Fantasy Review: ‘Equal Rites’ by Terry Pratchett

Part 3 of the Complete Discworld Reread

Men are wizards and women are witches, and that is the way it is.  But when a dying wizard tries to pass his magical staff on to a newborn boy, someone should have checked with the midwife on the baby’s gender.  Now Granny Weatherwax has a problem.  She can teach young Esk all about witchcraft, but the raw magic flowing from her is going to need training in wizardry.  Sure the rules say only a man can be a wizard, but for Granny, rules are for everyone else to obey.

While the first two books were more about the world than the characters, this outing is much more focused.  This is a book about Granny and Esk, the fact it is on Discworld is a side note only.   Because of this we learn more about Granny, and what makes her tick, in this book than we learned about Rincewind in two outings.  And learning about Granny is well worth it.  She is strong, intelligent, and stubborn as ten mules.  The contrast in her between the times she has to play to expectations of being a witch(faking fortune reading for example), and when she shows her full power(a shape-shifting wizards duel) are a real highlight.   

Esk is a good character as well, though not as strongly fleshed out.  While she may be a little too smart for an eight year old, the magic running through her body makes that forgivable.  While insanely talented, she makes some very real mistakes.  And even though she may act twice her age, the times she shows an eight year old’s emotion makes her even more real.

The plot is simple enough,  Granny’s training of Esk, a short but memorable travel to the big city, and a ending at the university.  There is also a possible end of the world plot line.  If someone is looking for a detailed and complex plot they best move onward.  Though well crafted, there is not much depth.

However if a person is drawn to great characters, this is the best novel of the series yet, and could easily be a starting point if someone wants to skip the more parody oriented ‘Color of Magic’ and ‘Light Fantastic.’

4 stars

*Possible Spoilers Below*

Granny-fricken-Weatherwax.  Easily my favorite character of the series, and she has a strong start here.  Already we see her stare work on anyone she puts it against, her strength(and care) in burrowing,  and headology.  And for all her care not to use magic, we see her use more magic in this book than we will in later outings.

Esk is interesting enough, but pales in comparison to Tiffany in later books.  In some ways this feels like an early attempt to write an Aching book.  Esk is stubborn, extremely talented, and acts a little older than she should be able to.  I know she is brought back in ‘I Shall Wear Midnight‘, but really she was brought back in the first Aching book, just under a different name.

A few things I noticed: The librarian has embraced his orangutang shape, creatures from the dungeon dimensions are so very common in early books, the wizard Simon wasn’t that different from Coin in ‘Sorcery‘,  the town of Bad Ass is introduced(but name not explained), what happened to Archchancellor Cutangle(who was a good character)?, at this point the thieves and assassins are under one large guild of allied trades, and finally, Granny’s interest of Bees is already present.

This book makes me interested to reread both Sorcery and Wee Free Men, to see just how similar areas of the too books really are, or if my memory is playing tricks on me.

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