No question about it, Mort is definitely Terry Pratchett’s best Discworld novel yet. For many, Death is one of Pratchett’s best, and most fully fleshed out characters—no pun intended—and he properly comes to life (okay, I’ll stop now) in Mort, the fourth book in this high-end epic fantasy series.
“I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I COULD MURDER A CURRY.”
Pratchett is on top form here, and Death is as hilarious as ever with his witty comments and dry humour. At the beginning of the novel, we see that Death has decided to take on an apprentice—Mort—who is a young boy of sixteen that suddenly has a job prospect that he never could have imagined. Free board—albeit in Death’s mysterious house with its many shades of black and three-dimensional rooms full of sand-timers—and access to the company horse. What more could he ask?
Quickly, and somewhat inevitably, life as Death’s apprentice unfortunately isn’t all it’s cut out to be, and when Mort takes an interest in a princess whose soul he should be ushering into the afterlife, things quickly begin to backfire. This time Pratchett’s narrative seems to be tighter, more assured. It’s impossible not to have a feeling that the plot bumbles along randomly—what with Pratchett’s random, unexpected asides and subplots. Yet Mort feels less jumbled, with a clear direction—and it’s a better novel for it.
The thing that really makes this story, however, is the different light in which we see Death portrayed. Viewed in the others novels as a hooded, scythe-wielding, emotionless figure, Pratchett subverts this and we finally see Death as he does not want to be seen. Without wanting to reveal too much, Death has his own agenda for taking an apprentice, as he pours over his ledgers and tries to go on his own mini, hilarious adventures. After all, Mort allows him to have a rare night or two off.
Pratchett is really at the top of his game here, and Mort is perfect: a light-hearted and fun read, with a surprisingly moving message at its heart. I’m currently mourning the fact I have to wait until the eleventh Discworld novel—Reaper Man—to get to the next instalment in the “Death” sub-series—but I’m sure that in the meantime, Pratchett has many more delights and wonders up his sleeves.