“Women can’t be Wizards… it’s in the Lore…”
I am determined to read more Terry Pratchett this year and I have recently made it my private mission to liberate as many Pratchett novels from charity shops as I can. I was recommended this one a few years ago by a friend who happened upon it while he was travelling for three months. The Discworld is always a light easy escape, it’s silly place, it’s a fun place, and a good pallet cleanser between books. It is probably unsurprising how much I enjoyed this one as Equal Rites is the struggle for a young girl to rightfully become a Wizard, no matter how many Wizards laugh at her.
In this one, we meet Granny Weatherwax. Weatherwax is now one of my favourite characters, alongside Death (yes, the skeleton with the black cloak, gravely voice and flying horse). She is very much a Witch who has lived in the same part of the world for a long time and is suspicious of anything or anywhere new and she doesn’t like to admit she is lost when she is, nor does she like Broomsticks very much. And she is a force to be reckoned with.
This novel is focused on the life of Esk, a young girl who is the 8th daughter of an 8th son. We start the novel with a Wizard coming to Esk’s birth, insisting on passing on his Staff and magic to the child in question. Of course the Wizard assumes Esk is a boy and doesn’t check the gender of the child before the ritual.
In the Disc Wizards are always men, and Witches are always Women and that is the way it is has always been. This is a terrible turn of events as Wizardry and Witchcraft are very different kinds of magic that are supposedly, not interchangeable. Wizardry is about words and books, Witchcraft is more to do with the forest and herbs and fortune telling. Supposedly women just aren’t supposed to be Wizards or given Wizard’s magic… until Esk, anyway. At the birth Granny Weatherwax scolds the Wizard for his foolishness before he dies, and she hopes all of this mess will some how go away of it’s own accord.
Of course, life is never that simple in the Disc and although things are quiet for a time Esk ultimately learns she can turn her brothers into pigs when she wants to and that her Staff has a tendency for violence on her behalf. Granny Weatherwax does her best to instruct Esk in the ways of Witchcraft, much too Esks frustration as this is simply not enough and they decide to go to the Unseen University. Weatherwax writes ahead without response, hoping to convince the Wizards to accept Esk and provide training that she cannot provide.
The novel is fast paced and flutters all over the place, into magic, into the brewing and spoiling of ales and into some of the mystic of the Unseen University itself. I am a big fan of objects that have a mind of their own in the Disc, Twoflower’s Luggage being the most important example of this. I enjoy knowing a Staff has a will of it’s own and will beat people who upset it, just as much as I enjoy a chest that runs around of its own accord eating people that upset it.
What starts out as a simple journey to the city very quickly turns into protecting the disc from being invaded by slimy things that aren’t sure what animals are so buckle lots of horns and claws and wings onto themselves to appear menacing but in fact, look rather comical. But I’m not going to spoil it any further, you should experience the fun for yourself!
This is one of the better Discworld novels and I really enjoyed it! Equal Rites is a better balance of character and narrative and it is one of the better paced novels with a satisfying ending. This also gave me a good laugh at times, and I’d recommend it if you need a bit more fun in your life!