I’ve read a hodgepodge of the Discworld books over the years, enough to be completely and totally obsessed with Terry Pratchett’s whimsical, scathing, hilarious writing. I was so sad when he passed away last year. The world truly has lost a great soul, but I really believe he will live on in his writing for decades to come. Partly due to this, and also due to Gollancz putting out the gorgeous, drool-worthy new editions of some of his early works, I said in January that I wanted to read through the Discworld books chronologically. Obviously not going to happen entirely within this year, as I have a bad case of reading ADD (but it’s so much fun to…oh look, squirrel!), but I’m excited to finally be reviewing one! I re-read The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic earlier, but this one I hadn’t read at all yet. I was very excited to see the debut of Granny Weatherwax! While you can definitely read just about any Discworld book and enjoy it without having read the others (I started with Thud!, which is actually #34), seeing how the characters were introduced and how certain jokes come into being is really cool. Another thing about the Discworld books: while they are ALL in the same world and most of them overlap or connect, there are several little sub-series within the series.
Equal Rites is the third Discworld book, but the first Witches book (the first two books were in the Rincewind sub-series). I was immediately hooked by the mildly hysterical battle of the sexes that takes place within the first few pages – a dying wizard tries to bequeath his powers (and staff!) to the 8th son of an 8th son…who turns out to be a daughter. Said daughter – Esk – absorbs magic in a slightly different but no less powerful way than a son might have done, resulting in a family and community that really has no idea what to do with her. A boy would have been sent off to Unseen University, but a girl…”Girls can’t be wizards,” everyone tells her. Thankfully, she has Granny Weatherwax for a guardian. Despite Granny’s slight misconceptions of children, they soon get along quite well.
Granny, in fact, was at a loss, but she knew she had to do something. “Didda nasty wolfie fwiten us, den?” she hazarded.
For quite the wrong reasons, this seemed to work. From the depths of the ball a muffled voice said: “I am eight you know.”
I’m quite sure only Granny would be capable of dealing with a small child with such interesting abilities and ways of dealing with seven annoying older brothers.
“Turning people into pigs is not allowed,” she hissed. “Even brothers.”
I don’t even have GIFs for this book. Call me a fangirl, but Pratchett’s prose is both so pointed and poignant that it really speaks best just by itself. I love Esk, and I love Granny, and watching them tear through Discworld was just a rollicking, fun ride (complete with flying broomsticks that have to be kickstarted). While Granny at first tries to insist that Esk study the traditional female magic, she soon realizes that Esk’s gifts are quite different and she needs alternate methods of instruction. Eek and Granny share the stage and despite the multi-generation gap between them, make a great team. Of course, like any good guardian, Granny spends a good deal of her time chasing or getting Esk out of trouble, but Esk’s independent little self does fantastic on her own, most of the time. Her sometimes unwitting (maybe?) use of magic creates a variety of reactions from the people she meets, especially as they travel closer to Ankh-Morpork, the large capitol city.
Esk, in fact, moved through the fair more like an arsonist moves through a hay hayfield or a neutron bounces through a reactor, poets notwithstanding.
Needless to say, they create QUITE the stir at Unseen University, break all sorts of rules, cause all sorts of upsets and feelings. But every insular world needs shaken up now and then, and I think Unseen University will definitely be the better for it. 😉
5/5 stars. Pratchett, as usual, manages to create his own very entertaining world and somehow have it be a satirical commentary on our own. I throughly enjoyed this Discworld installment and it’s definitely going on my list of favorites! Highly recommend.