Old Mrs Arbiter didn't like being knocked up in the middle of the night, I had to give her a dollar!". Vimes couldn't look at Dr Lawn's face after that line.
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble: Vimes has some difficulty when "back then" becomes "back now".
  • Title Drop:
    • Hardly counts, considering how integral the words "Night Watch" are to the story. However, in one scene Vimes is struggling with the violent side of his nature "that was the nature of the beast." Guess what one of the alternate titles which Terry and the publishers considered was.
    • Notable, though, is a subtle Title Drop in the cover, which is a restaging of the Rembrandt painting nicknamed "The Night Watch".
  • To Win Without Fighting: Inverted: Vimes wisely choosing not to fight is what defuses a mob situation without incident. To wit - all the Watch Houses have been put on high alert and told to expect rioters. All the other Watch Houses put up shutters and barricade the doors, and swiftly get put under siege and some get set on fire. Vimes orders his Watch House to light the lamp over the door, then sits outside waiting for the angry mob with a cigar and a mug of cocoa — making a point to hold them in both hands when a drunk hothead gets in his face and looks for an excuse to fight. That way, nobody can misremember him as having assaulted the man when the drunk attempts to invoke Grievous Bottley Harm and winds up with a fistful of broken glass instead.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Reg takes out about half a dozen of Carcer's thugs... after being shot full of arrows and dying.
  • Torture Cellar: What the Cable Street Particulars have. The Torture Technician that Captain Swing employs, however, is not a sadistic self-declared "artist" but merely a big bruiser who — as Vimes suspects — thinks nothing of hitting people long after they're unconscious and beating them to death. It's all just a job to him.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Sam Vimes, a man pathologically opposed to actual physical torture, gets results by subjecting captured members of the secret police to psychological warfare: he plays on their imagination, their knowledge, and their guilty consciences about torture to terrify the weakest-willed of them into confessing. (He's led to believe by sound and play-acting that the other members of his trio are, unseen but definitely heard, being given the "ginger beer" treatment in the next room over.) And Vimes is still a bit uncomfortable with the idea.
  • Tricked Out Time: Vimes and Carcer arriving in the past changed the timeline when Carcer kills Keel and so Vimes has to substitute for him and do all the things history remembers Keel doing, such as mentoring the young Sam Vimes. (Vimes raises the possibility of it being a Stable Time Loop in which he learned everything he knows from himself, who learned everything he knew from himself, but Lu-Tze says that this is not the case and there was an original timeline in which the real Keel did the things Vimes remembers.)
  • Tyrannicide: Subverted: the revolution ends with the murder of Lord Winder by a young Havelock Vetinari and Lord Snapcase being made the new Patrician, but he immediately turns out to be just as tyrannical, if not worse.
  • Unnecessary Time Precision: Vimes asks when Dibbler Enterprises, Est. was established. What year is it? Tuesday.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Lu-Tze openly admits that what he tells Vimes is a lie he can understand and the truth is much more complicated. What he doesn't tell him is that the monks don't actually know what's going on; they're keeping both timelines going in the hopes that Rubber-Band History will kick in after the new one hits Close-Enough Timeline, but Vimes taking Keel's place happened all on its own and they have several competing hypothesis as to why (one of which is that it's "Just Plain Weird").
  • Urban Warfare: Once the regiments are called in to crush the rebellion, much is made of city-fighting's various complications and how their "enemy" has no uniform. Cavalry action proves pretty much useless in a city built out of narrow alleyways, particularly in the Shades, where horses are known as Lunch.
    Cities were to be laid siege to, or defended. They weren't for fighting in. You couldn't see, you couldn't group, you couldn't manoeuvre and you were always going to be up against people who knew the place like their own kitchen. And you definitely didn't want to fight an enemy that had no uniform.
  • Verbal Judo: Vimes handles a Powder Keg Crowd amazingly, making sure not to provoke them in any of the ways almost anyone else in his position would have felt only the natural way to react.
  • The Villain Knows Where You Live: At one point, Carcer tells Vimes: "I can see your house from here." Also counts as a Brick Joke and Shout-Out to Jingo; "Ab Hoc Possum Videre Domum Tuum."
  • Villains Blend in Better: Carcer adapts to being sent back in time a lot faster than Vimes: although when Vimes catches up, he catches up rather spectacularly. It's reflected by Vimes that, in a time of chaos, those who remain firm and authoritative and full of conviction can rise to the top very quickly and dictate major events. Which is of course very similar to how "revolutions" can sometimes succeed despite what seem titanic odds. Justified when Carcer points out that while watchmen must be known to be watchmen to be able to do their jobs, it's actually quite beneficial to the criminal if no one knows they're a criminal.
  • Vehicle Vanish: Played with. Vimes sees Lu-Tze across the street, and Lu-Tze waves. A cart passes between them, and Vimes throws himself on the ground to keep Lu-Tze in sight under the cart because he suspects he's going to take the opportunity to leave. Lu-Tze doesn't. Then Vimes rushes across the road toward him — and nearly gets run down by another cart because he's too busy keeping Lu-Tze in sight to pay attention to the traffic. When he recovers, Lu-Tze is gone.
  • Verbal Tic:
    • Swing's unusuallypaced... speech pattern
    • Captain Tilden, what.
    • Snouty, hnah, too.
    • Carcer's patronizing little chuckle, haha.
  • Vomiting Cop: When the Watch find what's left of the Unmentionables' prisoners.
  • We All Die Someday:
    Vimes: I've been talking to people who are going to die today. Do you have any idea how that feels like?
    Lu-Tze: Of course. Everyone I talk to is going to die. Everyone you talk to is going to die. Everybody dies.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: Warned against early on by Vimes with swords, because either you don't use it, and get attacked by the person you're threatening now they know you won't, or you do use it, and there are only so many ways that's going to go. Young Sam wasn't listening, and actually holds Captain Rust at crossbowpoint.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The entire book is one giant one for Vimes, but especially when he takes Carcer down by the book, in one of the best Shut Up Hannibals ever.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Young Sam, to Vimes' great annoyance and disbelief.
  • A Wizard Did It:
    • Lu-Tze tells Vimes it's magic after attempting to explain the function of the Procrastinator.
    Lu-Tze: Did you understand what I just said?
    Vimes: No.
    Lu-Tze: All right, it's a magical box. Happier?
    • Ponder tries to use this against Carrot, mixed with a good bit of Techno Babble. It fails, because Carrot's quick enough to recognize exactly what Ponder's prevaricating about.
  • World Half Full: Past Ankh-Morpork sucks even worse than present, with insane rulers, tyrannical and cruel authorities and even more rampant crime. Vimes repeatedly calls the Watch "just another gang" in his monologues. And he's explicitly told upfront that he can’t, can’t change any major events, such as a clearly pointless war borne of the Patrician's insanity which will last just long enough to kill many innocent people, or the deaths of many watchmen. However, rather than sitting there and taking it, he makes efforts to reform the watch, prevents a bloodbath on Morphic Street, and changes history by holding his barricade through the entire night when the original Keel failed halfway through, reducing his side's casualties to perhaps a dozen (during the battle, anyway). And he takes down Carcer in the most lawful way possible.
  • World of Pun
    • The book contains a sequence describing the ornamental armour Sam Vimes has to wear, and how it makes him feel like a class traitor. The pun-chline: "It was gilt by association."
    • And when the newold Patrician is appointed, a bilingual pun.
      Slant: Ave! Duci novi, similis duci seneci.note , or as we used to say in school, Ave! Bossa nova similis bossa seneca.
    • Young Vetinari's obnoxious classmates call him "Dog-botherer". (Because it's pronounced like "veterinary".)
  • You Didn't Ask: Played with. Vetinari has been openly wearing the Lilac for decades, has no reason to hide his involvement, and is actually quite curious why nobody ever asked him about it since the survivors deal with him every day.
  • You Just Told Me: Present day Vetinari confirms his suspicion that Vimes was Keel by calling him "Sergeant". Played with: What actually confirms it is Vimes' response when he notices: "You knew?"
  • You Keep Using That Word: When Rust rails that the guards turning on him for being a psychotic arse is mutiny, Vimes corrects him. Soldiers mutiny, and they're not soldiers.
  • You Will Be Beethoven: Vimes takes Keel's place after Carcer murders him. Subverted, though, as it's openly stated that the John Keel that Vimes knew was the real John Keel... but time travel works as it does in the Back to the Future series, meaning that Vimes' replacement of Keel and the much longer-lived barricade don't undo the fact that Vimes originally was taught by Keel himself. The book is then Vimes' attempt to replicate Keel as accurately as possible.
  • Your Head Asplode: A common problem the History Monks have is causing this. Lu-Tze disapproves, on the grounds there are better things to do with one's head.