Yes, yes. It’s me and those witches again. The more Discworld books I read, the more I want to be like Granny Weatherwax and/or Nanny Ogg when I’m old. They are the coolest old ladies I’ve ever read about and I can’t get enough of them. Even if this wasn’t my favorite Discworld novel, I still enjoyed myself enormously.
Published by: Corgi, 2012 (1988)
Paperback: 368 pages
Series: Discworld #6
My rating: 6,5/10
First sentence: The wind howled.
Things like crowns had a troublesome effect on clever folks; it was best to leave all the reigning to the kind of people whose eyebrows met in the middle.
Three witches gathered on a lonely heath. A king cruelly murdered, his throne usurped by his ambitious cousin. A child heir and the crown of the kingdom, both missing.
Witches don’t have these kind of dynastic problems themselves – in fact, they don’t have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn’t have. But even she found that meddling in royal politics was a lot more complicated than certain playwrights would have you believe, particularly when the blood on your hands just won’t wash off and you’re facing a future with knives in it…
The German title for this early Discworld novel is MacBest and it should give you a pretty good idea of the theme Terry Pratchett tackles in this one. There are three witches and thespians, destiny and murdered kings, bubbling cauldrons and a clever fool – and of course Greebo, the cat.
When Granny, Nanny, and Magrat’s meeting is interrupted, they find themselves with an infant and a crown on their hands. Since witches don’t meddle in politics, they find a safe place for both child and crown – a travelling troupe of actors whose fake crowns are much more grand than the real one now hidden among their props. This sets the stage for the second Witches novel on Discworld.
“Things that try to look like things often do look more like things than things.”
I am repeating myself but no story involving Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax will ever be truly bad. The strange thing is that I got to know them in reverse. I remember Granny most clearly as a side character in the (brilliant!) Tiffany Aching books. Going back to the beginning, I was curious to see whether she has always been the way she is or whether the author tweaked her personality along the way. I was incredibly happy to find good old, cranky Granny Weatherwax, just as I remembered her (from the future… sort of). The same goes for Nanny Ogg, who just makes me happy. I’m thinking of printing a poster of Nanny Ogg and Greebo to hang on my wall.
While I liked most of the side characters, a lot of them were left rather shallow or were thrown in for a good laugh of two. Unlike the later Discworld novels, this one was more fun and less depth. There is nothing wrong with that. Not every novel needs to have a deep core that will leave you thinking for months later. Honestly, watching Granny Weatherwax in a dungeon, inquiring about the various torture devices, was more fun than I ever would have thought.
Magrat tried. Every morning her hair was long, thick and blond, but by the evening it had always returned to its normal worried frizz. To ameliorate the effect she had tried to plait violets and cowslips in it. The result was not all she had hoped. It gave the impression that a window box had fallen on her head.
Enough praise for Granny and Nanny. This was my first novel involving Magrat and I’m not a fan. I enjoyed the humor at her cost (yes, I’m mean that way) and she was a nice anchor of normality when Granny and Nanny had their banter going, but I didn’t really connect with her the way I did with other characters. My guess is that it’s just a matter of taste because she was a well-written, rounded character, if somewhat too fond of “occult jewellery”.
The only fault I can find with this novel is that the plot is a bit of a mess at times, and that it simply isn’t as good as what Pratchett writes now. And that’s rather a reason to be happy. If an author publishes his best work young and never manages to surpass it, it will be a sad day for us readers. Terry Pratchett’s development can be traced through his Discworld novels. So while I didn’t fall head over heels in love with Wyrd Sisters, it was a fun light read that shows Pratchett’s cleverness, even if it doesn’t do it as well as his newer books.
RATING: 6,5/10 – Quite good.