Book Review: “Hogfather” (1997) by Terry Pratchett


Still from the 2006 TV movie.


I still very much consider myself to be a newbie to Terry Pratchett’s work; I read my first Discworld book eight months ago (Mortreview here), have stuck to only one subseries (Death), and until very recently, I had never heard of Hogswatch. And yet, after only a few books, I find myself wondering how I’ve managed to do without the Discworld in my life for so long.

I finished reading Hogfather on christmas eve, fully intending to write down my thoughts on the spot and post a review on christmas day, but spent the next day or so pondering how on earth I was going to review it instead. Pointing out where a writer went wrong is one thing, but what do you say about a book that instantly feels like a classic and has managed to capture the holiday spirit in a way that is all too rare?

In Hogfather, Pratchett has finally achieved what I have found lacking in the other books I’ve read so far: a perfect balance between the storylines. There is just the right amount of wizard comedy, lots of  time dedicated to Death and Susan grappling with what it means to be human and normal respectively, truly stellar worldbuilding, and big questions on the nature of belief and the holiday spirit that will stay with me for a very long time. I have mentioned in my other Discworld reviews that Pratchett is a philosopher and a humanist, and this is where all his views and ideas come together to form a book that is both light and heavy at the same time. Not an easy feat, and making it look effortless is the sign of a truly gifted writer. Whether you’re looking for a fun slapsticky romp or a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to have faith, Pratchett’s got you covered.

There are so many great moments in this book, I don’t even know where to start. Every time you think to yourself, “wow, this is my favourite part,” Pratchett fires something new at you and raises the bar a little bit higher again (“no, wait, this is the best part”). Pascal’s Wager jokes! Susan making her way through a children’s drawing! The Death of Rats hiding on top of a Hogswatch tree! Hex writing out a letter to the Hogfather! Alfred throwing snowballs at two grumpy angels! Death saves the little match girl! I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Hogfather is an incredibly fun ride and I can’t wait to reread and relive it all over again next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.


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2 thoughts on “Book Review: “Hogfather” (1997) by Terry Pratchett

  • December 26, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    I’ve only attemped one Pratchett book in the past, and i didn’t finish it as i found myself 100 pages in without yet caring what was happening (i think it was Men at Arms). However your review makes this book sound like a great read! I know the Discworld is vast and it isn’t necessary to read them all to enjoy the ones you do read. So how do you think this book stands as the first Discworld novel for a reader? I’d like to give it a go.

    • December 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      I gather that the quality of the Discworld books can vary greatly, so perhaps you should try another one and see how you like it. Still, I think that Pratchett’s style and sense of humour is not for everyone, so it might just not be your cup of tea (and that’s okay!).

      Either way, I wouldn’t recommend starting with Hogfather since it does assume some previous knowledge of the characters and their arcs. My advice: pick a subseries (reading guide here ) and read the first book, then carry on from there. Personally, I started with Mort and that worked out really well.


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