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The 28th Discworld book, and the first written for young adults.
Imagine a million clever rats.
Rats that don't run.
Rats that fight...
Maurice, a streetwise tomcat, has the perfect money-making scam. He's found a stupid-looking kid who plays a pipe, and he has his very own plague of rats—rats who are strangely educated, so Maurice can no longer think of them as "lunch". And everyone knows the stories about rats and pipers...
But when they reach the stricken town of Bad Blintz, the little con suddenly goes down the drain. For someone there is playing a different tune. A dark, shadowy tune. Something very, very bad is waiting in the cellars.
The educated rats must learn a new word.
It's not a game any more. It's a rat-eat-rat world down there. And that might only be the start...
- Arc Words: "And you can always trust a cat to be a cat."
- Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: "No rat shall kill another rat" is one of Dangerous Beans' newer ideas.
- Badass: Darktan, the Clan's trap-disarming expert and eventual leader.
- Balancing Death's Books: Maurice gives up one of his lives to save Dangerous Beans.
- Beastly Bloodsports: One of the central conflicts involves the terrier rings where the terriers compete to kill the greatest number of rats.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: What do you get when you Mind Rape intelligent talking cat that is terrified sh*tless for the reason of being surrounded by hundreds of VERY big rats? When you mind rape it so hard that there's no mind left any more, that all the traces of intelligence and even common sense completely disappear? Answer: "A clever cat, but still... Just a cat. Nothing but a cat. All the way to the forest and the cave, the fang and the claw... Just a cat. And you can always trust a cat to be a cat.", indeed. Cue Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Keith. He was going to put rat poison in the rat catchers' tea before Malicia though of a better plan.
- Big Damn Heroes: And holy crud was it cool.
- Body Horror: Keith's description to the Ratcatchers of Number three rat poison. It was only laxative they were given, but the effects of the poison are real and no less horrifying.
- Blood Sport: Hamnpork is thrown into a ring with a terrier. This does not go as expected.
- A Boy and His X: Averted. Maurice does not like being referred to as anyone's cat.
- Break the Cutie: Dangerous Beans dealing with the fact that Mr Bunnsy, a children's book where animals are less animal, is fiction.
- Carnivore Confusion: Maurice is very annoyed to be afflicted with this.
- Also, the Clan's own growing doubts about eating dead clanmates or keekees.
- Cats Are Mean: Played with.
- Cats Are Snarkers: Maurice
- Cats Are Superior: Oh, Maurice.
- Cats Have Nine Lives: Helpful when Balancing Death's Books.
- Combat Pragmatist: Darktan, especially in the fight against the terrier. In particular, biting its testicles.
- Con Cat: Maurice is the brains of the operation.
- Crazy Prepared: Oh, you wacky Malicia.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The street sign the rats made looks an awful lot like...
- Distaff Counterpart: Malicia's storytelling aunts are this to the Brothers Grimm.
- Do Not Go Gentle / Don't Fear the Reaper: Darktan manages to combine both of these tropes in his Rousing Speech to the rats: death in itself is not something to be feared, but the Bone Rat will only pass you over if you can look him in the eyes. Given that it's the Disc, he's likely not speaking figuratively.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (and their scam) were first mentioned in Reaper Man, although most people reading it assumed Maurice was a human conman who trained rats.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: The Piper.
- Fat and Skinny: The rat catchers. Lampshaded by Malicia, who assumes that since they're the bumbling villains, there's a Man Behind the Man.
- Genre Savvy: Malicia, who can sometimes get confused about what kind of story she's in.
- Groin Attack: How one rat can take down a battle-hardened terrier when trapped in a ring with walls too high to escape normally. It was utterly epic.
- Heroic Albino: Dangerous Beans.
- Heroic BSOD: Dangerous Beans.
- And Hamnpork.
- Hive Mind: The Rat King.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Since the story is told from the point of view of intelligent animals.
- I Have a Family: One of the ratcatchers try this. It doesn't work.
- Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Sergeant Doppelpunkt and Corporal Knopf (German for "Colon" and "Nobbs").
- Intellectual Animal: Dangerous Beans and Peaches in particular.
- Lampshade Hanging: Often by Malicia, occasionally by Maurice, most of all by both together.
Malicia: How come a cat knows a word like that?
- Laxative Prank: Malicia puts laxative powder in the Rat Catchers' tea, then tells them they've been poisoned and holds the antidote hostage until they do as she says. The "antidote" is laxative powder too.
- Loveable Rogue: Maurice.
- "Mission Impossible" Cable Drop: Darktan performs this stunt to safely disarm a rat trap, suspended from bits of string.
- Monster Protection Racket: The educated rodents make themselves known and the stupid-looking kid gets paid to lead them out of town and into the nearest river. People never check whether the rats are good swimmers...
- The Ratcatchers themselves have a variant going, extorting money from the town to "get rid of" a plague of rats that don't exist, except in their own rat-breeding cages.
- No More for Me: Seargeant Doppenpunkt, after seeing two rats band together and attack another rat. And then give him a salute.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Some details about rats, mentioned in the author's notes.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: The ratcatchers. No 2 has to make an effort to sound grammatically incorrect.
- Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Maurice swears he will never eat prey that can talk but is afraid he learned to speak by eating one of the intelligent rats (who had a speech impediment).
- One Last Job: Bad Blintz was going to be this.
- Only Sane Man: Maurice.
- Pardon My Klingon: The Clan and Maurice swear in Rat and Cat. Apparently as a result of spending so much time with the Clan, Keith (the stupid-looking kid) also swears in Rat.
- Picky People Eater: Make sure you don't eat the green wobbly bit
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Poor Hamnpork, not so much leading as being pushed.
- Reality Ensues: Used positively at the end: rather than the humans simply accepting the rats and going into a Happily Ever After ending, the rats (with Maurice as their agent) have to broker a complex set of contracts, peace treaties and amendments to the town charter to ensure that this human-rodent cooperation is going to work.
- Plus in general, this is always going to crop up with someone as Wrong Genre Savvy as Malicia around the place.
- Rodents of Unusual Size: The Ratcatchers acting under the Rat King's influence try to breed larger and larger rats for their rat-coursing pit.
- Rousing Speech: Darktan and his fresh wound.
- Running Gag: Don't eat the green wobbly bit.
- Shout-Out: Dangerous Beans' dream of moving the Clan to an island to live without stealing is what the rats in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH set out to do, also because of emergent ethics.
- The large medical kit and the small medical kit come from Tomb Raider and probably other similar games.
- Malicia suggets the perfect time to go solve a mystery...
- Sidenote Full Story: It started out as a one-line joke in Reaper Man.
- Smarter Than You Look: Keith. He may be stupid-looking, but it doesn't mean he's actually stupid.
- Swarm of Rats: Played for Laughs, at first.
- Sympathetic Murder Backstory: Maurice once ate a talking rat. However, he was only a dumb animal at the time, and had no way of knowing until he gained his intelligence from said meal. The guilt is shown to be why he's so careful about what he eats.
- Talking Animal: In particular, exploring Civilized Animal via What Measure Is a Non-Human?.
- Theme Naming: The rats are all named after random bits of food label they found in the wizards' garbage pile.
- This Is My Human
- Town with a Dark Secret: Bad Blintz has a serious rat problem.
- Unfazed Everyman: The stupid-looking kid (real name "Keith").
- Unfortunate Names: Well, that's the kind of name you might end up with if you learned how to read off food labels, and chose names based on how you liked the sound. Dangerous Beans in particular deserves special mention.
- Waif Prophet: Dangerous Beans.
- Went to the Great X In the Sky: Some of the rats have a tentative belief that on death the Bone Rat sends them to be with the Big Rat That Lives Underground.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: By Maurice's standards, it's a rat that can't talk.
- What the Heck Is An Aglet??: A good tip-off that those aren't rat tails, for one.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Dangerous Beans.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Malicia thinks she's the hero in a Plucky Children On An Adventure story.
- You Dirty Rat: Taken to itty bitty pieces.