Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Memory Lane: "Equal Rites" by Terry Pratchett

After some work and holiday delays, I continue to my return tour of the Discworld with Terry Pratchett’s third book of the series, “Equal Rites” ($9.99, Harper Collins).

A dying wizard comes to the tiny mountain village of Bad Ass to visit the local blacksmith, an eighth son who is, that very night, expecting his eighth son. It’s a magical number, and as soon as the child is born, the wizard passes his power on to it. Then, he discovers that it’s a girl, and he has accidentally unleashed the first female wizard on the Discworld.

Eskarina Smith grows up under the close eye of the witch who will become, arguably, the greatest power on Pratchett’s Disc, Esme Weatherwax. Granny’s hope is to turn Esk into a witch, but it soon becomes apparent that the wizard magic has hold of her.

To help the girl, Granny will have to leave her mountain home and travel to Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork, where they’ll face the daunting task of getting the all-boys club to admit a woman into their ranks.

The most interesting part of this re-read to me was revisiting Granny Weatherwax’s more humble beginnings – and they were. Many years and many books on, Granny has become such an important character to the Discworld that I had begun to view her as this constant, steady, wise force that had always been what she was.

It was a bit of a shock to me, in revisiting this book for the first time in more than two decades, to discover some doubt and uncertainty in the younger Granny Weatherwax. In the end, of course, she puts on that impenetrable stare and gets things done, but she lacks the unshakeable confidence of the witch who passes her own power on to Tiffany Aching in the final Discworld novel. I’m looking forward to watching the evolution of the character again, as I read on, knowing where she ends up.

“Equal Rites” holds up well after the years, clever and at times, hilariously funny, as the best of Pratchett was. Up next, one of my favorites in “Mort,” and the first Discworld book that I read, “Sourcery.”

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