I’m steadily working my way through the Witches books. These are a subseries of the Discworld fantasy series. The stories all take place on a flat world that lies on the backs of four elephants that stand atop a giant turtle floating through space. The books are all light, amusing reads.
Discworld, book 18
Witches, book 5
Death, to be precise. And plenty of it. In unpleasant variations. This isn’t real life – it’s worse. This is the Opera House, Ankh-Morpork…a huge, rambling building, where innocent young sopranos are lured to their destiny by a strangely-familiar evil mastermind in a mask and evening dress, with a penchant for lurking in shadows, occasional murder, and sending little notes full of maniacal laughter and exclamation marks. Opera can do that to a man.
But Granny Weatherwax, Discworld’s most famous witch, is in the audience. And she doesn’t hold with that sort of thing. So there’s going to be trouble (but nevertheless a good evenin’s entertainment with murders you can really hum…). And the show MUST go on. (Goodreads)
“Witches are curious by definition and inquisitive by nature.”
Maskerade is the fifth Witches book. In it, Agnes (who calls herself Perdita X. Dream), a Lancre citizen, goes off to Ankh-Morpork to become an opera singer. She has a great voice, good enough to be a lead singer, but because she is fat, she’s relegated to the background, to the chorus, and must sing cover for a beautiful, slim girl who better suits the look of a lead singer. Agnes also left Lancre, it seems, to get away from Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, who both see witchy potential in Agnes, but Agnes thinks of them as frauds who trick people into doing what they want, so she rebels by refusing to join them.
“They… mess people around. They think that just because they’re right that’s the same as good! It’s not even as though they do any real magic. It’s all fooling people and being clever! They think they can do what they like!” — Perdita about Granny and Nanny
As for Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, the two realize that they need a third witch for their coven since Magrat is off being queen, and Agnes is a strong potential. Also, one day, Granny learned that Nanny published a book, The Joye of Snacks, but is not being compensated for it. Bored (that’s what I think), Granny decides that she and Nanny should pay a visit to the publishers in Ankh-Morpork so that Nanny can get her royalties (and also to put Nanny’s name on the cover so that her “gnome de plume,” which is “a Lancre Witch” won’t lead people to assume Granny wrote such things). While there, they get caught up in the drama at the opera house and say a quick hello (<< vastly understated) to Agnes.
Well, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I thought I would, and I believe it’s because I read it at the wrong time and wasn’t fully in the mood for the story. I completed it in March, reading it over eight days, but I was struggling to shake off a reading slump at the time while being extremely busy, so I think that’s why I wasn’t fully invested in the story and wasn’t as entertained by it as I would otherwise be: like when I reread the parts I highlighted before starting on this review and found some quite entertaining and funny enough to make me chuckle a bit. This didn’t happen much while I read.
I was a little annoyed by the story as I read, thinking it spent too much time poking fun at the opera — even though the majority of it, 97% of it, takes place in an opera house. So you see, I definitely was not in the headspace to enjoy the story. What kept me reading, then, was the mystery — the story is somewhat based on The Phantom of the Opera, which I haven’t yet read, but the opera ghost is going around killing people and no one knows how to stop it — and Nanny Ogg, because she’s my favorite witch.
“Nanny’s philosophy of life was to do what seemed like a good idea at the time, and do it as hard as possible. It had never let her down.”
I wasn’t much interested in Agnes, but I hope she’ll leave more of an impression in the last Witches book, Carpe Jugulum. I also wonder if she was in Lords and Ladies, the book that had a few girls who were playing at being witches without fully understanding what that entails… so Granny and Nanny thought anyway. I can’t remember if she was. Anyway, I liked Agnes’s little rebellious nature and that she tries to stand up to Nanny and Granny, which takes some backbone to even consider doing. Other than the mystery surrounding the ghost and Walter Plinge, I didn’t care much for the opera. However, I enjoyed reading the critiques of operas in general.
“Opera happens because a large number of things amazingly fail to go wrong.”
“’Honestly, Salzella… what is the difference between opera and madness?’
‘Is this a trick question?’”
As always, Nanny and Granny were fun to read about, and I enjoyed seeing the two interact. Some of my favorites of their parts are when Nanny realizes that Granny has some Oggish knowledge because Granny knows what “Mrs. Palm’s discreet establishment” actually is. This annoys Nanny, btw, lol. I also loved that Nanny wrote The Joye of Snacks. I’m a bit confused about what The Joye of Snacks is about but, because it’s Nanny, I thought it was something a bit salacious since the title is, I believe, a play on the title of the old book, The Joy of Sex. I also enjoyed the part where Granny plays poker with Death and helped fix his arm. (Death speaks in all-caps.)
I AM IMPRESSED
I have faith.
REALLY? IN WHAT PARTICULAR DEITY?
Oh, none of them.
Another fun part — Greebo becomes human again! Apparently, this happens quite often now, mostly when Greebo is in a tough situation and the only escape he can think of is to become human.
“When he smiled, he exuded an easy air of undistilled, excitingly dangerous lasciviousness. He could swagger while asleep. Greebo could, in fact, commit sexual harassment simply by sitting very quietly in the next room.”
Well, anyway, I may not have had a great reading experience with this, but I can tell that it is funny and entertaining. I’m pretty sure I’ll have a wonderful time with it when I reread it later. I mean, anything featuring Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg interacting with each other is sure to entertain anyone. Oh! We also meet two Watchmen of the City Watch in this. They were in disguise as Count de Nobbs and Count de Tritus, which were such poor disguises that I wonder how well they get on as Watchmen. Therefore, I look forward to getting into the City Watch books.
That’s a high rating considering how I felt while reading. I guess I knew while reading that it was my funky mood affecting the experience.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I highly recommend the Discworld books.
Can’t help wondering if the opera singer, Henry Slugg, was inspiration for Horace Slughorn in the Harry Potter books. There are some similarities between the two.
Quotes from the book
Here are all the other stuff I loved so much I had to share them.
“People who didn’t need people needed people around to know that they were the kind of people who didn’t need people.”
“COURAGE IS EASY BY CANDLELIGHT. YOUR FAITH, I SUSPECT, IS IN THE FLAME.”
“Granny Weatherwax was firmly against fiction. Life was hard enough without lies floating around and changing the way people thought.”
“Hate is a force of attraction. Hate is just love with its back turned.”
“I don’t feel done down. I felt fine until you told me I was done down,” said Nanny, putting her finger on a major sociological point.”
“The stage-hand ran on in a trail of sparks, leaving the yeast of rumour to ferment in the ready dough that was the chorus.”
“’Oh? Are you offering to teach me something?’
‘Teach? No,’ said Granny.
‘Ain’t got the patience for teaching. But I might let you learn.’” — convo between Agnes and Granny