Polly Perks' older brother, Paul, has gone off to war and disappeared off the face of the earth. He's not very bright, Polly has in fact spent most of her life being an older sister to her older brother... so Polly is worried. On a whim she decides to leave her father's inn one night, disguised as a boy, and joins the army in order to search for her brother. And thus Polly Perks becomes Oliver Perks and heads off to fight for her warlike little country of Borogravia.
With her goes Maladict, the vampire, who has sworn off blood but is addicted to coffee, Igor the igor (Igors specialise in sewing people together), a troll, and several youngsters from the local workhouse, all led by Sergeant Jackrum, a legend in his own lifetime. The officer in charge, known to one and all as 'the rupert' is one, Lieutenant Blouse. He has no chin, reads battle strategy books and wants to have an item of clothing named after him. Polly is made his batman, which is difficult as she doesn't know how to shave a man, but then neither does Blouse... Not only that, her fellow soldiers seem oddly deficient in that and other areas too. It seems there are secrets amongst this extremely motley band. Not that any of it matters because they are the last recruits from Borogravia and it's going to be up to them to win the war and save their country from disgrace.
I couldn't help feeling while I was reading this book, that if ever a teacher wanted to push home the futility of war to his students, all he would really need to do is hand them each a copy of this book and let them draw their own conclusions. That makes the story sound preachy when it most certainly is not. Terry Pratchett does what he does better than anyone else in my opinion, and that is to drive his point home with his superb humour. He is the perfect 'show, don't tell' author as new recruits are handed an IOU instead of a shilling, get taken to a shed for new uniforms only to find they're getting secondhand ones with blood and gore on them, and are fed 'scubbo' which can be pork, chicken or beef boiled in water but is more likely to be rat or horse. A couple of well-known Discworld characters turn up - William de Worde, the journalist from The Truth and the ever wonderful Sam Vimes, head of the Night Watch and now Duke of something or other, much to his disgust. I'd forgotten how much I love his character and must get around to reading Night Watch and Thud!.
Anyway, another wonderful book from Mr. Pratchett. They just get better and better and Monstrous Regiment manages to be extremely thought provoking whilst maintaining the author's well earned reputation for exceptionally clever humour.