Witches Abroad (Discworld Novel 12)

by Terry Pratchett | Science Fiction & Fantasy |
ISBN: 0552134651 Global Overview for this book
Registered by erinacea of Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on 10/4/2015
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by erinacea from Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on Sunday, October 04, 2015
Yet another Discworld book I discovered while following Mark Reads Discworld.

1. Guards! Guards!
2. Reaper Man
3. Witches Abroad
4. Wyrd Sisters
5. Mort
-------- (imaginary line splitting favs from non-favs)
6. Moving Pictures
7. Sourcery
8. Equal Rites
9. The Light Fantastic
10. Pyramids

The story:
When a fairy godmother bequeathes her magic wand to Magrat, the coven is tasked with travelling to far-off Genua, there to prevent the marriage of young Ella Saturday to a prince.

Set about a year after Wyrd Sisters, not much has changed since the end of the last book. When Magrat inherits the magic wand from Desiderata, local fairy godmother, and sets out to Genua, naturally our favourite duo of elderly witches accompany her.

Much of the book covers the shenanigans during their travel. Granny hates traveling as much as ever, and Nanny's knowledge of foreign vocabulary is not as extensive as she believes. Poor Magrat is stuck in the middle, wavering between feelings of superiority and uselessness.

Along the way the encounter different people and creatures forced to play out the roles of various fairy tales because the antagonist of the story (spoilers! highlight to read Lily, Granny's estranged sister) is a more developed version of Black Aliss, the fairy tale addicted witch mentioned in Wyrd Sisters. Surprisingly, this ends up being more horrifying rather than fun.

I was not at all happy with Greebo's role in this book. Early on, Nanny's cat is described as some kind of feline "rapist". In the heated discussions that followed it was generally agreed that this was highly inappropriate both because it attributes human morals to animal behaviour and because it makes light of the concept of rape. Clearly, Pratchett was not aware that the casual use of the word might be controversial. Worse, later on, (Major spoilers, beware!) Greebo is turned into a human and, despite knowing about his predatory tendencies, the witches leave him unsupervised to fend for himself. Luckily, nothing happens because, while intrigued about the women he encounters, Greebo is largely confused about his new shape, and only ends up scaring a few people. My point is that in combination with the earlier charges of him being a "rapist", Pratchett should have taken a lot more care in handling a humanized Greebo.

Major spoilers about the ending:
Given her preoccupation with pretending to be someone else, Lily has very little hope of ever escaping the mirror labyrinth. And as with Dios (locked in an eternal time loop) and Lupine Wonse (mind-controlled by the dragon he summoned), I find myself being horrified. Lily did some really terrible things (careless murder, dictatorship, mind control), and her view of people and her part in the world reveals psychopathic tendencies. And yet... it's a horrific end to her story.
Actually, I'm undecided if this is because Pratchett is just that good an author or because I've always felt this way. (As long as I can remember, I've always hated the cruel ways fairy tale villains were punished.)

In the end, I mused whether the witches have been changed by their voyage, and I believe that, yes, they were:

Nanny is probably the least affected, mostly because she's already the one most likely to feel "at home" where ever she goes. She's gained a large vocabulary, the recipe for "banananana dakry" and a banjo.

I think Magrat learned a lot in the final section. Spoilers Giving up the wand speaks worlds about her change in outlook. As long as she carried it, she was unable to do much with it (though it came in useful a few times). Now she does know how it works but also that she doesn't really need it (or that that kind of power isn't something anyone should have). I hope that she'll be able to take some of that confidence back home with her.

And Granny... I do think she has changed though it can be hard to tell. Major spoilers! What makes this even more difficult is that right now she's still mourning the sister who already left a gaping hole when she left all those years ago. Still... the Esme Weatherwax at the beginning of the book would not have agreed to continue travelling once the task was over and she could return home, and she also wouldn't have kept the hat for any foreigners to stare at her. These are very small things but I think she's mellowed some.

Next up: Small Gods

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