_Witches Abroad:_ Headology, children's stories, and fairy godmothers
Written: May 1, 2012 (Updated Mar 24, 2013)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:I loved reading this one. Cardsharps, Cat play, fairy tales, and the dark side.
Cons:Not a one. This one works.
The Bottom Line: One of the best in the series so far. Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax, and Magrat out to save an unfortunate princess.
To continue pulling myself out of my reading slump, I have been looking for lighter reads, and a perfect choice for that are the satirical novels of Terry Pratchett's Discworld. I've discovered that they are filled with plenty of twists and turns, a heady dose of humour, and a sly wit that will both make me laugh and think.
This month's choice was Witches Abroad, the third novel of Pratchett's Witches triloogy. In this one, we get to meet Desiderata, a honest-to-goodness fairy godmother. Usually, she sees to it that the lovely but poor girl of good heart and sensibility meets her prince, falls into love and a happy ever after. But right now, Desiderata has a spot of trouble -- for one, Death has come to collect her soul, and as is the wont with magical godmothers, she's part of a set of two. And Desiderata knows that not only does her charge should not marry the prince, but that there isn't much she can do about it. All she can do is hope that the witch she has selected to take over the case will follow through and fix things before it becomes too late.
And surprisingly, Desiderata's choice falls on Magrat Garlick, the youngest and most inexperienced of the three witches that appeared in the previous novels Equal Rites and Wyrd Sisters. Magrat is the one who gets the magical wand that enables godmotherly deeds to happen, much to the chagrin of fellow witches Nanny Ogg and especially Esme Weatherwax. Unfortunately, Magrat doesn't really have the experience to pull off this mission of saving Emberella from her fate in far off Genua, so Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax decide to come along with her to make certain that things don't fare too badly...
To complicate matters, this isn't the sort of magical tale where all it takes a few spells, indeed, it's quite a ride from one side of Discworld to the other, and with plenty of pitfalls and insights along the way. I really enjoyed how Mr. Pratchett wove together the traditional stories of childhood -- I loved picking out which ones he was using -- along with upgrading a traditional tale that most of us think we know. Where this really works is with the use of duality -- good vs. bad, and the dark and light sides of things. It is so exquisitly done that I had a grand time unraveling the story, and floored every time the author revealed a new twist to the tale.
The two characters that I enjoyed the most were Granny Weatherwax, who gets quite a tale here, and Nanny Ogg's disreputable cat, Greebo. Granny has quite a bit of backstory to reveal in this one, and whoo, does it ever work! I don't want to reveal very much as I don't want to ruin the story for anyone else, but it just blew me away by the end.
And then there is Greebo, a monsterous huge cat of one eyed mien and a malicious attitude towards life and everything in gentle. One scene had me helpless with laughter as Greebo finds a new toy to play with, and the consequences thereof.
Finally, there is the city of Genua itself. Think of a wild headon crash between our universe's New Orleans and some certain well-known American landmarks that trade on the idea that there is a magical place for children of all ages. Once I latched onto that one, it was a scream picking out the references, and with each one, the story just kept getting wilder and wilder.
But as readers of the Discworld series know, Pratchett is quite able to put in some darker aspects to the story, and here is works very well. We know very well that things will work, but it's how we get there that is what makes the novel work. There are plenty of the darker issues of human nature to be worked out here, and it provided the perfect balance to the humourous parts.
So, if the reader enjoys such things as very twisted fairy tales, why stories are important, and why getting what you want may not always be the right idea, this should work out. As with all of the Discworld, this is a stand alone novel, but I do recommend that the previous two novels that feature the three witches be read first to provide a lot of the interaction between the trio.
This was a real winner for me, and whetted my appetite for more of the series. Five stars overall and a hearty recommendation.
Discworld Novels that I have reviewed:
The Color of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Equal Rites (Witches #1)
Wyrd Sisters (Witches #2)
Witches Abroad -- you are here
Lords and Ladies
Men at Arms
Feet of Clay
The Fifth Elephant
Witches Abroad (Witches #3)
1991; HarperCollins Publishers
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