“They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.”
Terry Pratchett is one of my absolute favorite authors, I was hooked from the first page of one of his books that I read as a wee lad so long ago. That book was “Equal Rites”, I picked it up when I was five years old, I understood maybe one word in five, I had to check the dictionary every few lines, or, alternatively ask my parents the meaning of hard words and then get frustrated when they gently suggested that maybe the book was at the moment above my level and I should try reading something less challenging first, which only angrily spurred me on to finish sooner (clever folks my parents!). I loved this book so much! It opened so many new mental doorways in my head that I find myself decades later still walking down some of them. Before I ever heard of Rincewind, one of the greatest literary characters ever, I was bristling with indignation together with Esk at the unfairness of the world which denied her a proper education simply because she didn’t have the “correct” anatomical configuration**.
What a shame we didn’t get a chance to meet up with Eskarina until so much later down the road, what adventures she must have had! But before that she was the eighth child of an Eighth son, a born wizard. A shame that all magical girls are witches instead. And that’s the crux of the story, Esk’s journey to the Unseen University to learn wizardry. Along the way she is taught magic (the witches’ kind) from the force of nature that is Granny Weatherwax, befriends Simon, a wizardry prodigy who seems to be allergic to the world, fights cthulhuian horrors from the Dungeon Dimension and discovers that “if you ignore the rules, people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so they don’t apply to you”.
I recently reread a few of the Discworld series so I also gave this book another read, it is still an amazing book, but, and this is a gentle but, there are better Discworld novels out there. Again, don’t get me wrong, there are amazing parts here, some truly brilliant ideas and I easily recommend this book to everyone, everywhere! But looking back, after having read most of the Discworld novels it seems that I was looking back at this book with nostalgia tinted glasses. Reading this again at, my now venerable age, this seems more like an early draft of some of the later books, less tight, less focused. Now it is not really fair to judge a book by those that come after it, but it is hard not to look at this version of Granny Weatherwax and feel as if she is half baked compared to later stories. But this is really just nitpicking, like looking at the Sistine Chapel and remarking that one of the panels looks a bit askew, genius is genius is genius and this book a remarkable work of literature. Go read it, go read all of the Discworld books.
** Side note, I was at the time a young boy (since grown into an achingly handsome man), a young boy who had no problem identifying with a female protagonist. Take head makers of Star Wars action figures.