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Monstrous Regiment

Discworld, #31
by Terry Pratchett

genre: fantasy, adventure, young adult

No damsels in distress here!  If you want a book with a strong female protagonist, this is a book for you.  This is very much a “one grain of rice may tip the scale” story.  I actually had a scene from Mulan playing in my head when Polly cut off her hair to join the army even though her reasons for doing so were a little different.


Borogravia doesn’t have scenic mountains or natural resources, they don’t even have a god who is all there in the head metaphysically speaking, but the people are proud that it’s theirs and they are willing to kill for it.  So willing that they’ve gone into war with almost, if not all, of their neighboring countries.  Everyone knows they’re losing, but no one is willing to say it.  Men come back missing body parts if they come back at all and the last of the recruits seem too young to have sprouted any facial hair.  Among them is Polly Perks, a plain girl who doesn’t need to do much more than cut her hair and stuff socks down her pants to pass for a boy.  She’s joining the Ins and Outs to find out what happened to her brother Paul, but the journey ends up being much more than a rescue mission as she learns not everything is as it seems.


This is the fourth time I’ve read this book, possibly the fifth.  It does lose a little something by the third read because the first time you read it, you’re completely taken by surprise; the second time you’re reading it to see whether the clues were there and you should have figured it out, but since it’s been a while since I’ve read it, I remembered the main plot and the major twists while some of the smaller forgotten ones caught me off guard, and no matter how many times I read it, the descriptions never get old.

Polly, who goes by “Oliver” to pass as a man, explains the little behavioral changes involved with becoming a “man.”

Fart loudly and with self-satisfaction at a job well done, move like  puppet that’d had a couple of random strings cut, never hug anyone and, if you meet a friend, punch them.

Loc. 32

This is one of those books that makes you think.  You want to smack some of the characters for their blatant double standards; a woman gets in trouble even though a man would have gotten a medal.  When do you obey orders and when do you follow reason?  And one of my favorite quotes…

Too many lies and there’s no truth to go back to.

Loc. 4636

The one really annoying thing about Monstrous Regiment is that there aren’t any chapters, and few if any breaks.  I don’t like stopping in the middle of a thought and there’s no transition between points of view.  The very first time it switches to a completely different set of characters, I still had to reread because the change is so abrupt.

Even so, this is one book I highly recommend and will probably continue to reread every couple of years.

5 out of 5 stars

This book is for you if:

  • You enjoy strong, female protagonists especially Mulan or Eowyn.

This book is not for you if:

  • You’re very traditional in your opinion of gender roles.
  • Not having chapters or breaks will dramatically disrupt your reading

-Eliabeth Hawthorne

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