It is, in all honesty, very difficult to review the third book in a series—and even more so when practically every word of the late Terry Pratchett’s epic Discworld series has already been dissected, analysed, and reported back on through countless reviews.
Nevertheless, Equal Rites abandons the characters and story of the previous two novels in the series, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic in order to start off a new thread entirely: Pratchett’s ‘Witches’ sub-series—which has spawned six novels of its own.
So while I did spend some time mourning the absence of Rincewind and Twoflower—both of whom, I am sure will return—it didn’t take that long to get used to Pratchett’s new “main” characters: “Esme”, or Granny Weatherwax—the witch who has become one of the most popular and enduring Discworld characters—and Eskarina Smith, a young girl who is to be the Disc’s first female wizard.
The story is of her journey to the Unseen University in order to become initiated officially as a wizard, and her trials and tribulations on her way there—and indeed when she arrives. In most ways, however, this plotline takes the back-burner compared to our full introduction to Granny. She has a wry comment for everything and it is a riot watching her navigate the “real” world—one she hasn’t really ever set foot in, preferring to spend her time in relative obscurity living in the village of Bad Ass. Yes, you heard that correctly.
Pratchett is at his best when creating scenes that have you laughing aloud and then realising awkwardly you’re on public transport. Granny falling into a bear pit when trying to start her broomstick; the close-to-the-bone descriptions of “headology”, a phrase that is wonderful in its simplicity.
Equal Rites is short, fun and light. In just over 200 pages Pratchett crafts a neat little tale that never feels rushed, and although some of others have commented and said his later books are much smoother and more assured, this feels as good of an introduction to the Discworld as any. I feel privileged to have many more left to enjoy.