May 6, 2007

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

I secretly believe that Terry Pratchett belongs to an alien writing race from outer space, and has come to earth to teach us a thing or two. I cannot even begin to describe how brilliant he is – and not only that, but he is also extremely prolific. There are over 30 Discworld novels, and the first dates from 1983, the year I was born. Well, I’m 24 now, so his average is more than one novel a year (and this not counting his non-Discworld books). This leaves me completely awe-struck. He is fast, he is brilliant, and he’s been getting better and better as the years pass. It is not an overstatement to say the world would be terribly impoverished without Terry Pratchett. My life would certainly be impoverished without his books.

Wyrd Sisters was my first Discworld book. I read it translated about five years ago, and when I finished, I found myself thinking, “So this is what the fuss was all about?” I suspected, however, that the problem might not be the book, but the translation, so I picked up more Discworld books and my suspicions were proved right. I don’t blame the translator, though – Terry Pratchett’s use of language is masterful, and trying to find equivalents in other languages must be a nightmare.

Wyrd Sisters is essentially a parody of Macbeth, taking place in the kingdom of Lancre, and with Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlic as the three witches. It's a hilarious and delightful story, and it's also the first proper book in the much-beloved Witches sub-series (Terry Pratchett himself has said that Equal Rites doesn’t quite count, as the Granny Weatherwax in that book is not exactly the one we know and love.) It also shows how these fascinating characters began to develop.

One of my favourite things about the Witches books is the relationship between Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. This is visible in this book, even if to a lesser extent than in future books. They bicker, but they respect each other deeply, and the ties of companionship that unite them are very strong.

Also, like future books in this sub-series, Wyrd Sisters tell us something about stories themselves – in this case, in the shape of theatre plays. Stories contain a magic of their own, an undeniable power which makes Granny Weatherwax uncomfortable because she knows she cannot control it. I also loved how, towards the end of the book, the words of the play the Duke had ordered written began to twist and change themselves, because the story was trying to be something other than what it was supposed to be.

One of the things I love the most about Terry Pratchett’s writing is his use of adverbs – it sounds like a simple thing, and it's actually something Writers Are Not Supposed to Do. But I’ve think that only the very best writers manage to be this expressive without overdoing it. Through words like “defiantly”, “icily”, “sheepishly”, “testily”, “sullenly”, “sourly”, “meekly” or “conversationally”, he achieves what other writers take entire paragraphs to achieve.

And of course, he is absolutely hilarious. Allow me to share the following passage with you:
The storm was really giving it everything it had. This was its big chance. It had spent years hanging around the provinces, putting in some useful work as a squall, building up experience, making contacts, occasionally leaping out on unsuspecting shepherds or blasting quite small oak trees. Now an opening in the weather had given it an opportunity to strut its hour, and it was building up its role in the hope of being spotted by one of the big climates.

It was a good storm. There was quite effective projection and passion there, and critics agreed that if it would only learn to control its thunder it would be, in years to come, a storm to watch.
Terry Pratchett is an author that every one who appreciates good books should read. I urge anyone who has yet to read him to give him a try. And if you start with early books, like this one, bear in mind that the later ones manage to be even better.

There is an animated series based on this book, and, having LOVED the one based on Soul Music, I looked for it for years without luck. But by a lucky coincidence, just now that I finished re-reading this book, I managed to find someone who'll lend it to me. I'm really looking forward to seeing it!

Other Blog Reviews:
Lost in a Good Story
Words by Annie


  1. You know I've never read anything by Terry Pratchet *ducks*. Well I take that back. I read Good Omens which was co-written by him. I'm going to have to get around to reading him. Great review. This one sounds great.

    I finally found a blogger younger than me :p I'm 25 and I've been the youngest of my blogger circle for a long time. Now you get to be the youngest ;)

  2. Chris, if you liked Good Omens, you will like Discworld for sure! I tend to think of Good Omens as a little more typically Terry than typically Neil.

    The good thing about this series is that, even though it's huge, every book is basically an independent story, so you can start reading wherever you want. Some people recommend that new readers start at the beginning of the sub-series, though, and the wonderful L-Space has extremely useful Discworld reading order guides.

    And I've been noticing that almost everyone is a older than I am, yes. I'm not used to being the youngest in anything, it's a novel feeling :P

  3. I too have to confess that the only Pratchett I've read is "Good Omens," and I did cheat on "Wyrd Sisters" by watching it before reading the book.

    I've been adding his books to my shelf, but have held off on a proper start, as I want to be sure I have several of the suggested "early reads" first. With my luck, I'll get so hooked, I'll neglect everything else.

  4. Marina, I think there's nothing more joyful than a good phase of Terry addiction!

    I'll be looking forward to reading your thoughts on the books when you read them.


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