Jul 27, 2010

[Books] Wyrd Sisters

Wyrd SistersI'm a huge fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books and I have happily managed to read most of his books along with managing to own copies of them as well. It's no modest feat and it's taken me a better part of the last decade to complete my collection and I'm still not quite done. It doesn't mean I haven't given up though - these books are too enjoyable to ignore when I catch them on the shelves!

And yet for some reason I've yet to get around to posting reviews for most of the Discworld novels. I suppose it's mainly because I read most of them before I even created the Geeky Guide so now I have a lot of review "work" to catch up on, if only to be able to share my passions for the series with you.

The Discworld books follow a number of loosely-related story arcs involving certain groups of characters. For example, there are a number of books focused on Death and others still on the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. It doesn't become essential to read all the books to get the story, but it certainly enhances to the experience when you have. And one of my favorite Discworld arcs remains to be those books that involve the Witches of Lancre, and this was the book that more or less got me hooked on their quirky tales.

Nanny Ogg as she appears in Nanny Ogg's Cookbo...Image via Wikipedia
Wyrd Sisters is the 6th published Discworld book and brings back the character of Granny Weatherwax from Equal Rites as one of the lead characters. Now part of a coven of witches, Granny is accompanied by Nanny Ogg, who is the matriarch of the rather large Ogg clan, and by Magrat Garlick, a younger witch more enamored by all the trappings of the occult world such as magical gems, bubbling cauldrons and other such baubles. In modern terms, she's a few notches above those Goth girls who profess a love for Twilight or something.

The story is pretty much driven by the events occurring within the royal family of Lancre. King Verence I is murdered by his cousin, Duke Felmet upon the urgings of his ambitious wife. But as is the way of such things, the king's young son manages to escape the carnage together with the royal crown. The boy is entrusted to the Witches, who in turn hand the boy over to a group of traveling actors. Given how things on Discworld work, they leave it to destiny to figure out how to prepare the boy, Tomjon, for his destiny of reclaiming his kingdom from his uncle one day.

Of course the new king had to be the abusive kind, and thus has drawn the ire and displeasure of his subjects and even the kingdom's wildlife itself. In order to try and turn things around, Felmet takes the advice of his Fool, and hires the very same troupe of actors that Tomjon is a part of to put on a propaganda play. The story will show just how good and great he is while presenting the Witches as evil and malevolent forces instead. Naturally the notion of this displeases the coven and they decide to take steps to set things right in Lancre.

For some reason, the early books related to the Witches were all somehow based on popular plays or stories. This trend clearly started with this one being a parody of both Macbeth and Hamlet. You'll recognize how the very first scene in the book nearly duplicates the first scene in Macbeth, apart from the alternative ending line of the Witches' incantation. The light parody goes on and on all throughout the book and it certainly adds a more intelligent level to the banter on top of the rich comedy already present.

This book is both funny and quite riveting once you get into it. While you already recognize key story elements borrowed from similar tales, you still don't quite know how it's all going to turn out in the end. Pratchett is a wizard (complete with point hat) when it comes to interweaving old stories with the characters of the Discworld to come up with something completely different. And yet something that is also very familiar and easy to understand or relate to (to a limited degree, of course).

This was one of the first Discworld books that I had ever read and the first one in my collection involving the Witches of Lancre. If you love the Witches as much as I do, then this is definitely a must-read given how much of the later references and interactions start here. Plus there's the whole thing with the Fool, but that's another story

Wyrd Sisters was a turning point that really illustrated how Pratchett was becoming more and more comfortable with writing stories for these characters and thus making a very colorful Discworld indeed. It gets 5 magical traditions that we all just assume will work out in the end out of 5.

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