Leslie's Reviews > Equal Rites

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
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Mar 31, 11

Read in March, 2011

Wyrd Sisters was my first Pratchett, and such a bliss-out that I am forever partial to any Discworld narrative that involves witches. Especially if the witch in question is Esmerelda "Granny" Weatherwax. And Granny is front and center in Equal Rites.

I won't go into details of the plot except to say that the punny title alludes to the (in this case) magical battle between the sexes which provides much of the story's conflict. See, women can be witches and men can be wizards, but you absolutely cannot have a female wizard or a male witch (warlocks notwithstanding). "The lore," everyone insists, "is against it."

Pratchett plays all kinds of games with notions of feminine and masculine temperaments; witches are all about botanicals, the magic of the natural world and psychology. They are also, by-and-large, practically illiterate, and fine with that. Wizards, on the other hand, like numbers and ideas, and most of their magic comes from "words." Scary ones. Trapped in books in whose presence one must be very, very careful.

And, of course, while witches learn witchcraft at the be-warted knee of canny women in the woods, wizards go to universities and give themselves grand-sounding but ultimately meaningless titles.

While much fun is poked at both sides of the gender gap, Pratchett -- diplomatic as always -- saves his keenest barbs for the boys-club intellectualism of academia. People who get huffy at humor that draws heavily from generalizations about gender may take issue with this book on principle, but my guess is that the prose is charming enough disarm all but the bristliest reader.

Postscript -- two other important points to make: (1) I know a lot of words. But I had to go to the dictionary twice ("grimoire" and "incunable") on one page, and was glad I did. (2) Like most Pratchett novels, this is primarily comic. But the beautiful bits are really beautiful and the scary bits are really scary
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