So, Terry Pratchett is (was, sob) my favourite author and this is one of my favourites of his many many books. I was seriously considering doing my Cannonball of only Discworld books. But I only signed up for a half-Cannonball and there are 41 Discworld books, so… maybe next year?
The Discworld is a gorgeous, rich, complex creation. Partly because Sir Terry wrote over 40 books about it, which covers a lot of ground (literally) and partly because he was a skilled world-builder with a sense of humour. He understood that the characters can tell you as much about a world as the setting. I grew up in Narnia and Middle Earth but gladly moved to Discworld in my 20s and I’ve never wanted to leave.
It’s a ridiculous flat world balanced on the back of 4 elephants who ride on Great A’Tuin the Sky Turtle. Because in an infinitely varied Universe, anything is possible. Each book in the series can stand-alone, but they do fall into loose sub-series based on the central characters. As you read more Discworld, the world gets richer and more complicated; characters cameo in other’s stories and themes emerge. Pratchett uses the humour of his set up to write stories with messages about Justice and kindness and why it all matters. There is not a single Discworld novel that has not touched my heart at some point and brought me to tears. I love this place like its my hometown.
Anyway. This book is about my absolute fave Discworld character, Granny Weatherwax, and her bestie Nanny Ogg, with bonus Magrat Garlick. They are basically the Crone, the Mother and the Maiden, but in this book they are also the 3 Witches of MacBeth in a Hamlet story. Pratchett has a terrific way of taking a familiar story and using it as a loose framework for his own story. (He’s also crazy into footnotes, which are always hilarious but a pain in the butt for eReading.)
In this version, the rightful King Verence of Lancre is killed by his evil cousin at the instigation of his manipulative wife and his son is stolen away by Granny, Nanny and Magrat and given to a band of travelling players to raise. This band includes the Discworld Shakespeare, of course. Through a sequence of Shakespearean shenanigans involving time travel and various spells, the travelling players return to Lancre to put on a play revealing the murderer and crowning the son of King Verence. Its a mash up of Hamlet, MacBeth and King Lear, with a Shakespearean dwarf, told with the witches as the heroes. (As they should be.)
This is one of the earlier books in the Witches series; its a good intro to Granny Weatherwax but she doesnt truly shine until a few books deeper in the series. She is a key figure throughout the Discworld series and I believe that she was the closest in voice and philosphy to Sir Terry himself.
Pratchett was the kind of writer that wrote powerful, interesting female characters that have diverse motivations and storylines without focusing on their woman-ness as a feature. They are just integrated and awesome people doing cool things. Since he never wrote a sex scene in over 40 books and very few “love scenes”, his female characters weren’t constrained to follow any tired Woman as Love Interest tropes. (you guys, I love me a sex scene, I’m just saying…fantasy novels aren’t always great in this regard, especially those written by Old White Dudes.) I’m not saying he’s perfect, I wish there were MOAR women in his books, but Granny Weatherwax is an amazing character.
I want to be Granny Weatherwax when I’m an old lady. Or now.