brightwanderer: Ariel from The Little Mermaid (Ariel)
[personal profile] brightwanderer
3. Equal Rites

I had a vague memory that I hadn't liked this one much, but I was pleasantly surprised when I re-read it. I think potentially I didn't like it when I was younger because the feminist message seemed "too obvious" to me (a child who had long perfected the art of inserting a female action hero into whatever narrative she wanted to take part in if there wasn't an appropriate one already there... I was Indiana Jones's sister more times than I can count). I recognise now that Pratchett was challenging not just sexism in the general sense but a whole vein of "how magic works" that runs through most fantasy - wizard magic is Intellectual, Important and Powerful, whereas witch magic is grubbing around in the dirt doing nasty things to people. To my delight I discovered this week when I was reading "A Slip of the Keyboard"* that Pratchett actually elaborated on that whole theme in an essay, which gives the book even more perspective. Said essay made me realise that "Equal Rites" is as much about girls in STEM as it is girls wanting to be wizards.

Anyway. Again things are a bit off, Granny Weatherwax isn't quite in focus yet, although the only really OOC moment for me is when she gets into a showy wizard duel with the Archchancellor, making the situation drastically worse, which is something Granny always normally knows better than to do. The Disc continues to feel more wild than in later books, there's some wonderful snippets about why caravans are a thing in a world where you have to travel between oases of safety.

I find it interesting comparing Esk to Tiffany Aching (especially since they end up meeting): they're really quite different characters despite similar concepts lying behind them. I see another solid brick in the Wall of Discworld Truths being laid down here: part of knowing how to use magic is knowing when not to use magic. I also now recognise Simon's brand of not-using magic as the equivalent of quantum theory, which I think went over my head when I was younger. :D I particularly love the exchange between two senior wizards in which they admit that honestly they have no ability to explain what it is he's discovered, but when he's talking about it, they are absolutely certain that it's super important and existential.

Again, I'm struck by imagery. Granny and the Archchancellor in the storm, finding the spreading film of ice from the staff really stays with me. And we get our first really good glimpse of the dungeon dimensions, which I've always liked for their Lovecraftian cosmic horror. And, of course, the Librarian makes his first proper appearence post-Orangutanformation.

Definitely a book that works better as an adult, for me.


*"A Slip of the Keyboard" is a collection of Terry Pratchett's non-fiction writing, including articles, essays, and speeches spanning his career from the 80s through to his diagnosis with PCA in 2006, and beyond. It's absolutely wonderful and I think everyone should read it, especially if you are a Pratchett fan. It's illuminating, inspiring, and very funny, and it made me cry, occasionally while still laughing. We miss you, Sir Terry.
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brightwanderer: Guardian Sol from Celestial Chronicle (Default)
Helen Bright

January 2017

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