Terry Pratchett was recently awarded a well-deserved prize for "lifetime service to Booksellers". That's not surprising, although finding enough shelf space for two dozen Discworld books must be a challenge. Witches Abroad is one Discworld tome deserving a permanent niche on any shelf - especially yours. You'll return to it often.
The clash between established experience and youthful endeavor is caught here in Pratchett's matchless style. Granny Weatherwax, Lancre's predominate headologist, is severely challenged by the youngest member of the coven, Magrat Garlick. Magrat's heir to a powerful device and honour - a fairy godmother's wand. Magrat's life is further complicated by an identity crisis. She's not always comfortable in her role in life, and this new responsibility compounds the problem. Nevertheless, she's been given the wand and a charge to prevent a marriage. A formidable task, given that the marriage is to occur in "forn parts".
The witches' journey to Genua is one of the highlights of Pratchett's inventive mind. Esme's participation in a Cripple Mister Onion contest along the way would make the most ardent card player shudder in recognition. The innocent Granny exhibiting "beginner's luck" is priceless.
Pratchett introduces us to the power of the story in the universe. Stories "play themselves", shaping people's actions to their own ends. People who resist their roles in stories do so at their peril. This story, so classic and well established, should be irresistible, but then it hasn't dealt with Esme Weatherwax. The struggle is immense, with mighty powers brought to bear in seeking a resolution. Only time will tell which has the greater power.
Most of Pratchett's stories have the value of being timeless. Among the Discworld tales, this one has a particular ageless quality. It can be read at any time with many levels of pleasure and value. No other book in the witches' Discworld series quite matches this one for confirming the worth of Esme Weatherwax as one of Pratchett's finest character inventions. Yet, whatever you find on Discworld, you must remember its equivalent resides somewhere here on Roundworld. There's that lady just down the lane . . .
[stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]