Pros: Great parody and mix up of Shakespeare, with some nasty characters. Greebo, of course.
Cons: None really, I was laughing too hard to spot any.
After the last two books that I've read having to turned out to be less than happy experiences, it was clearly time for a Discworld novel to lure me out of the slump. I've gotten to the point where I can get a good belly laugh out of a Prachett novel, and I'm trying to parcel them out slowly as to make the enjoyment of them to last as long as possible.
Last seen in the novel, Equal Rites, we catch up with Granny Weatherwax on a stony moor in the isolated kingdom of Lancre. With her are two other witches, Gytha "Nanny" Ogg, and Magrat Garlick. Nanny lives in the city of Lancre, overseeing a numerous brood of children, grandchildren and a monsterous grey cat named Greebo, and enjoys a good tipple now and then, mostly now. Magrat is the youngest of the trio, and quite desperately wants to do everything right. She also tends to be the most progressive, wanting to trust in the use of plants and flowers and leaving the animal bits and body parts alone. No wonder these three ladies are a bit anti-social.
But their lives are about to be disturbed by a runaway carriage holding a very small child. And this child has quite a story behind him. Seems there has been a palace coup in the kingdom, with King Verence having fallen down the stairs, and also incidently, on the knife now sticking in his back. With the disappearance of the royal heir, Duke Felmet now assumes the role of sovereign, with his very determined, if not quite charming Duchess at his side. The three witches, who are at heart, actually quite good, decide that a touch of meddling might be in order -- after all, they just can't simply abandon the infant to the fates, and decide to place him with a troupe of travelling players, along with the obligatory gifts.
Time passes, and there's something awry in the kingdom. The Duke isn't that good of a ruler, and the land itself is starting to rebel, something that the witches hadn't thought of. All the Duke seems to care about is terrorizing the people, with torture as an additional perk, and getting all that damn blood off his hands. His Duchess isn't that much better. Only the Fool seems to be able to handle any of it, but constantly tripping over his own self, not to mention hating his profession with a passion.
That is, until the Duke decides that it's the witches that are causing all of the havoc, and turns his attention to them. A play, denouncing the former king, portraying the need to having him overthrown, and the witches as quasi-terrorists just might be the thing to swing public opinion to his side. But then, Felmet didn't know what can happen when witches get angry either...
I had a grand time with this one, what with all of the outrageous twists and takes on Shakespeare. Here, Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear get turned around a bit, and the results are very amusing. Key elements from both plays are included, especially the ghost of King Verence, the witches, and the Fool, all of them skillfully handled so that the parallels are not so obvious, but clearly there for anyone who has gotten to know the two plays.
The acting troupe is a great deal of fun to watch as well, especially Hwel, who unlike nearly every other dwarf on the Discworld, doesn't give a fig about mining, but does passionately care about writing and playacting. And like many an author over their work, tends to fuss at times.
As for the witches, well, I already like Granny Weatherwax, and can certainly sympathize with young Magrat -- anyone who knows a Wiccan will identify the sort -- and Nanny Ogg, bless her. Greebo, a mammoth grey tomcat who has fought and fornicated his way across the length and breadth of Lancre got the most laughs from me; it is quite clear that Mr. Pratchett has a great love of felines. Even Death makes an appearance or two.
So those who don't mind a bit of acting, cats, and treachery in with a great parody of the theatre trade should have lots of fun with this one. I needed a good laugh and this one happily provided it, along with a few serious moments. Those keeping track may want to know that this is the second volume of the sub-set, The Witches Trilogy, in the Discworld series. It's not exactly necessary to have read Equal Rites first, but it does help. The third book is Witches Abroad.
Four stars overall, and a happy recommendation from me.
Discworld Novels that I have reviewed:
The Color of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Wyrd Sisters -- you are here
Lords and Ladies
Men at Arms
Feet of Clay
The Last Continent
The Fifth Elephant
1988; HarperCollins Publishers