Title: The Fifth Elephant
Author: Terry Pratchett
Page Count/Review Word Count: 464
The Fifth Elephant is one of my favourite Discworld novels, but then it does feature Sir Samuel Vimes and so there’s no surprise there, then. In this book, he’s sent as a diplomat to Uberwald, because the Patrician has a sense of humour; as you might expect, things don’t exactly go according to plan, and he ends up as something of an outlaw of sorts, on the run with some pretty nasty werewolves on his trail.
What’s interesting about this book is how interlinked the story line is – it gives it a sense of realism that some other books in the series are, perhaps, missing. There’s a pretty heavy focus on politics here as well, particularly amongst the dwarves, but because of the intricacy of Pratchett’s fantasy world, it’s interesting and not tiresome. And it also makes you think about our own political system, too.
And when Vimes is around, there’s a whole host of awesome supporting characters to enjoy as well, and a lot of friendly faces from the Ankh-Morpork City Watch make an appearance. That’s good, because there are a lot of unfriendly faces too, and Vimes needs all of the help he can get.
I was particularly impressed by Pratchett’s depiction of the werewolves – they were chillingly realistic, and a fearsome foe. Let’s face it, Vimes has come up against his fair share of tough adversaries over the years, but these are some of the toughest, and he’s out of his element in a foreign country.
The title of this book is one of my favourites, too – it’s named after the mythical fifth elephant, a companion to the four who still support the Disc whilst standing on the back of the great A’tuin, who lost his footing and plummeted to the Disc. Legend has it that this is where all of the Disc’s precious metals come from, and it’s an interesting thought – it could well be true, knowing the Disc.
Overall, I’d strongly recommend reading this book, especially if you’re familiar with the rest of the Discworld ouevre. It’s a little late in the series, which is pretty much the only reason why I don’t think you should start with it, but other than that it stands up there amongst the best books I’ve ever read in my opinion, and it’s certainly one of the top five Discworld books.
I feel like I should also add that this is one of the few Discworld books that I’ve read more than two or three times – I used to re-read a lot as a kid, and I literally never do it now, and so it’s an honour that’s unlikely to be repeated.