The Fifth Elephant
Terry Pratchett
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Get *The Fifth Elephant* delivered to your door! The Fifth Elephant
Terry Pratchett
April 2001
400 pages
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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The latest Discworld story opens with a legend: that the world is flat and supported on the back of four elephants who themselves are on the back of a giant turtle. Back in the mists of time, a fifth elephant came hurtling in through the atmostphere and crash-landed with enough force to "split continents and raise mountains." The legend has especial meaning for this entry in the Discworld saga, for the dwarves are about to crown a new Low King, and it is the dwarves who mine and control the world's supply of iron, gold, and especially fat, that are the remains of the fifth elephant.

Curled Up With a Good BookSam Vimes, commander of the Ankh-Morpork city watch, is usually able to forget that he is also the Duke of Ankh-Morpork (through his marriage to the stout Lady Sybil). His hands are full just now with police matters in the city he calls home. There are street skirmishes between factions of city dwarves who support different candidates for the Low King; a museum replica of the dwarvish Throne of Scone, the Low King's sacred seat, goes missing; and the owner of the city's first prophylactic factory turns up dead, dipped in one of his own vats of melted rubber. But Vimes must leave all that in the capable hands of his second-in-command, Captain Carrot (a tall, handsome human who happens to be dwarf by adoption).

Lord Vetinari orders Vimes to go to Bonk as ambassador to the new Low King's coronation. So along with his wife, a troll, an outed female dwarf and an administrative assistant with suspiciously assassin-like characteristics, Vimes reluctantly leaves Ankh-Morpork for Bonk. He finds upon arrival that although you might be able to take the man away from his job, you can't take the job from the man. He undertakes the investigation of the real Scone's disappearance, desperately trying to avert a dwarvish civil war while keeping himself out of the clutches of some power-hungry werewolves.

The usual motley cast of Discworld characters peoples The Fifth Elephant -- werewolves, dwarves (of both sexes!), twelve-step vampires, even a cameo appearance by Death. Deliciously funny subplots abound: Carrot's caught in an emotional tug-of-war for his girlfriend's heart with a wolf, and the Ankh-Morpork city watch takes one administrative pratfall after another under a Sergeant alternately paralyzed with fear of screwing up and drunk on his first taste of power. The nice thing about Discworld is that you can jump in anytime -- it doesn't matter that The Fifth Elephant is about Pratchett's millionth foray into this satirical society. Be warned: The Fifth Elephant will seduce you with its wit and delight, and you'll discover that life without a little Discworld in it pales beside the easily-rectified alternative.

© 2000 by Sharon Schulz-Elsing for Curled Up With a Good Book

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