Review: Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

‘Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.’

Welcome back to the Discworld Project! Today we are back with my favourite coven! The Lancre Coven! But what if I told you the coven were not longer in Lancre? What if I told you the witches were going…abroad?!

It seemed an easy job . . . After all, how difficult could it be to make sure that a servant girl doesn’t marry a prince?

But for the witches Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick, travelling to the distant city of Genua, things are never that simple . . .

Servant girls have to marry the prince. That’s what life is all about. You can’t fight a Happy Ending. At least – up until now.

I think it’s safe to say that the Witches are starting to rival the Death books for me. There’s nothing quite as joyous as spending time with 3 women who can’t agree on anything and generally don’t want to spend time together but the Disc kind of needs them to and now we get to watch them go on holiday together. But with a magic wand and a lot of pumpkins.

One thing we have learned along the way with me reviewing these books is that there is always something Pratchett is trying to dissect, parody and draw very real discussions about. Today we are tackling fairytales and story. There is also an albeit extremely small and subtle (if a bit outdated) message of the damage caused by trying to control nature, race and cultural erasure.

The world building is honestly the best I’ve read from Pratchett so far. The whole story is one big journey as the witches travel from Lancre to Genua across the Disc to stop a happily ever after. I honestly loved everything about this. I’m usually very picky about “journey” books in fantasy. Outside of the big ones, I tend to avoid them since they draw me straight back to studying Joseph Campbell for my thesis. So some of the best moments are narrated by Nanny Ogg as she sends postcards back to her Jason and honestly, I wish I had an entire book from her point of view. Genua does confuse me a little in what it is supposed to be, considering it has definite overtones of New Orleans meets Far, Far Away.

You would think the way this book follows Magrat that this book would focus on her development since she is chosen in the first place to be a fairy godmother and even though we do see her grow a lot, this book is dedicated to the matriarch herself, Esme Weatherwax. Despite Magrat’s doubts about Granny’s abilities as a witch, this boos proves if anything how powerful she truly is. We see her using powers she hasn’t used since ‘Equal Rites’, including “borrowing” and hypnotism. Outside of all that, we see her fearing someone enough that she is hiding from them. I won’t reveal too much else since it is explained later in the book but it really gave such weight to her as a character by adding a layer of vulnerability to her that only Pratchett could layer in a story that openly mocks fairytales like this. I also will try and practice saying ‘Blessings upon this house’ to get people to respect me going forward.

Something that I have realised as I read more of the books, I can see how Pratchett reminds us that inside these humourous moments, there is a real darkness at route as well. In one scene Granny and Nanny are trying to prevent the outcome of the Red Riding Hood story. When the witches meet the wolf and Granny looks into the mind of this magically altered person, he asks her to let him die. It is such a turn for the story and there is some genuine ethical questions there about altering a person against their will and an almost criticism of eugenics I thought. This one moment was enough to have me stop reading to think for a bit.

What else can I say? This is a story of embracing different cultures, coming to terms with duty and expectations and proof that you’re probably better off not knowing what was in that drink. This was a well overdue addition to the project and next up is Small Gods. Thanks for checking in everyone! Happy reading!

★★★★★/5

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Been meaning to read this! I’ve heard nothing but high praises.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s honestly so good and I hope you enjoy!

      Like

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