Witches Abroad ~ Terry Pratchett

  • Title: Witches Abroad
  • Author: Terry Pratchett
  • Series: Discworld #12
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: paperback
  • Source: own
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother named Desiderata who had a good heart, a wise head, and poor planning skills—which unforunately left the Princess Emberella in the care of her other (not quite so good and wise) godmother when DEATH came for Desiderata. So now it’s up to Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg to hop on broomsticks and make for far-distant Genua to ensure the servant girl doesn’t marry the Prince.

But the road to Genua is bumpy, and along the way the trio of witches encounters the occasional vampire, werewolf, and falling house (well this is a fairy tale, after all). The trouble really begins once these reluctant foster-godmothers arrive in Genua and must outwit their power-hungry counterpart who’ll stop at nothing to achieve a proper “happy ending”—even if it means destroying a kingdom.

Review: 

Not my favorite among Pratchett’s books but it’s an OK novel.  

The old godmother Desiderata dies and leaves her wand and instructions to the youngest of the local witches, Magrat. According to Desiderata’s will, Magrat must travel to Genua to stop a young girl from marrying a prince. Of course, the two older witches, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, tag along.    

This tale is divided into two distinct parts. The first part is studded with empty chatter and surface humor. The witches visit ‘foreign parts’, speak foreign languages (Nanny Ogg thinks she does anyhow), and endure foreign food. They travel, but not much is going on in regards to the plot. I found the first half of the book slightly tedious, although the author’s ever-present mockery of every preconception and bias relieves the tedium somewhat. The witches fly their brooms, and the speed of their chosen transportation is rather breathtaking, but the story stands still. Some irreverent verbal gems to be found in this part of the book are worth quoting:

It’s a strange thing about determined seekers-after-wisdom that, no matter where they happen to be, they’ll always seek that wisdom which is a long way off. Wisdom is one of the few things that looks bigger the further away it is.

The second part of the tale starts, when the witches arrive in Genua. The story finally begins rolling, despite the protagonists, who have stopped moving. Perhaps their stationary position spurs the action.  

The witches investigate the situation, discover the villain, and deal with the conundrum in their inimitable fashion. In this part of the book, the author makes fun of stories and the inevitable typecast of all the known plots twists. Why must every poor girl marry a prince? Why must there be a ‘happily-ever-after’? Why must a godmother help her protege with magic?

Such questions put doubts into the readers’ heads. Do we take the stories we read for granted? Do we ever doubt their wisdom? Do we disregard their casual cruelty?

One of the protagonists, a powerful witch Granny Weatherwax, serves as the author’s voice on the issue, a warning to any who think that tyranny might be a good idea:

“You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage. Besides, you don’t build a better world by chopping heads off and giving decent girls away to frogs.”
“But the progress–” Magrat began.
“Don’t you talk to me about progress. Progress just means bad things happen faster…”

Later, Granny explains her position even more explicitly:

“You can’t make things right with magic. You can only stop making them wrong.”  

On the whole, this novel is heavy on philosophy and satire but doesn’t showcase an intriguing story line, and its characters are a bit formulaic, not as much living persons as icons, representing various points of view. The book captivates the readers’ brains and tickles their laughing buds, but their emotions remain unengaged.

Recommended to intelligent readers.


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