Pratchett has an outstanding capacity to research a topic, then present his findings with peerless clarity and wit. This book presents so many aspects of theatre production, operatic lore and, amazingly, book publication they're nearly overwhelming. His prose and humour leave us breathless with mirth and astonishment. Still, one has to wonder what motivated the writing of Maskarade. It's a departure from previous Discworld efforts.
Magrat Garlick's married and out of the coven. This imbalance must be restored. Her potential replacement is a new Pratchett character, Agnes Nitt. Agnes, however, has a different career in mind. She wants to be a diva in the opera troupe in Ankh-Morpork. A lofty ambition, indeed. And a voice lofty enough to project throughout the hall - right up to the loft, in fact.
As always, the opera business is fraught with problems. Underpaid [and underfed] choir girls, prima donnas who consider their voice grander than its quality justifies, eccentric crew, and the ever present issue of money. Oh yes, and there's a ghost - with a reserved box seat.
If the Ankh-Morpork's opera team wasn't having enough to deal with, they are about to be confronted with the remnants of Lancre's witches' coven, Esme Weatherwax and Gytha Ogg. Nanny Ogg's become the Julia Childs of the Ramtops, but with variations on a particular theme. She's published a book about it, but Granny Weatherwax isn't convinced the payment justified. Esme Weatherwax as an author's agent is a formidable figure. As if this transformation wasn't enough, she also becomes a patron of opera.
Pratchett's gone slightly awry from his usual path with this book. He raises a host of pretty serious questions with the characters and the plot. It's still in the best of PTerry's style - his wit through the persona of Granny and Nanny Ogg has, if anything, improved. But there are some issues uncommon in Discworld books, and the reader is left more than just entertained. There's some post-laughter thinking required of the reader. Opera is, after all, serious business. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]