How can you describe a Discworld novel in a couple of sentences? Answer: you can’t.
Publisher: Corgi (Random House)
First Published: 1988
Date Reviewed: 21st December 2010
When the king of Lancre is killed, the witch Granny Weatherwax and her coven (well ok, only Magrat calls it a coven, because she’s all traditional-like and believes in doing things correctly) find themselves left with his son. Luckily for them there’s a theatrical troupe in town that Granny thinks will make the perfect guardians even if the strange people do seem to still be alive after dying on stage. But one day the boy will have to return, and as it’s destiny the witches may as well not bother to go and find him.
I’ve never attempted to review a book from this series before because it is just so difficult. The overall plot may be easy enough to talk about but Pratchett goes off on so many tangents that often you can forget what the purpose of a particular scene’s events was.
“My name is unpronounceable in your tongue, woman,” it said.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” warned Granny, and added, “Don’t call me woman.”
“Very well. My name is WxrtHltl-jwlpklz,” said the demon smugly.
Personally I’ve found that the series gets funnier and funnier as it continues, and Wyrd Sisters doesn’t buck the trend. There were a good few times where I was in tears of laughter, so much so that when my phone rang I felt the need to inform the caller that I wasn’t upset. It has a lot to do with the number of characters. Each is vastly different, although you may not notice it while reading because the emphasis is on the humour. This means that there is a place for slight differences in the humour and for Pratchett to really enforce his stereotypes.
As always, inanimate objects get just as much time as people and animals, in particular a solo stone that hides behind a bush when anyone tries to count it. And a minor character is a storm looking to become the next hurricane.
The apple-seller gambit had never worked more than once in the entire history of witchcraft, as far as she knew, but it was traditional.
There are a lot of references to old stories and tradition but unlike the current trend of being very specific and thus dating a book, Pratchett is general and his references are ones likely to remain public knowledge for a long time, such as fairytales. The writing style is another cause for laughter because although Pratchett is not the most eloquent of authors, it doesn’t matter one bit. The book is joke after joke after joke and actually the categorising of the series as fantasy does it an injustice, you don’t need to like fantasy to like the Discworld novels.
If you’ve never read a Discworld novel I would advise starting with either this or Mort because although the first is good, it’s not the best. Wyrd Sisters has the advantage of little background history (which you don’t really require anyway) and as mentioned before, the different characters.
Pratchett’s humour can become wearing if you read too much of his work at once but if you space it out it can add something unique to your reading experience.
January 6, 2011, 11:11 pm
I can see who contributed all the goofiness to Good Omens! My library has Mort on audio, so I think I’ll give that one a go. I really loved Good Omens, and these sound like they have the same sort of humor.
Charlie: For ages I wasn’t bothered about reading Good Omens, for some reason the idea didn’t interest me, but then I read the summary and a proper look in the store, it’s on my list though I don’t know when I’ll get to it. I’d say Mort is funnier than Wyrd Sisters, so that’s a good choice.
January 6, 2011, 11:52 pm
I adore the Discworld series, too, though I wish he’d spend more time with these older characters than the new ones. I’d love to see another Vimes or Death book myself :-)
Charlie: I’ve been wondering if The Luggage will return some time, although I didn’t like the first two books as much I do keep hoping the characters will make an appearance. I’ve not got far enough to be away from all of the older characters, but I agree, another book about Death would be fantastic. The idea sounds grim without the context though!
January 9, 2011, 5:46 pm
I love the Tiffany Aching books, but my attempt to give the adult Discworld stuff a go last year didn’t work out so well (I went with the first witch one). I think I’ll try Mort next time! :)
Charlie: I haven’t read Tiffiany Aching, but I’m guessing the Discworld you read was Equal Rites? That one’s a lot weaker than others I’d say, so you might find Mort to be better.