“In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious.” – Terry Pratchett
As has been mentioned in previous posts, the Witches series of books within the Discworld book series generally aren’t my favourites. So I, somewhat inevitably, read through it in a more stop-start manner. But, when I eventually turned the last page in this, the fourteenth book in the series, I realised I really enjoyed it. This time out, I felt the key characters of Granny, Nanny and Magrat were better developed, and we got to know them better this time out.
Pratchett uses some more fantasy world favourites in this book. Alongside the core group of witches that this book centres on, some of the wizards of Unseen University and a return of Casanunda, the pint-sized lothario first seen in Witches Abroad all make appearances. And then there’s the protagonists of this book – the elves.
All throughout literature of all forms, good and evil has been a major factor of tales, especially in the world of fantasy. In this work, however, the author takes a new spin on things. Glamour and beauty causes a whole lot of trouble throughout this story. Lords and Ladies also deals with the idea of alternate fates and multiple universes where versions of ourselves exist simultaneously, living variations of the same life.
Following on from events in Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies takes a slightly darker turn, while still retaining all of Terry Pratchett’s usual wit and humour. The witches find themselves going in different directions once they return to Lancre, Magrat moving to the castle ahead of her seemingly-sudden upcoming wedding to King Verence II. Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax are left to return to their lives in Lancre.
One theme of this story is the petulance of youth. It deals with the scenario of a gaggle of youngsters thinking they can do and know better than their elders. In this case, a group of girls attempt to become witches, thinking the Lancre coven are a group of silly old women, who know nothing of true witchcraft. They try to cast spells, and crucially, set into motion a sequence of actions, unleashing the elves on the world. With help from the Lancre locals, the trio of witches come together to defeat the elves, sending them packing back to their realm.
Another theme dealt with in this story is the past, and the question “what if…?”. What if things had been different? What if we hadn’t done or said that? Two key characters have history, and one of them wistfully reminisces and wonders about what might have been. It introduces an idea Pratchett uses again, that of the Trousers of Time. The idea here is that there are multiple ways the future can play out for us. It just depends on which leg of the trousers we head down. And in another life, in another world, every possibility that may happen will be happening.
This book did take me a while to read, probably setting myself up to enjoy it less than other books in the series. But I really did enjoy it, it was a fun read, with some fantastic character development. It also brings together figures from multiple of the miniseries within the Discworld. This was something different, helping to remind me that the whole series is interlinked, and shows how well written the books are.