Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is my second time reading this book
This is DEFINITELY a book of its times. I remember in the late 80s and early 90s there was a lot of fiction around whether women could really equal men in the workplace. Why then? I guess because it’s one generation removed from the Civil Rights era in the 60s and 70s? I know the backlash had grown by then, leading to Atwood to write The Handmaid’s Tale. Of course, that leads later into the Girl Power movement.
In this book we follow Esk who was accidentally identified as the 8th son of an 8th son. Sourcery, Discworld #5, is the last time Pratchett makes a big deal of ancestry that leads to wizards, I believe. This book also introduces Granny Weatherwax, a witch from the sticks out in the Ram Tops in a city called Bad Ass. If I remember correctly, up until Sourcery, Pratchett was still working through what the final canon of the Discworld would be, so I believe some Granny details (and perhaps this story?) are later retconned. I know there’s a later story once Mustrum has become the leader at Unseen University that is perhaps the next time Granny interacts with wizards. (While this book ends with the current chancellor inviting Granny to part-time teach at UU and to send studends to learn herbology out with Granny in Bad Ass) Also, unless I’m forgetting, Esk is never heard from again – nor do other girls ever matriculate at UU. (But I didn’t read Pratchett’s Middle Grade/YA Discworld books…so maybe she appears there?)
As for the main story – I hadn’t read in over a decade so I forgot that it was almost not at all about Esk being the first female wizard. Instead it’s about Granny raising her and Pratchett introducing us to the fact that most witchcraft is actually psychology. (*this* part is NOT reconned later) Also, a decade before I read any of the books in A Song of Ice and Fire, Pratchett was the first to introduce me to warging (he calls it borrowing) and the perils of losing yourself in the animal you control. Later on, the book transitions to a travel novel where Pratchett gets to introduce us to more of the Discworld. It’s done in a neater fashion than in the previous two books – it’s less a series of pastiches then a story that follows Esk’s journey and allows us to see how a very intelligent girl who has lived her entire life in a small village deals with increasingly larger towns and cities. It’s only the last tiny fraction of the story that involves Unseen University. I think that would be less disappointing if Esk became a recurring character in the Discworld. At least we get Granny out of it and Nanny Ogg is a great foil for her in the later books. Once again, I got a lot more out of the Dungeon Dimensions for having learned about Lovecraft since then.
It’s an OK book. He hadn’t quite hit his stride yet. Granny Weatherwax is pretty awesome, but without anyone else who appears later on in th series, you can probably skip it depending on how you felt about the first two books.
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