Friday, July 24, 2009

Equal Rites

In the small town of Bad Ass, somewhere on the Discworld, a baby is being born. The blacksmith, the youngest of eight children, is surprised when a wizard shows up, telling him he wishes to pass his "wizardliness" on to the child, who will be an eighth son of an eighth son, and as such will be particularly powerful wizard.

The wizard knows his death is approaching (in about six minutes, in fact), and the blacksmith thinks it might be a fine thing to have a wizard in the family. So when the midwife comes downstairs with a bundle of baby in her arms, the men demand that she give them the baby's hand so they can place it on the wizard's staff to effect the transfer of power. They ignore the midwife when she tries to protest, and before she can inform them of their mistake, it's too late - the wizard's powers have been transferred, and Death has arrived.

There's just one tiny little problem: the baby is a girl. And on the Discworld, girls are witches; boys are wizards. At first Granny Weatherwax, the midwife and village witch, thinks that if she teaches the child, Eskarina, witchly skills, all will be well. But the old wizard's staff has other ideas, and when it becomes clear that Esk possesses powers beyond Granny Weatherwax's experience, she and Esk must travel to Unseen University - where girls are Not Allowed.

It becomes repetitive, no doubt, to hear me rave about Terry Pratchett's books - of course this is a wonderful book! I find myself saying the same things about them over and over again, but they are true, and I have a long way to go with my reread/continue on with the Discworld series. So bear with me - or, if not, whenever I review one of Pratchett's books, feel free to roll your eyes and skip it, with the knowledge that I'm going to say the book was wonderful and recommend it to you. While this book is the third in the series, it introduces entirely new characters (except for the unique and lovable librarian at Unseen University) and would make a perfectly good starting point for anyone interested in the series.

This book introduces Granny Weatherwax, who, even though she is dead, features so prominently in my favorite Discworld books, the Tiffany Aching trilogy. She is a delightful character, wise and foolish at the same time (as the wisest people always are), and even when she admits she is wrong, she does it in such a way that it seems she's actually been right all along. It is such fun to watch her struggle to do what's best for Esk. When she first starts dealing with the powerful little girl, Granny Weatherwax is a bit at a loss (not that she'd admit that to anyone else):

Granny bit her lip. She was never quite certain about children, thinking of them - when she thought about them at all - as coming somewhere between animals and people. She understood babies. You put milk in one end and kept the other end as clean as possible. Adults were even easier, because they did the feeding and cleaning themselves. But in between was a world of experience that she had never really enquired about. As far as she was aware, you just tried to stop them catching anything fatal and hoped that it would all turn out all right.
I laughed so hard when I read that last sentence, because it pretty much sums up how I feel about raising my own kids. Anyway, Esk is a feisty little thing, and it is delightful to watch her stand her ground as those who are older and either wish to take advantage of her or believe her to be beneath their notice soon learn how very mistaken they are. Part coming-of-age story, part travel adventure, always poking fun at either contemporary society or traditional fantasy stereotypes, this is a wonderful book. And, of course, I recommend it.

Books in the Discworld series:
1. The Color of Magic
2. The Light Fantastic
3. Equal Rites
4. Mort

5. Sourcery
6. Wyrd Sisters
7. Pyramids
8. Guards, Guards
9. Eric
10. Moving Pictures
11. Reaper Man
12. Witches Abroad
13. Small Gods
14. Lords and Ladies
15. Men at Arms
16. Soul Music
17. Interesting Times
18. Maskerade
19. Feet of Clay
20. Hogfather
21. Jingo
22. The Last Continent
23. Carpe Jugulum
24. The Fifth Elephant
25. The Truth
26. The Thief of Time
27. The Last Hero
28. Nightwatch
29. Monstrous Regiment
30. Going Postal
31. Thud
32. Making Money

Equal Rites (#3 in the Discworld series) by Terry Pratchett (Roc, 1988)

Also reviewed at:

A Reader's Journal: "Brilliantly written - I could have put a bookdart on just about every page there were so many clever phrases."

The Wertzone: "Equal Rites is another funny and fast-paced read, but you can start to see Pratchett developing some more sophisticated ideas of what he can use the Discworld series for."


  1. It never becomes repetitive! I want to read them all again, too.

    Also, what do you mean about Granny Weatherwax? She aten't dead :P

  2. Nymeth - Oops! I stand corrected. :-) I just want to give Terry Pratchett a big hug every time I finish one of his books.

  3. I've never read Terry Pratchett, but clearly these are all books I must add to my wish list :-) Thanks for a great review!!!

  4. I have read a couple books mixed in, but I guess I will be starting in on this series when I finish the Tiffany Aching books. That will depend on how long it takes for them to come in the library, though.

  5. Melissa - Oh, you are in for a treat! I can't wait to hear what you think.

    Kailana - I hope they come into the library very soon so you can get reading!

  6. AnonymousJuly 25, 2009

    I think Equal Rites was the first Discworld book I started to like. I love the Witches and Granny Weatherwax is my favourite. You are in for a treat when you get to the next one, Mort is excellent and introduces another great character in more detail.

  7. Rhinoa - I love the witches, too, and I'm very much looking forward to Mort, which I read ages ago and remember liking very much. They certainly get better and better, don't they?!

  8. Terry Pratchett will be in Tempe, AZ, beginning Sept. 4 for the North American DiscWorld Convention. And, we're going to host him on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 1 PM at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale. (Actully, we're using the City Council Chambers next door).

    Lesa -

  9. Lesa - that is very exciting! I hope you will post about it with pictures and everything. I hope he'll do a reading for you - I've heard him read at various SF conventions, and it is always such a treat. :-)

  10. Thanks, Darla! I do plan to post pictures. I'm just happy that we're hosting him. He can do anything he wants!

  11. Lesa - I'll be looking forward to reading about it and seeing the photos! Have a great time!


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