Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
"In Ghat they believe in vampire watermelons, although folklore is silent about what they believe about vampire watermelons. Possibly they suck back."
All species evolve, all living things pass on the strongest of their genes so that the best of them can become better still, even if they are vampires. In 1998's Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett explores what happens when vampires start to learn how to adapt to things like holy water and garlic, and it's up to the witches of Lancre to show them that sometimes the old ways are the best ways.
After the events told in Maskerade, the kingdom of Lancre is preparing for the birth of the royal child, a daughter, and the naming ceremony is going to be a lavish affair. The king has decided that the future of Lancre depends on diplomacy and sends invitations to fellow monarchs throughout the land, including the Count Magpyre and his family of vampires, or rather vampyres as they prefer. Of course everyone knows that the only way for a vampyre to enter your home is to invite him, so when the king invites the Count into the country, the vampyres are ready to take full advantage of the situation.
When Granny Weatherwax hears of this, she is outraged, and insists that the king revoke the invitation, a demand he refuses. Rather than stand by and watch Granny takes matters into her own hands, only to find that she is unable to defend the kingdom from the pending invasion. And all her fears are realized when the Count announces his intentions to stay in Lancre, taking the castle as his residence. Only two people seem to be immune to the Counts mesmerizing abilities: an Omnian priest named Mightily Oats and the newest third witch in the coven, Agnes Nitt. Because Agnes has a buried personality, in the form of Perdita, she is able to keep part of her mind separated, a trait that one of the vampyre's is attracted to. She's able to use this to escape, taking Nanny Ogg and the priest with her. Knowing that they are too weak to fight the family of vampyres, they have to track down Granny, who has left her home behind, feeling defeated for the first time. When they are unable to convince her to come fight with them, they have little choice but to stand against the vampyres themselves.
Knowing that her friends are off to battle, Granny makes one last attempt against the invaders, only to end up beaten and apparently broken, as well as bitten. All seems lost, until Igor decides that tradition is too important to lose. As the vampyres start having troubles with the old superstitions acting up, the witches regroup once more, in the heart of the vampyres castle.
"There's no grays, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."
Granny Weatherwax is a hard woman, no question. Her conversations with the priest, Oats, is very insightful, not just into her character, but that of Mr. Pratchett, I think. I got to thinking about this quote earlier after reading a line from The Kite Runner, saying that the only sin was theft. And I think that Granny's perspective is even more accurate. It begins with the idea that we see people, not as people in their own right, not as living, loving beings with rights and responsibilities, but as things that can be used and manipulated. The Magpyre's view people as animals, to be controlled and used to fulfill their needs and desires. How many people in our own lives, in our day to day activities do we treat in that same way? Think about it the next time you are out shopping, or on the phone with a telemarketer, or in your car during rush hour.
The witches stories are a little harder and a little more serious-toned than other books in the series. Granny is a great character, one of the most fully developed and evolving that I've ever seen, and she does have her flashes of humor though she is certainly more philosophical and serious. So she gets Nanny as the motherly foil and comic relief and the young, bumbling Agnes, who's dual personality conversations are often funny. This story makes a fun change on the usual vampire novel, and any one who refuses to read the Twilight series, or who has read it and needs an antidote, should certainly pick this one up. Enjoy.
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