“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” – Terry Pratchett
Witches Abroad is the third instalment in the miniseries following Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat, a trio of witches from the mountain kingdom of Lancre. And this book deals with stories, and their importance in the world. It also deals with good and bad, and travel.
Pratchett seems wholly-comfortable with his direction for the series by this stage, and his wit and humor shine through. While travelling the Disc, the witches discuss the possibility of witch airlines using giant broomsticks. They start coming up with names, and Pratchett’s wonderful wit shines through, as the suggestions are puns of real airlines such as Three Witches Airborne (TWA) and Broomsticks Airborne (BA). While the scene isn’t central to the main story it just shows the wit that has become synonymous with the Discworld series, and also shows the wonderful way in which Terry Pratchett merges aspects of the real world into his work.
The main thread of this fun little yarn is all about stories. And more importantly, the power of stories. While we, humans, create stories all the time, do we really control and shape them? Whether that story is the story that is life, or if it is a book we write, how much of them is shaped by us? Or as Pratchett alludes to – do they shape us? A sobering thought, especially for bookworms like myself. I have read many books, and a lot of them have left a mark in some way on me, Some good, some terrifying (thank you Stephen King).
Witches abroad is a wonderful tale, littered with references to classic stories and fairy tales. But the spin Pratchett adds to these is part of the charm. It looks deeper into the stories, adds a little back story to the characters that their original fairy tales never did. Stripped down to its core, this book is a classic good versus evil tale with a healthy dose of fairy tale whimsy. But then the author comes in with the heavy machinery to put his touch on. And in this sense, I don’t mean it in a negative way. He comes in firing on all cylinders with sarcasm, wit and humour that I love about the Discworld series.
In the two previous books featuring the witches, I was left feeling lukewarm. This outing, is very much third time’s a charm! I really enjoy this book – it’s great fun, and I love the injection of beloved fairy tales to the narrative. And on top of this, I am really warming to the three key characters. I felt like I wasn’t quite getting to know the trio of witches fully, but this time out we learn more about them and their lives, and more importantly their very different personalities.
The witches still don’t make for my favourite mini-series within the Discworld books, but compared to the first two books involving them, this is a world apart. At this stage, I am definitely beginning to like the witches more and more.