Friday, 22 June 2012

Review: Witches Abroad

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Witches Abroad was first published in 1991 and is the twelfth discworld novel. As you can probably guess from the title, this novel is third in the witches line. It focuses, like Wyrd Sisters before, on Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick.

This time, old Desiderata Hollow, who was not only a witch, but also a fairy godmother, dies and leaves her wand to Magrat, asking her to travel to a faraway city called Genua and prevent a story from happening. Knowing the older witches, Desiderata forbids them to go and help her, so that they do exactly that.
Throughout their travels, the three witches get famous - in a way that makes the people they've met a lot more careful around "helpless" old women. Closer to Genua, they also get involved in stories - animals and people acting unnaturally to fulfil their roles in different well-known fairytales. They prevent the stories from happening and instead help the people. Genua, though, has been turned into something resembling a fairytale kingdom by Lilith, Desiderata's sister fairy godmother (they always come in pairs), whose real name is Lily... no, I won't say.
Now the witches have to help Ella, who doesn't want to marry the prince, but the story requires she should. Magrat replaces her at the important ball, where it turns out the prince is actually a frog. Magrat flees in terror, of course leaving a glass shoe behind. Luckily, that shoe doesn't fit her, but Nanny Ogg...

To give you a short overview: We have three witches travelling to foreign parts (with Nanny Ogg speaking "foreign"). We have Magrat as fairy godmother who doesn't know how her wand's supposed to work. We have a voodoo witch, the best gumbo cook in Genua. We have animals turned into humans and humans turned into animals. We have Casanunda the dwarf and Death as guest stars. We have a showdown between headology and mirror magic. And we have stories.
Terry Pratchett has a lot to say on the subject of stories, and quite a bit of it is done through Granny Weatherwax. The witch doesn't like stories. They force you to be something you are not. They expect animals to think, they expect people to be happy all the time. They are dangerous and hard to stop once someone feeds them...
Stories are a parasitical life form, warping lives in the service of only the story itself.

I think I was reading this fast, right? I enjoyed it quite a bit, too. The witches are fun, and I loved the guest appearances.
There's a lot to be learned from Witches Abroad, about magic and stories and how to best help people (and about Granny Weatherwax). Stars don't care for your wishes, and magic doesn't make things better.
The invisible people knew that happiness is not the natural state of mankind, and is never achieved from the outside in.

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