on 3 March 2006
This is one of my all-time favourite Pratchett books. Everything that he's good at is exhibited here - adapting stories and fairy tales, "translating" real life culture to the Discworld, great characterisation and dialogue, a great plot - and, of course, it's hilariously funny.
If you're a fan of the Witches, it's even better. Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick each get a chance to shine, in their own particular ways (as does Greebo). Pratchett takes them far away from Lancre, and it's highly entertaining to see how they react to 'forn' cultures and people. Nanny's postcards home are particularly worth a mention for sheer comedy value!
It's amazing how many references to real life cultures, stories and events Pratchett manages to fit into this book, and yet none of them seem hurried, forced or superfluous - each event fits in perfectly to one fantastic story. It's one of those books where every single line is a classic and every bit of dialogue is completely perfect. Hard to imagine how it could get better than this.
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]
on 12 May 2004
Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick are on a mission to save a distressed maiden from a fate worse than Death (who is, in any case, a nice chap really). Magrat's inherited a fairy godmother wand and a big responsibility. The three witches fly to Genua to do the job and it's an eventful journey. They run into a variety of characters and situations from all sorts of stories, including a village with a vampire problem, delving dwarves (possibly delving too greedily and too deep), a big bad wolf - and so on. They find the folks in Genua are living a fairy-tale sort of existence and are sorely in need of some solid reality - especially poor Ember Ella who doesn't fancy the prince one bit and certainly doesn't want to marry him.
It's not exactly like real life but, on the other hand, it's a sort of study in the every-day mundane ... with a twist. That's want makes it so funny. This book kept me happily entertained for a few hours at a time when I needed a laugh, so it gets my vote!
on 4 February 2002
I have read every Discworld book up to The Truth and I must say that this makes my top five. As witches books go it is beaten only by Lords and Ladies, which is my favourite of all time. In fact, as this is written I am curretly re-reading Witches Abroad.
Once the witches leave Lancre the tale moves at breakneck speed (this is Lord Of The Rings condensed) featuring some superb set pieces. An example is the riverboat scene, which ranks as one of the very best scenes alongside the timewarp spell in Wyrd Sisters, Death's arrival in the store in Hogfather and Vimes' escape from the Werewolves in the Fifth Elephant.
Some of the parodies are superb, and the Little Red Riding Hood sequence is possibly the most chilling scene in any Discworld novel. Also, Nanny Ogg's letters home have to be the all time funniest jokes. So read this, and you'll never see fairy tales in the same light again.
on 28 October 1998
The Christmas panto has never been the same since reading "Witches Abroad". Every page brought more absurd farce and I just couldn't put the book down. There should be a warning on the cover that reading in public may result in internment in the local home for the mentally unbalanced as well as being asked "Are you alright, Dear?" by concerned strangers.
My Mother (who is NOT a fantasy fan) asked me very secretively if "There are any other books by that author?" after she started reading it just to make sure the content was suitable for my son to read. He had to wait until she had finished it before he got a look in! Of all the Terry Pratchett books I have read, and I have read most of them, "Witches Abroad" remains my all time favourite. It is one book I can read over and over and always find something new.
A basic knowledge of folk stories is needed to get the most out of the story. Put the real world on hold for an evening and escape into Discworld.
Terry Pratchett's first novel, "The Carpet People", appeared in 1971. "Witches Abroad" is the twelfth novel in his hugely popular Discworld series and was first published in 1991. It's also the third book (after "Equal Rites" and "Wyrd Sisters") to feature Granny Weatherwax, the Discworld's greatest witch.
As with "Wyrd Sisters", Granny Weatherwax is joined by the Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. Nanny Ogg, is the raucous head of the Ogg clan based in Lancre town. (She also owns a fearsome, one-eyed tomcat with an unbridled libido called Greebo). The other is Magrat Garlick, who has a few fanciful ideas about magic that Granny doesn't altogether approve of. She's always been fond of dancing, occult jewellery and runes, but now Granny thinks Magrat's gone funny in the head : there's the self-defence classes (despite being a witch), the attempts to 'find herself' and her refusal to marry Lancre's new King. (Despite never having been one, she refuses to be a 'sex object').
One of the trio's neighbours is Desiderata Hollow, a witch who specialises in fairy-godmothering. Despite the fact that witches know exactly when they're going to die, Desiderata never quite managed to train up a replacement. Instead, she has her magic wand delivered to Magrat, with a couple of very strict instructions : she's to travel to Genua to STOP a god-daughter marrying a prince, and she's to keep Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg from going with her. (In fact, Desiderata is banking on the two older witches tagging along : she knows she can only guarantee their attendance by forbidding them from travelling).
This isn't going to be an easy mission. Godmothers travel in twos, and Desiderata's counterpart - Lilith - wished for Embers (the god-daughter) to have beauty and power and to marry a prince. Whether or not the young lady actually wanted any of that was irrelevant, and Desiderata has been trying to do what's best for Embers. Unfortuantely, it's going to be very difficult to stop a good story...
Much of the humour comes from poking fun at fairy tales, though there's a touch of the Wizard of Oz, and a quick cameo from Gollum. There's also the renowned dwarf lover, Casanunda, the attempts to master 'speaking foreign' and the terrible privies in foreign parts. However, it's Nanny Ogg - with her fondness for a double entendre and a vulgar song - who provides many of the best parts. Thoroughly recommended !
on 2 November 2000
I haven't read this in a while but I'm surprised to see someone give it only three stars. The relationship between the three witches, the blind faith and unwavering superstitions of visitors abroad, the power of belief(s) and the fact that everyone (seems to) love a good story - well, it just makes for a great story. The indomitable Granny Weatherwax, worldly-wise Nanny Ogg and the greenhorn fairy godmother Magrat are the epicentre of a whirling fantasy twining of story, myth, fairytale and belief that is brilliantly breathless. It has suspense, surprises, made me laugh out loud (on the tube), and made me feel good. All you expect really.
on 7 February 2002
I have read all of the Discworld books up to the Truth and this one definitely makes the top five.
The main reason for this is the intruiging plot and the superb set pieces-the Little Red Riding Hood sequence, for example, is guaranteed to chill the blood.
There is no chance to get bored as the action is constantly changing and is always fresh. It is amazing that so much can be fitted into such a short book. So buy this, and you'll never look at folk tales in the same way again.
on 27 October 2001
In this novel Pratchet reveales some truthes about traveling; e.g. that you can come along with every language if you just shout loud enough, or that it is a universal law that your postcards have to return after you. The three witches are marvellous and the hidden, secret powers of Granny seem to grow from book to book. And than there's Greebo; the one-eyed cat who makes a stampede of bulls turn on their heels and flee. Brilliant.
on 3 July 2004
This is aboslutely my favourite Discworld novel. Magrat Garlick, the slightly wet witch, finds herself unexpectedly landed with the job of being a Fairy Godmother. Her job is to go to Genua and stop her goddaughter Ella from marrying the Duc of Genua. Naturally, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg decide to accompany her. Their journey across the Discoworld to Genua is a hilarious trip full of memorable encounters. One of the best bits is when they are rowing a boat along an underground river and encounter a sinister Golum-like creature. Granny Weatherwax whacks him over the head with an oar. Now if only Tolkein had thought of that! Then there's the wonderful bit in the village inn where the witches remain happily oblivious to the fact that the village is being terrorised by a vampire. He is out to get Magrat, but naturally has no luck, and the vampire ends up inside Greebo, nanny Ogg's dreadful cat. "Vampires have risen from the grave, the crypt and the tomb, but have never managed it from the cat". And then there's the marvellous bit on the riverboatr, where Granny Weatherwax takes a group of professional gamblers to the cleaners. When they finally arrive in Genua, they discover the city is being terrorised by a powerful witch Lilith di Tempscore, who is determined to get Ella married to the Duc, who has an unpleasant secret. The witches form an alliance with Erzulie Gogle, a Voodoo lady, in order to thwart Lilith's plans. This book is just marvellous. It has an ingenious plot, lots of wonderful and memorable characters, and is very, very funny. Definitely Pratchett at his best.