The last thing the wizard Drum Billet did before Death laid a bony hand on his shoulder, was to pass on his staff of power to the eighth son of an eighth son. Unfortunately for his colleagues in the chauvinistic (not to say misogynistic) world of magic, he failed to check on the new-born baby's sex...
Whilst I was reading ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ I ended up talking about it with my lovely friend Sarah who also happened to be reading it at the same time, and I had to admit that whilst I have read many Discworld books, I tend to pick a character thread and read along that for a while when I pick up a Pratchett, and horror of horrors, I had not actually read a Witches thread book before.
To which Sarah responded STOP READING THE SHEPHERD’S CROWN NOW, PUT IT DOWN THIS INSTANT AND GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING. And she started telling me about how awesome the beginning was and ended up getting all nostalgic, so we came to a compromise. I would be allowed to finish TSC with the acknowledgement that it wasn’t the best in the Witches thread, and then we would both go back to the beginning and start reading them together.
So I finished, and I read, and I loved.
It has all the incredible weird hilarity that is so typical of Pratchett’s work. The ridiculous names, the oddball collection of characters, the utterly bizarre plots, it’s all there and all at its sparkling brilliance. There isn’t yet the sense of complete ease that comes in later novels when Pratchett has established exactly what he’s doing, but the trademark brilliance is there in abundance. I love the meandering of the plot as it flows along collecting seemingly random characters and moments until suddenly you hit the final stretch of the novel and everything kicks off and it all comes together into one explosive whole. It’s an art form and a thing of beauty to see done so well.
One thing I particularly love about Pratchett’s novels is his ability to take issues that we’re experiencing in the world now and twist them into these utterly absurd parallel situations in the Discworld – a kind of skewed mirror held up so we can see exactly how insane these issues really are. In Equal Rites he tackles sexism and the definition of male and female roles, and he does so spectacularly. I adored the dismissiveness on both sides of how women could only ever be witches and men only ever be wizards and never the two shall meet. I loved how it came out in ridiculously brilliant dialogue and action packed moments, and you know, I think Granny Weatherwax is definitely a new favourite. And that’s just from her first novel, I think when I get back to ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ at the end of this I’m going to be a wreck re-reading that.
It’s a fantastic start to the witches thread, and has left me incredibly eager to get straight onto the next one and fill in all the gaps in my knowledge. So expect a fair amount of Pratchett here over the next few weeks as I fill in the woeful holes in my Discworld reading.