I finished reading Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters. Its the sixth novel in the Discworld series and it was released in 1988.
“King Verence I of Lancre is murdered by his cousin, Duke Felmet, after his ambitious wife persuades him to do so. The King’s crown and child are given by an escaping servant to the three witches. The witches hand the child to a troupe of travelling actors, and hide the crown in the props-box. Eventually, the three witches on a lonely heath decide to right the wrongs of the bloodied Lancre kingdom.”
In this novel, we spend a great deal of time with Granny Esmerelda Weatherwax – one of my absolute favorite characters in all of fantasy. I love Granny’s down-to-earth zany stubbornness. With reluctance, Granny has joined a coven with Nanny Ogg and Margrat Garlick. The king of Lancre has just been killed by his cousin Duke Felmet. Of course, Death makes an appearance and Verence is not one to simply accept his new status as ghost. In fact, Verence is hopping mad at Felmet. Verence’s son is deposited into the care of the coven. They do the only sensible thing: they give the child to a traveling troupe of bards and actors.
Wyrd Sisters is has several major themes running through the storyline. The first is about witches: what is it that witches do and how do they do it? The individuals of the coven each seem to have entirely different views on this matter, and their conflicting opinions is the source of much fun for the reader. Of course, I side with Granny Weatherwax because (not only do I adore her name) but I think she is positively riotous.
Another theme Pratchett satirizes is Shakespearean theatre. It will probably be lost on those readers who are not entirely up on their Shakespeare, but if you took a class in college – you’re more than prepared. The Tempest, Macbeth, and Hamlet. But there’s snippets of more modern elements like Laurel & Hardy. Also, the traveling troupe ends up in Ankh-Morpork (who doesn’t?) and they decide to cease traveling and take up residence there. They begin to build a theatre (a la Shakespeare’s Globe) named The Dysc. The writer for the troupe is a dwarf named Hwal and there are some really hysterical lines parodying As You Like It’s “All the world’s a stage…..”
Hwal isn’t the only character utilizing Shakespeare; The Fool of the Lancre castle also runs through a number of Shakespearean lines (e.g. Sonnet #18 “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”)
I love that there is so much in the Discworld novels. So much…. stuff. Satires, parodies, Easter eggs, etc. Its all so much fun and wit. I love this about the Discworld series and I seriously distrust those people who do not like the Discworld novels. If you cannot appreciate the wit in these novels then clearly you are not to be trusted, I am pretty sure Granny Weatherwax would agree with me on this.
Unfortunately, there is one section of this novel which really did not work so well. Granny comes up with a plan for the witches to enact that will somehow age the deceased king’s son so that he may return from Ankh-Morpork to Lancre and take the throne from the murderous Duke. Maybe I was tired when I read this part, but I frankly have no idea what Granny did. Something about flying around the Disc and 15 years. Granted, there are some funny moments, but I don’t really get how this worked. Needless to say, soon after they complete this plan, the child (now young man) is en route to Lancre with Hwal and some of the actors.
I love Granny so I want to give this book 4 stars simply because she’s a main character. However, I am not all that excited about regicide and theatre troupes, plus the section with the 15 years plan was sketchy. However, the three stars I am giving this book should be seen as three gold stars and not just any old stars.