The Fifth Elephant
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...
Reviewed on 22nd January 2023
In my gradual re-read of Discworld’s Watch novels I’ve reached The Fifth Elephant, which is one that I have the least memory of from my previous reading which must have been around 15 years ago.
It’s a tale of diplomacy, as Vimes is sent to Uberwald for the coronation of the Low King. As such, it does that classic Vimes thing of putting him in an awkward situation and letting his character flow.
I found it a bit harder to get going than some Discworld novels, and it wasn’t until around halfway that I properly started to accelerate through. I don’t think it has quite the relaxed readability of some of the novels - there’s a lot starting to go on at a deeper level in this part of the series, and fewer quick surface level jokes.
Overall though, it’s a solid mystery story, with a fantastic amount of world building and proper exploration of several of the favourite Discworld characters.