“Witches Abroad” by Terry Pratchett

I picked this up to continue my journey through the Discworld series via the Witches subseries. I read this at a time when I felt a reading slump coming on and, luckily, this helped to offset that feeling.

I was immediately hooked on the story and had such a great time reading it. It was delightful and thought-provoking and placed many a twist on fairytales and stories that have been around for ages: vampires, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, etc.

Genre

Fantasy

Series

Discworld, book 12
Witches, book 3

Pubbed

1991

Goodreads summary

Be careful what you wish for…

Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother named Desiderata who had a good heart, a wise head, and poor planning skills—which unfortunately left the Princess Emberella in the care of her other (not quite so good and wise) godmother when DEATH came for Desiderata. So now it’s up to Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg to hop on broomsticks and make for far-distant Genua to ensure the servant girl doesn’t marry the Prince.

But the road to Genua is bumpy, and along the way the trio of witches encounters the occasional vampire, werewolf, and falling house (well this is a fairy tale, after all). The trouble really begins once these reluctant foster-godmothers arrive in Genua and must outwit their power-hungry counterpart who’ll stop at nothing to achieve a proper “happy ending”—even if it means destroying a kingdom. (Goodreads)

My thoughts (minor spoilers)

I enjoyed this story SO much! Just thinking about it brings a smile to face, so I’ve bumped it onto my Favorites list because (oh man!) this story left me with such a wonderful feeling. It was a good read.

Well, Witches Abroad is the third novel in the Witches subseries and in it the three witches from the Ramtops — Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick — do in fact travel abroad to stop a fairytale from happening. When fairy godmother Desiderata died, she passed on her wand and responsibilities to Magrat, who realized that she must travel to a distant country called Genua to stop a girl from marrying a prince. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg accompany her, and the three have a bunch of zany adventures on their way to Genua that I enjoyed reading about so much that they sometimes made me chuckle.

When the witches get to Genua, they immediately notice that something isn’t right. Someone is forcing Genua’s inhabitants to act a certain way (forcing them into fairytales). The three (well, everyone except Granny Weatherwax, of course) are surprised when they learn who is behind such acts as they team up with a voodoo practitioner named Mrs. Gogol to set things right.

This was a fun read from start to finish. I love stories that play with fairytales, and this one certainly does that. It touches on the Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Frog Prince fairytales, and it was hilarious to see how the Ramtop witches interrupted them or stopped them from happening.

Genua is a faraway land, so the witches undertook a considerable journey to get there. From how the lands were described, I got the impression that they travelled through Europe before hopping on a cruise ship to get to Genua, which has a lot of New Orleans flavor in its description.

Their journey was hilarious! My favorite parts were when they unintentionally defeated a vampire that had been feeding on a local population, and when they were chilling in the middle of the street knocking back Absinthe, as if it was water, and then stared down the bulls that came charging along in a bull run event. Lol! Oh man! I cracked up. The witches also went on a cruise and I liked that as well because we get to see how gangsta Granny Weatherwax is at gambling. She’s a G, for sure.

I like Granny Weatherwax, but sometimes she can be unnecessarily mean, I think, to Magrat — although I do think she helps Magrat to grow a strong backbone. My favorite of the witches, of course, is my girl Nanny Ogg. Oh man! Nanny Ogg cracks me up. She’s considered the linguist among the three witches during their travel abroad, although she mispronounces many words and gets a lot of stuff wrong, lol. But Nanny Ogg is just a lot of fun and I love how she pokes at Granny sometimes to get under her skin, lol, and how naughty her comments can be, even when she doesn’t intend them to:

“My word,” she said, taken aback. “That’s the biggest cock I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few in my time.” — Nanny Ogg 🤣

Also, Nanny Ogg knows how to let loose and have fun. I love that about her. Oh! And also — OMG! Can’t help spoiling things, lol! — Greebo was made human! Can you believe it? Oh my gosh! And what a human man he was too, he “broadcast a kind of greasy diabolic sexuality in the megawatt range,” says the text. Considering how Greebo is as a cat, it was probably good his time as a human man wasn’t very long.

The climax was very interesting and totally unexpected because I was also surprised to learn who exactly the villain is, although I suspected who as more clues were dropped. How it worked out, with the mirrors and reflections and all, was very interesting. It convinced me that Granny Weatherwax is extremely powerful; then again, it made me wonder if it’s the real Granny Weatherwax who came back in the end.

Almost done. But before I end this, I just gotta mention that, considering how close Neil Gaiman was to Terry Pratchett, I wondered if the inspiration for American Gods came from this book. I attempted to read American Gods earlier this year (wasn’t feeling it) and, although the books aren’t similar, when we first meet Mrs. Gogol’s cockerel, Legba (which made me think of Papa Legba, of course), and the zombie, Baron Saturday, it made me think that there may be gods in this story. I don’t know how true that is, but that was my thought and then I somehow connected it to American Gods and now here I am mentioning it in this review. I wonder if any of this makes sense…

Overall: ★★★★★

I initially gave it 4 stars, but I kept bumping it up the more I thought about it while writing this review until I gave in and rated it 5 stars and added it to my Favorites list because I really enjoyed this story. I even felt like rereading it as I was writing this.

I highly recommend it if you want a quick, funny fantasy story that messes with fairytales.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

Yep, go Buy yourself a copy!

Quotes from the book:

“Stories, great flapping ribbons of shaped space-time, have been blowing and uncoiling around the universe since the beginning of time. And they have evolved. The weakest have died and the strongest have survived and they have grown fat on the retelling…stories, twisting and blowing through the darkness.”

“Wisdom is one of the few things that looks bigger the further away it is.”

“The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays.”

P.S.:

Something interesting I learned about Discworld from this book is that apparently there is no racism there. Instead, there is speciesism — discrimination based on one’s species, I guess. I found it interesting that this was mentioned in one of the many footnotes and at a point where the text mentions that Mrs. Pleasant, the cook, was the first Black person Nanny Ogg had ever spoken to, which made me think that there are no Black people in the Ramtops.

I didn’t think much about the color of the characters’ skin until this footnote because the characters often aren’t described based on the color of their skin until then, or rather, characters’ skin color weren’t pointed out in such a way until then. (I didn’t know Mrs. Pleasant was a Black woman until this part.) It made my thoughts spiral.

I began wondering if characters in other Discworld books are also described based on the color of their skin because so far, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat aren’t and since Mrs. Pleasant is pointed out as Black — “the first black person Nanny had ever spoken to” — then I guess that forces us to assume everyone else, especially the witches from the Ramtops, are White. And then I began to wonder that since this is pointed out and since Mrs. Pleasant is described here based on her skin color, then is the footnote true that there’s no racism in Discworld? I mean, is describing a person based on the color of their skin a racist construct, or would we do that anyway in a society where racism doesn’t exist? I think that’s a hard question to answer even as a Black person because I do live in a racist world.

Would it have been better for the footnote to be included without mentioning the character’s skin color? Part of me thinks that by mentioning Mrs. Pleasant’s skin color in this way, the narrator introduces racism into the story. This was past the middle of the book and Mrs. Pleasant had been introduced much earlier on and I don’t recall her skin color being mentioned then.

Anyway, this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story, it just made my thoughts run wild wondering about this footnote and thinking that Discworld may not be racist but the narrator (whoever the narrator is) may be bringing the racist lenses of their world to it. Maybe? I dunno.

Anyway, go read the book.

13 thoughts on ““Witches Abroad” by Terry Pratchett

  1. Yeah, I really have to do that great Discworld read at some point! I don’t know why I can’t get my stuff together and just read them because I do adore Pratchett’s writing so much. Glad you enjoyed this one!

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  2. I do love this one! It’s one of my favorite Discworld novels and both Granny and Nanny are superb in Witches Abroad! It’s also one of the funniest ones in the whole Discworld series, and Nanny’s knowledge of different cultures is just precious! And Greebo! 😀
    I did notice this Black remark there and felt it out of place; I think maybe Pratchett tried to create that Lousiana vibe but this felt so tacked on without any real value that I much prefer his usual color blindness – there is enough of specieism in Discworld and I always thought that when you have so many different species the skin color would be totally irrelevant, as is eye or hair color in our world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! It was such a delight to read. Even now I feel like rereading it. Lol!
      And Greebo! Lol, oh man. I liked the part where he meets Mrs. Gogol’s croaker bird Legba.
      Yea, that remark seems tacked on to me too. I actually wondered if the publishers forced him to make that footnote or if it was an afterthought — something he included after completing the book. What really weirds me out is that the footnote was made when the narrator says Mrs. Pleasant is the first Black person Nanny’s ever met. I just think if racism doesn’t exist in Discworld that statement would more be that Mrs. Pleasant is the first dark-skinned person Nanny had ever met…. unless Mrs. Pleasant’s skin is indeed black as night and not just brown or very dark brown.

      Liked by 1 person

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