Note: This is #45 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge for 2008.
The Diskworld books I’ve read so far have been lampoons of the high fantasy genre, and author Terry Pratchett keeps that up in this sixth book, Wyrd Sisters. He does, however, also head into some new territory by blending in some satire of Shakespeare in general and of Macbeth in specific. Indeed, he starts with the Macbeth references right off the bat by recreating the famous three witches scene and using it to introduce the three main characters of book: the truculent but ultimately good hearted Granny Weatherwax, the jovial and moderately ditzy Nanny Ogg, and the inexperienced and slightly naive Magrat Garlick.
Wyrd Sisters is the most tightly plotted Diskworld book I’ve read yet, with the three witches getting involved in shenanigans loosely based on the plots of Macbeth with a shot of Hamlet thrown in. There’s the ghost of a murdered king, a lost heir, the aforementioned witches, a villainous usurper, a traveling band of thespians, and some really angry forest animals. Like the rest of Pratchett’s stuff, it zips along and entertains along the way. If you don’t laugh out loud, you’re sure to at least smile every other page or so.
I wasn’t impressed with Granny Weatherwax as a character when she debuted in Equal Rites, but here Pratchett seems to get a better feel for her and she’s much more entertaining in the context of working among her peers and her hapless rivals. I liked watching the author work with the witches’ idea of “headology,” which roughly correlates to psychology and getting in the right state of mind to make things work. Using, by virtue of sheer stubbornness, an ordinary copper rod as a substitute for a magic sword in a demon-summoning ritual, for example, is a fun contrast to traditional witchcraft formulas, ceremonies, and occult flim-flam. Pratchett also has some fun contrasting the pastoral and humdrum kingdom of Lancre with more exciting (and, as it so happens, deadly) places like the city of Ankh-Morpork. My favorite part of the book was when the three witches attended a play for the first time in their lives and were completely flabbergasted by all the strangely dressed actors prancing around and thinking they could fool them into believing that they were kings and ghosts and such.
So it’s fun stuff, different enough from previous books but familiar enough in tone and overall setting to be comfortable. I’m still a fan and I’m warming to Granny Weatherwax as a recurring character.