Another couple of weeks, another Vimes book. And darn it, I chose the wrong one. Thud! was next chronologically, but I didn't realise this until I was far away from my copy of Thud! and well into Snuff.
As such, it's quite the time jump. Sam Vines junior, who was born at the end of Night Watch is now six years old, and Willikins has developed hugely. Vimes is clearly the Patrician's right-hand man at this point. It feels like there are minor spoilers for Thud!, but it's also readable as a stand-alone book.
The Watch books allow Terry to be vocal on social issues, and that's not changing here. Upping the stakes as usual, here he takes on the Discworld's version of slavery! Not a light subject, but he handles it well nonetheless. In a slightly-surprising-to-me nod to the Round World, the slavery is tied up with tobacco, hence the (slightly overloaded, since there are hints of genocide) title.
So, I'm sad this is the last Watch book, because it's another great story. Once again, Vimes is taken out of the city, in order to give him space to grow. The whole Watch sequence has been a fantastic exercise in growing and changing a character, ending up with a powerful leader who has come from the ranks, deserves his success, and is still mindful of the magic of rank. It's another "how to do leadership" book.
When I look at this book, and look back to The Colour of Magic, it's fascinating to see how the focus and approach has changed. Which is not to say Pratchett would have necessarily been the best-selling success if he started out with night watch novels, but I think they capture more of him, and I'm glad he had the chance to write them.
It's strange the things you notice in these books. It's well over 100 pages in before Real Plot starts, but you don't care. Pratchett's writing at the per-page level is still wonderful. It was interesting to see Wee Mad Arthur retcon'd as a Nac Mac Feegle (I've still to read The Wee Free Men). Also, it was good to see Sybil as an active character in the plot, not just someone to worry over Vimes, but someone who, in comparison to Vimes's outspoken voice and immediate action, could step back, bite her tongue, and play the strategic move that makes all the difference. She's been portrayed as a force to be reckoned with, and it's nice to see her act that way.
It's really weird to be writing this having not read Thud!, but this does feel like a fitting end to the Night Watch series. It's clearly not the end to Vimes's career, but sadly the rest will never be documented!