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 There is also an albeit extremely small and subtle (if a bit outdated) message of the damage caused by trying to control nature, race and cultural erasure.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

Review: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

‘We weren’t invited. People don’t have to invite witches, they just know we’ll turn up if we want to.’

Good evening fellow readers and welcome back to the Disc! Today in the Discworld Project we will have witches, a murder most foul (that didn’t happen) and the return of my favourite Discworld matriarch, Granny Weatherwax.

All in one night in the kingdom of Lancre high in the Ramtops, three witches gather on the moors (quite to the confusion of one Esme Weatherwax), a king is brutally killed and a child is stolen away to return when the time is right. When the witches are drawn into this brutally ambitious plot and forced to meddle, which is not a witches business, it is down to Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Margarat Garlick and a ghost or two to save the Kingdom.

I think it’s clear to everyone now that I love the Discworld and most of all I love the witches. This book pulled in many elements of Macbeth, Hamlet and most of all Pratchett’s wonderful storytelling. I thought I would enjoy this one the most so far out of all the books but this one fell a little flatter than usual for me. I did however still have a great time reading it.

We get to head back to the Ramtops, last seen in ‘Equal Rites’ in the village of Bad Ass. We also finally get tot meet more of the neigmatic witches of the Disc. Adding to the cast is Nanny Ogg, the opposite of Granny with her many partners, children and grandchildren who loves a drink. We also meet Margrat Garlick for the first time, the youngest of the witches with her own ideas of covens and wearing occult jewellery.

Seeing the witches together on the page was honestly the best part of this book for me. The sheer contrast of Granny and Nanny makes you even wonder how they are friends in the first place. Granny is very clearly in charge of the situation however, Nanny being more of a family orientated witch. There is even a distinct comment about Granny’s leadership within all the witches’ circles;

Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn’t have.

I was delighted to have finally come across Nanny Ogg and Magrat. There was also the cameos of other Discworld’s greatest, Death and the Librarian included. Pratchett’s characters will always have very important places in my hearts and as usual, the humor and banter between them all had me overjoyed at every stage of the book.

The plot this time for me felt a little bit weaker than usual, especially for a story about the witches. The pacing seems to be the issue more than the actual plot itself. Like i said earlier there is a strong satire of plays like Macbeth and Hamlet. This is actually half the fun of the plot, especially when a drama group arrives towards the end of the book, but there is a stage the book got to at about half way into the book and it felt like this was the climax. It threw me off slightly and kind of messed with he pacing overall.

This being said you can still see the growth of the Discworld as well as Pratchett’s writing. The plot as always is tidied up and brought together very well at the end of the book. I was very happy seeing Granny again in particular and look forward to my next outing on the Disc.

Have you read this book? I am now 7 books in to the Discworld series and I’m still really enjoying myself. I recently watched the Back in Black documentary again and was left an emotional wreck. I also got an exciting email this week about my DVD of ‘Troll Bridge’ that I backed in August. Up next, ‘Pyramids’!

★★★.75/5 (Constantly struggling with 4 or 3 for this one!)

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

‘ ‘And they do say the p-pen is mightier than the sss-
‘-sword,’ said Esk ‘All right, but which would you rather be hit with?’ ‘

Welcome back to the Discworld! This is part of my return to the Disc to finally finish the series so I am very excited to review this to begin the entire journey here on the blog.

The eighth son of an eighth son is a powerful thing living on the Disc. The eight son of an eighth son is destined to be a wizard, but what if that eighth son is not a son? Meet Eskarina Smith! She is going to be the first lady Wizard, but women can’t be wizards can they?

This book got off to a slower start than the previous two books in the series but has quickly become my favourite. In terms of worldbuilding, the groundwork has already been laid in the previous novels, namely A’tuin and the Disc but Esk’s (Eskarina) home is in a new part we have yet to see. Esk lives in the town of Badass (haw) in the Ramtops. The Ramtops are the mountains, 500 miles Hubwards of the city of Ankh-Morpork which is the main setting for many of the Discworld novels. It was very entertaining to see that small village mentality in action and under the hand of Pratchett.

The plot itself is pretty well contained and follows the journey of Esk and Granny Weatherwax as they make their way to Unseen University so Esk can be trained as a wizard. It does have a slower build up to the climax and it speeds up very suddenly when it does arrive. This didn’t really impact my enjoyment much but it did make it seem a bit like it was slogging in places but it still works perfectly for a Discworld novel.

At last, the characters are WONDERFUL. We meet our first witch on the Disc, Granny Weatherwax. Granny is honestly my favourite character in the story, I love Esk too but I really loved the way Granny was written. She is the resident witch of Bad Ass and when she takes Esk in she struggles with how to navigate dealing with someone Esk’s age (she is nine years old). Esk is the kind of little girl we all wished we could be, taken in by a witch with a big set of powers passed on to her and a bigger undertaking for being the first girl to enter the Unseen University. Granny and Esk develop a close bond as the novel progresses and its honestly heartwarming. We do meet other characters at the University but since this is a story focusing on feminism and women most of all I feel that Granny and Esk stand out in a way they are supposed to.

This is not a perfect book by any means but it still has all the elements of Discworld that I fell in love with in the first place and it further expands the world for us. The wit is razor sharp, the characters fall out of the book and on to your desk while you’re eating your lunch and we continue to learn more of the ways of this world. This was only the third book in the series aswell so I think it’s only fair to give Pratchett the benefit of the doubt on this one.

★★★★/5