The transformation of Carrot is complete in The Fifth Elephant, which is the fifth of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books to feature him and the rest of the City Watch. Not only is he possibly—but not certainly—unnaturally good, but he doesn’t do anything goofy or clearly incompetent, either. It’s quite the odd character arc, and I continue to wonder what Pratchett has in mind for him. (I can see a couple of possibilities for Granny Weatherwax, the other character that Pratchett seems to have maxed out, as it were; but neither of the obvious paths for Carrot feel right.)
Instead of Carrot, this is a book about the rest of the Watch: mostly Vimes, but Angua, Cheery, and Fred all have important sub-arcs. (Fred’s feels somewhat awkwardly over-the-top comic relief when compared to the others, but it’s hard to see what else could be done with that setup.) This trend in the Watch books could almost be plotted on a graph: as the proportion of Carrot in a book goes down, the proportion of Vimes goes up, reaching its culmination in the next book, Night Watch, which takes place almost entirely before Carrot was born. From the point of view of a re-read, I’m not sure how much new or different there is about Vimes in this book; but, on the other hand, that doesn’t seem to bother me in either the City Watch or the Lancre Witches books.
Two other things that struck me about this book. First, it’s very much a prequel to Thud!, as it starts the in-depth exploration of dwarf culture. Second, I have no idea why I remembered the three sisters when I’d forgotten everything else about the book but “werewolves,” because they have a really small role in the book. Perhaps it’s just that “the gloomy and purposeless trousers of Uncle Vanya” is such a wonderful phrase.
(Stephen Briggs does a good job reading the audiobook, as always, and his voice for Vimes sounds right to me (unlike Nigel Planer’s, which set my teeth on edge).)