After sampling and skipping around in the massive opus that is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, I’m now gradually reading through the ones I don’t know in publishing order. This book was the seventh, published in 1989.
The land of Djelibeybi (pronounced and a pun on jelly baby, or jelly bean in America) is very much like Egypt, a desert land kept alive by its one large river. The people there follow the Egyptian idea of building pyramids for the dead to great extremes, to the point where there are pyramids of all sizes on much of the available land, and upkeep and construction have obsessed and monopolized the people and their rulers for ages. King Teppicymon XXVII, the current ruler, leaves nearly all the decisions about ruling to his high priest Dios, a man of great age who stubbornly preserves all the ancient rituals and ideas that are stifling the land. The king’s son Teppic has other ideas. He wants to get out of his traditional role for a while to train in Ankh-Morpork, the largest city on Discworld. His idea is to become an student of the Assassin’s Guild there, and despite the objections of Dios, Teppic follows his plan and has some interesting times in Ankh-Morpork, some of them life-threatening.
As Teppic is completing his training, events in his homeland compel him to return and take on the role of King, but he soon finds that almost nothing he wants to do in Djelibeybi can be accomplished. His every new idea is blocked by Dios, and when Teppic tries to get to know his people better, they are horrified and frightened by his attempts at simple friendliness. Meanwhile, Dios and the royal pyramid builders are planning a massive new pyramid, the largest by far, for Teppic’s deceased father. The project is underway, but the new pyramid seems to be creating all kinds of new problems. Teppic has his own outlet: escaping at night from the palace using his assassin training, and when he rescues a handmaiden of her father, Ptraci, who objects to being sealed in his tomb, things get even more interesting.
This was a fun read. One thing that put me off about Pratchett’s work early on and kept me from reading more of it then was the pun names. I find they take me out of the story every time they turn up, but I’ve learned to ignore them better, and there aren’t many in this book. Recommended.