|Publication date||25th September 2003|
|Main characters||Polly Perks, Sergeant Jackrum, Sam Vimes|
|All data relates to the first UK edition.|
It was a sudden strange fancy...
Polly Perks had to become a boy in a hurry. Cutting off her hair and wearing trousers was easy. Learning to fart and belch in public and walk like an ape took more time...
And now she's enlisted in the army, and searching for her lost brother. But there's a war on. There's always a war on. And Polly and her fellow recruits are suddenly in the thick of it, without any training, and the enemy is hunting them.
All they have on their side is the most artful sergeant in the army and a vampire with a lust for coffee. Well... they have the Secret. And as they take the war to the heart of the enemy, they have to use all the resources of... the Monstrous Regiment.
Borogravia is a small, backward country which is at war with Zlobenia. The traditional deity of the country is Nuggan, but he has become increasingly psychotic and taken to declaring many trivial things "Abominations" - including garlic, cats and ginger hair. As a result, the population are losing their faith in Nuggan and many are instead starting worship their official leader, Duchess Annagovia.
Polly Perks sets out to find her slow-witted brother Paul after he disappears while serving in the army. Nugganatic law prevents women from owning property, meaning that unless Paul returns the family pub will pass to their cousin (a drunk) after their father's death. Women are also prohibited from serving in the army, so Polly disguises herself as a boy with the name "Oliver" in order to enlist. After she enlists, she meets Sergeant Jackrum and the patriotic Corporal Strappi. Her fellow soldiers include a vampire named Maladict, a Troll named Carborundum, and an Igor. They also include "Tonker" Halter, "Shufti" Manickle, "Wazzer" Goom, and "Lofty" Tewt.
On the night after joining, Polly hears a mysterious voice from someone who knows her to be a girl, but promises not to tell and even gives tips on how to conceal her gender. Over the next few days, Polly realizes that Lofty and Shufti are both girls. As the story progresses, she gradually discovers that the entire regiment consists of girls pretending to be male soldiers. She also realizes that Borogravia's situation in the war is hopeless.
The regiment head towards the Keep where their enemies are based, on a mission to rescue Borogravian soldiers who are in their captivity. They run into an elite enemy detachment that includes Zlobenia's Prince Heinrich and easily manage to defeat them. As a result, the regiment get publicity in the outside world via the Ankh-Morpork Times. They also draw the interest of Samuel Vimes, who is currently staying at the Keep.
Polly and most of the rest of the regiment infiltrate the Keep disguised as washerwomen. They manage to free the captured troops and take control of most of the building, but their own forces remove them from the conflict after Polly admits that they are women. They are brought before a council of senior officers. They are about be discharged and sent home, when Jackrum arrives and reveals that many of them are also women. In the midst of this, Wazzer becomes possessed by Annagovia. The Duchess is actually dead, but because of how the power of belief works in Discworld, she has turned into a deity. By communicating through Wazzer, she urges the generals to abandon the war, return home and repair the country.
It is then revealed that Jackrum is also a woman. The regiment is sent to the enemy and successfully negotiates peace. The military rules are changed to allow women to serve, while Polly finds her brother and they return home. At the end of the book, it is revealed that another conflict has broken out and Polly sneaks away from the family pub (now in her possession) to join the army and become commander of a group of boy-impersonating female soldiers.
- Grand Duchess Annagovia
- General Froc
- Major Clogston
- Lieutenant Blouse (of the Tenth Infantry)
- Private Lart Hubukurk the younger
- Private Joe Hubukurk the elder (retired)
- Sergeant-Major Jack Jackrum
- Corporal Strappi
- Polly Perks
- "Tonker" Halter
- "Shufti" Manickle
- "Wazzer" Goom
- "Lofty" Tewt
Zlobenians and other neighboring countries
- Prince Heinrich
- Samuel Vimes (of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch)
- Angua von Überwald
- Buggy Swires
- Reg Shoe
- Clarence Chinny (Consul to Zlobenia)
- William de Worde (of the Ankh-Morpork Times)
- Otto Chriek (of the Ankh-Morpork Times)
- Ronald Rust
The title of the book comes from The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women, a misogynistic book written by the Protestant preacher John Knox. He criticised Mary I of England and Mary of Guise (the acting ruler of Scotland) and argued that having women in power went against the Bible. This backfired spectacularly on him because Elizabeth I became the Queen of England later that year. Although a Protestant, Elizabeth was offended by his writings and banned him from entering England for the rest of his life. At the time the two words had different meanings: "monstruous"/"monstrous" meant "unnatural" while "regiment" meant "rule"/"governance".
Adapted by Stephen Briggs into a stage play in 2004.
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