This fantastic volume contains three of the Discworld novels featuring witches. I’d recently begun re-reading the Discworld novels on my shelf (I’ve read most of the series but own only a few of them) and not enjoyed the first two, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, as much as I did the first time – partly because the stories didn’t grip me, partly because Terry Pratchett was still finding his style. The third one, Equal Rites, moves away from Rincewind the wizard and introduces a staple character, the witch Granny Weatherwax.
Equal Rites (first published in 1987) looks at the differences between witches and wizards. A girl, eight-year-old Eskarina, is destined to become a wizard, but the university doesn’t admit women. With the help of Granny Weatherwax, a forceful personality, she pursues her calling and ends up saving the universe. This is a good read, with some especially exciting scenes in the university library. Eskarina is not a very interesting character, however, and she doesn’t appear in the books again until later in the series.
Wyrd Sisters (1988) is my favourite of the three in this volume. It introduces two more witches, the gregarious Nanny Ogg and timid Magrat Garlick. This novel is about the theatre and is a parody of Shakespeare, mainly Hamlet and Macbeth. The witches end up meddling in politics, with the help of the ghost of a murdered king, a fool who hates his job and a company of actors of whom one is unknowingly the heir to the throne. It’s a clever novel, which anyone who has studied Shakespeare (and has a sense of humour) will appreciate.
Witches Abroad (1991) sees Granny Weatherwax, Magrat, Nanny Ogg and Nanny’s cat Greebo travel to ‘foreign parts’ to stop a power-crazed fairy godmother from forcing people into fairytales. It’s very funny and has references to Dracula, The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings and Cinderella. I think the best thing about the Discworld novels featuring the witches, is the clashing characters and how they interact. Witches are solitary by nature – even Granny and Nanny, who are best friends, hate each other – but they work together to solve problems, quite often using ‘headology’ rather than wand-waving.
This was the second time I’ve read this volume. I should note that the book, which is a hardback published by Victor Gollancz in 1995, is good quality. The pages are nice to turn and are barely yellowed at all. The jacket illustration is by Josh Kirby.