Josh's Reviews > Equal Rites

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
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's review
Dec 25, 09

bookshelves: fantasy, humor-satire
Read in November, 2009

After reading The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic back to back, I had high hopes that Pratchett's books would keep getting better and better. Well, I don't want to say that Equal Rites is a bad book, but it's definitely an inconsistent one (although even the first two were a smidge inconsistent in spots.) And while it may not be his best work, it's still Terry Pratchett, which means it's still funny.

As you may have read, Equal Rites is about a wizard whom upon his dying breath, bestows his powers unto an 8th son of an 8th son, who turns out to be a girl, our heroine Eskerelda. On Discworld, only males are supposed to become wizards while females have to stick to the more earthly form of magic, witchery. Of course this creates a conundrum and hilarity ensues (sometimes anyways.) I think I enjoyed the first half of Equal Rites the most, which happens to be the slower half. Granny Weatherwax -the resident witch of the small mountain town Bad Ass- tries to teach Esk how to be a witch, hoping to keep her natural wizarding instincts from kicking in which would surely be a dreadful thing as wizard's magic is all about stars and numbers. Granny's quirks are a constant source of humor, from her poor spelling to her comedic outlook on humanity. Esk however, never quite becomes interesting as a character and I think that is where Equal Rites ultimately falls a bit flat.

After Esk's failed "training," Granny gives in and decides to take Esk to the Unseen University, most of which resides in alternate dimensions with a few buildings grounded in Discworld's largest city. From here the book takes some strange turns, from Esk running from Granny and travelling with river-faring gypsies, to reaching the university itself and battling the unimaginable horrors from the Dungeon Dimension that are trying to attack Esk, whose magic strength calls to them like a beacon. It seems that in this half of the story, Mr. Pratchett decided he was a little bored with Esk and her quest to become the first female wizard and he focuses more on Granny as she develops a slight relationship with the University's headmaster. My guess is that in writing the characters, Pratchett realized that Granny was just more fun. This is most likely why she appears in so many later books whereas we never again hear from Esk. After I was finished with the book, most of what I remembered was about Granny Weatherwax and I really don't think much on Esk's character at all.

But despite the characterization problems, I do like the new elements of Discworld that Pratchett has shown us here, particularly the University. We don't really learn a whole lot about the wizards in the first two books, since the primary wizard, Rincewind, isn't a very good one. So that part of the book was fun. If J.K. Rowling had taken a lot of hallucinogens before creating Hogwarts, it may have come out something like the Unseen University. And anywhere Pratchett decides to take the reader in Discworld is fine as his prose is a delight to read and always hilarious regardless of the subject matter.

So would I recommend Equal Rites to others? For the avid Pratchett fan, yes. Or for those planning to go through all of the books in publication order like I'm planning to do, you'll come across it anyways. It is a bit of a scattered read without as many memorable characters as the first two, but it's encouraging for me to know that even a mildly entertaining read in the Discworld universe is still entertaining.
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11/16/2009 page 120

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