The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Whilst THE FIFTH ELEPHANT is most definitely a novel about diplomacy and the trials and tribulations of preferring to be a policeman, in this outing Sir Samuel Vimes is off to Uberwald with Sybil to attend the coronation of the new Dwarfish Low King. He's there as an ambassador. He ends up being a policeman through and through. Less on the absolutely laugh out loud side, this is, as with all the Watch sub-series novels, a plot driven outing, in this case through the complicated world of inter-personal and cross-cultural interactions. Many of which now happen on a day to day basis in the Watch what with the diversity in hirings policy in place. On this occasion Cherry Littlebottom the Dwarf (in her role as Military Attache) and Detritus the Troll (Cultural Attache) go with Vimes, returning to the land of their birth, creating more than a few shockwaves along the way.

Number 24 in the Discworld series, and 5th in the City Watch sub-series, THE FIFTH ELEPHANT is a really cleverly constructed story about diplomacy, politics, policing and the beauty of difference.


Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

They say that diplomacy is a gentle art. That its finest practitioners are subtle, sophisticated individuals for whom nuance and subtext are meat and drink. And that mastering it is a lifetime's work. But you do need a certain inclination in that direction. It's not something you can just pick up on the job.

Which is a shame if you find yourself dropped unaccountably into a position of some significant diplomatic responsibility. If you don't really do diplomacy or haven't been to school with the right foreign bigwigs or aren't even sure whether a nod is as good as a wink to anyone, sighted or otherwise, then things are likely to go wrong. It's just a question of how badly... 

Review The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett
Karen Chisholm
Friday, September 4, 2020

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