Equal Rites (by Terry Pratchett)

‘Equal Rites’ is the first of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books that I read, back in the early 1990s. My husband had started reading them, and thought I might like this one. I loved it, and was hooked… and remained so, long after he had become bored with the series.

I last read ‘Equal Rites’ in 2000, and am currently slowly re-reading through the Discworld series again, interspersed with other books. I finished ‘The Colour of Magic’ at the end of March, and ‘The Light Fantastic’ in the middle of May. So I was quite looking forward to reading ‘Equal Rites’ again. It’s the third in the series, the one that introduces the wonderful Granny Weatherwax, albeit not as developed as she becomes in later books.

But the star of this book is little Esk. She isn’t born at the opening of the book, although her mother is in labour. A very old wizard hears that Mr Smith, who was an eighth son, has seven sons already and is about to have an eighth. He doesn’t wait for the birth; he hands over his staff, and his magical powers to the new baby, who turns out to be a girl. Girls can’t be wizards. Esk’s parents, and the midwife are quite convinced of that. So they try to raise her normally, but odd things keep happening….

So Esk, aged eight, goes to Granny Weatherwax to start training in being a witch. She is a bright girl, and learns her lessons rapidly. She’s a bit frustrated that Granny’s magic mostly relates to ‘headology’ - convincing people that the witches know what they’re doing, and saying the right words - but she also learns about important herbs for various ailments, and other useful information.

But Esk’s abilities are different, and it becomes clear that she needs some training, to learn to harness her rather potent and often random bursts of power….

It’s a book about sexism, at its core. But it’s also a great satire on human life. The title is cleverly ambiguous, and there are some clever one-liners, as well as rather more innuendoes than I had remembered. It’s not as complex a story as some of Pratchett’s later Discworld books; instead of following many different threads, most of the plot concerns Esk. But that makes it a good book to start with, when introducing someone to the series.


Review copyright 2019 Sue's Book Reviews

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