Maskerade: Discworld Novel 18

by Terry Pratchett | Science Fiction & Fantasy |
ISBN: 0552142360 Global Overview for this book
Registered by erinacea of Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on 7/9/2016
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by erinacea from Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on Saturday, July 09, 2016
Another in the list of books I discovered by way of the Mark Reads Discworld project.

When we started out, what I basically knew was this was a Witches book and that this time, the theme was Phantom of the Opera (which I've never seen). I also knew that a lot of people were looking forward to the book and that others were worried about some aspect or another that might trouble Mark.

The plot:
When Agnes Nitt, Lancre small-town girl, moves to Ankh-Morpork to reinvent herself as Perdita X. Dream she dreams of a grand career as an opera singer. Little does she know the the Opera House is haunted by the "Opera Ghost" and that for the last few months, dead bodies have been dropping out of the flies like flies. Soon she's swept up in the mystery of the Opera Ghost's identity. Meanwhile, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg have their own reasons for visiting Ankh-Morpork and just have to get involved...

It's hard to tell how much this book benefits from the comparison with its awful precursor, but I'm fairly sure I would have loved it regardless.

For one thing, it's an intriguing mystery story (the entire plot about the Opera Ghost) with a superb twist despite not being part of the Watch series (we get some beautiful cameos, though), which for me was a chance to attempt to disentangle the clues and try to find the murderer (semi-successfully, I must say) to the general amusement of the readers following my speculations.

Another big plus is the story's theme which I'd summarize as the question of identity and the roles people play (the masks they wear). I love reading stories about people wrangling with the question of who they really are and want to be, about people disguising themselves as someone else, or being confused with someone else with all the dramatic fall-out that results from it, and this book provided plenty of all of these variations. Pretty much every one is this book either plays a role: (Granny as Lady Esmeralda, Nanny as a member of the opera staff, Agnes as Perdita/Christine, [spoilers highlight to make visible] Henry Slugg as Senor Basilica, André, Greebo, Detritus and Nobby as noblemen, and the Opera Ghost, of course) and/or has to decide who they want to be (Agnes, Basilica, André).

It also boasts a wonderful main character. Agnes is an admirable young woman who's smart and strong and doesn't want to let others dictate how she should live her life and who also happens to be extremely fat. Pratchett doesn't try to hide this fact and, in fact, sometimes highlights it in a way that ends up with the narrator (rather than other characters) outright insulting her. That said, he does a great job of showing how Agnes is treated by other people and how all the insults and people's expectations affect her self-esteem and deeply hurt the girl. Again and again she gets overlooked despite her outstanding talent because according to opera management she doesn't have the right looks for the stage. Some readers who strongly identified with Agnes (wondering how a miggle-aged man could describe what went through a fat female teenager's head so accurately) felt that this realistic portrayal decreased their appreciation of the book, while others applauded the story for having a truly fat heroine.
Once the fatphobia (on the narrator's side) let up, I greatly enjoyed following Agnes and am looking forwards to seeing her again in another (the final?) Witches book. (Carpe Jugulum, I think.)

This book had no trouble launching itself into the current top three of my DW ranking:

1. Small Gods
2. Maskerade
3. Men at Arms
4. Guards! Guards!
5. Reaper Man
6. Witches Abroad
7. Wyrd Sisters
8. Soul Music
9. Mort
-------- (imaginary line splitting favs from non-favs)
10. Moving Pictures

Next up: Feet of Clay

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