Collaborative authors, Goody and Grant, follow the Discworld model by going in a different direction for their third outing, following new characters and benching the heroes of the first two books, including Clovenhoof himself. This is a smart move and shows that the franchise is bigger than its titular star.
God Squad follows a mismatched group of saints, as they travel across Western Europe in search of a mysterious soul called Simon. The shift in genre is another first for the series. Clovenhoof and Pigeonwings were fish-out-of-water comedies, whereas God Squad embraces the road trip genre and the misfits-on-a-mission genre.
The ensemble allows Goody and Grant plenty of comedic material. We have Joan of Arc, the eternal teenager with a sharp sword; St Christopher, patron saint of travel (and toothaches), who is going through an existential crisis due to his lack of worshippers on Earth; St Francis of Assisi, the animal-lover with a lisp; St Mary, the bitter, chain-smoking, beatnik mother of God; and finally the Wolf of Gubbio, effectively Lassie but with bigger teeth.
Their personality clashes make for hilarious scenes as they venture from city to city. They encounter all manner of curiosities along the way: Belgian cannibals, phallic hot air balloons, a love interest for Joan, the Women's Institute who previously appeared in Pigeonwings, an army of dogs and a French nuclear naval base. Many of these encounters are portrayed as standalone adventures, allowing Goody and Grant to continue with the episodic structure that was so successful for their first two novels.
Those worried that the franchise would struggle without the central trio of Clovenhoof, Nerys and Ben need not worry. The bold move of focusing on a new set of characters will keep the series fresh and ensure longevity. After all, none of us missed Rincewind and Twoflower once we had immersed ourselves into the first few chapters of Terry Prathett's third Discworld novel, Witches Abroad.
God Squad is the most fun of the three. Clovenhoof and Pigeonwings had one or two fantastical central characters, whilst the rest were contemporary humans. God Squad is the opposite. All of the lead characters are fantastical figures, each with their own historical and biblical baggage, thereby providing a wealth of amusing material to reference.
Happily, the franchise shows no sign of slowing. The fourth novel will be the companion piece to God Squad, with a focus on demons instead of saints. After that, the rumoured fifth novel is supposedly titled Clovenhoof's Baby.
But for now, God Squad will keep you laughing. Forget Dante. This is the true divine comedy.