Polly Perks joins her country's troops, dressed as a boy, to search for her brother who is lost in action. A Terry Pratchett satire on war, religion and how a pair of socks can affect one's gender.
Polly Perks was a barmaid at the family inn and the person who got things done around the place. To secure her job and the future of her family she has to go find her brother who was lost in action in the war against the neighbouring country of Zlobenia and their allies (which includes everyone else, for instance the almighty city of Ankh-Morpork). For Polly that means going to war herself.
The neverending war
Polly’s proud nation has always been at war and able men are few and hard to come by for the recruiting squads.
Many things are considered blasphemous in Borogravia. Such as the colour blue, things shorter than three feet and unfortunately also women soldiers, which is why Polly must disguise herself as a boy in order to enlists in the army. She does this despite the fact that dressing up as a man, of course, is an abomination unto the Borogravian god, Nuggan.
Polly’s regiment of young recruits is led by a living legend of a sergeant and a lieutenant born so well off he never even learned how to shave. While Polly masters the spitting, belching and the leaning walk, she has no experience in facial hair removal either and there will be trouble if anybody finds out she that cannot help the lieutenant.
The regiment pushes on towards the front line although rumours say that the Borogravian troops aren’t doing well at all. It eventually dawns on Polly, now known as Oscar, that there is more than one girl in her regiment...and then definitely more than two...three girls? ...surely not four of them?
The title is a derivative of John Knox’s 16th century anti-Catholic, pro-Protestant pamphlet. John Knox's work has also been paraphrased by crime writer Laurie R. King.
Terry Pratchett’s language is, as always, packed with twists and refreshing new takes on proverbs, colloquy and portrayal of characters.
Some of the more nonsensical traits of religion and its perpetual link to war are significant to the plot. To experience the intricate politics and strategies of warfare through Polly Perks eyes is a true joy.