Witches Abroad is the 12th Discworld novel by Sir Terry Pratchett. The thing about Discworld is that you don’t necessarily have to read his books in order. They all take place in the same world, and all the characters pop up and make cameos in each other’s stories, but it doesn’t really matter. But of course, along with having that thing where I can’t quit things, I also have that thing where I have to read things in order. One would think being at #12 would be an accomplishment, and one would normally be right, but Sir “I am a prolific genius” Pratchett has 39 books in his wacky, absurd fantasy world, a world that takes place on a planet that is flat (really literally flat), and which “travels through space on the back of four elephants, which themselves stand on the shell of Great A’Tuin, the sky turtle.” And I have 27 books (and counting*) to go.
*Despite having been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007, he continues to faithfully churn out (well-received) books.
Witches Abroad features the fan-favorite set of characters The Witches, and while they’re not as funny as the Night Watch, say, they still make me laugh quite a lot. The entire novel is basically a deconstruction of fairy-tales. Three witches have to prevent the princess from marrying the prince, and defeat the fairy-godmother, preventing stories from taking over the world — and they’re the good guys. First there’s Granny Weatherwax, a formidable witch who is more akin to a force of nature than an old woman; Nanny Ogg, who is kind of horny; and Magrat Garlick, who is often described as being a “wet hen.”
The pacing is typical Pratchett. There are no chapters, and the characters are thrown headlong into the action. Like many Discworld novels, Witches Abroad is a wacky landslide of inappropriate humor and clever words that gradually spirals into genuine emotion. It was a bit slow to start, and it didn’t get quite real enough at the end, but otherwise, very enjoyable read. Pratchett is good at symmetry, and fittingly enough for a story about the power of stories**, he understands how to work them.
**This book is also about mirrors and sisters and cats and zombies, and there are some dwarves and other assorted fairy-tales to be found as well. There’s even a Gollum-parody near the beginning.
And now, as is traditional with a Discworld book review, here are wacky quotes:
“Nanny Ogg […] had a tendency to come out with what Magrat thought of as double-intenders, although in Nanny Ogg’s case they were generally single entendres, and proud of it.”
“Despite many threats, Granny Weatherwax had never turned anyone into a frog. The way she saw it, there was a technically less cruel but cheaper and much more satisfying thing you could do. You could leave them human and make them think they were a frog, which also provided much innocent entertainment for passers-by.”
“Racism was not a problem on the Discworld, because — what with trolls and dwarfs and so on — speciesism was more interesting. Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.”
“‘Baths is unhygienic,’ Granny declared. ‘You know I’ve never agreed with baths. Sittin’ around in your own dirt like that.'”
“Magrat was annoyed. She was also frightened, which made her even more annoyed. It was hard for people when Magrat was annoyed. It was like being attacked by damp tissue.”
“She hated everything that predestined people, that fooled them, that made them slightly less than human.”
“You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage.”
[Link to original review here.]