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Eskarina Smith is the eighth child of an eighth son. If the child had been a son, it's nearly inevitable that a wizard would have been the result. Nearly everything was prepared. A wizard came to witness the birth. He passed his staff on to the newborn child, immediately taken by DEATH, as is fitting. But, as with everything else on the Discworld, there's a hitch. Eskarina's a girl, and everyone knows, girls can't be wizards. As she grows older, however, certain Powers begin to manifest themselves, leading Eskarina on a wholly unanticipated series of adventures. Like attending the wizards' school, the Unseen University.
This third Discworld novel takes us to the other aspect of that strange place's magic environment, the feminine side. PTerry introduces us to someone who will later loom large in the Discworld pantheon, Esme Weatherwax. Granny Weatherwax is the resident witch of Bad Ass and takes up the task of teaching Eskarina the role of how witching works through the use of headology. Granny's not a charlatan, but she knows the value of belief and spurns the cheap tricksterism so often manifest by the wizards. Eskarina's powers are too apparent for either of them to control effectively and Granny's forced to send Eskarina to the only place where that control can be learned. By various and adventure-filled paths, Eskarina arrives at the University, thrust almost inadvertently into a bizarre new world.
Esk's outspoken claim to "want to be a wizard" brings on the confrontation between tradition and The Century of the Fruitbat. Times certainly are a-changin' but for Esk they only become worse for some time. She's given into the care of the University's housekeeper, Mrs Whitlow, and quickly becomes a figure out of Dickens. Sweeping floors isn't what she had in mind, even if she can direct the broom to do the work while she sits in a corner pondering life's injustices. Yet her powers develop, to the point where she's forced to confront the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions, the greatest threat the Discworld faces. It's an even match.
Pratchett's characterizations are always more valuable than any of his story lines, and this early work is no exception. Eskarina's a forceful girl with modern views, even if she's writ a bit young for the role. Although this book ends rather weakly, the story's message is valid and needs expressing. As always, Pratchett attests that the Discworld is a "mirror of worlds", especially ours. Eskarina's plight is too common for PTerry to ignore and he presents it clearly and honestly. That he can add his sparkling wit in conveying his ideas is a added blessing for us. Put this next to Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic with assurance that you will pick it up again. His works never age, but remain a joyful read for years to come. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 28 August 2005
The third book in Discworld, right from the outset you sense that Pratchett has stepped up his game, this book exudes more of the style that has made him famous than his first two instalments.
A new lead character also steps up to the mark in Granny Weatherwax, a lady very much at home in the mountains who certainly does not want to get herself into 'Forn Parts' but in this adventure has no choice, and deals with the world of cities and that of Wizards and men admirably, staring them down and shocking them entirely with her womanly strength of mind and will on many an occasion.
This is not the story of Granny Weatherwax though, it is the story of Eskarina Smith, the little girl chosen quite by accident by the Wizard Drum Billet and his cranky yet extremely loyal staff to take over his power when Death comes to take him, perhaps to become an ant as it happens. Destined for wizardry as a result of having the staff of power, yet being a female which is quite obviously not one of the components of being a wizard the story follows her on her journey of discovery through the Discworld, enlightening herself on the way things work and giving us a great insight into a number of new characters - but more importantly their little quirks and especially in this case the failings of wizards in general!
The story gains charm as a result of Eskarina's innocence, not just the childlike kind that endears other characters to her, but the rural kind, the sort that comes from knowing a small part of the world and not being allowed to look outside of this box. That's the wide eyed seek your fortune in the big city kind and Esk uses it well on her adventures to get herself into sticky little situations that Granny or the staff must facilitate her to escape from.
Granny helps her all the way, and I believe she must be the best character to have emerged by this point in the series. Vibrant, exciting with a depth of character that keeps you interested, yet she heralds from a life of virtual solitude where she is quite happy with her lot - so this transformation into a strong worldly wise character who can lend her hand to Eskarina's problems with ease is very interesting to watch!
By far and away the best book to this point in the series, inviting and exciting, a very fast read that you most certainly wont want to put down. An introduction to new characters, new ways and new places and certainly one not to miss!
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on 16 July 2015
By this, the third of the series, Pratchett was learning to lose the pointless dialogue routines that often weren't as funny as he imagined them to be, and concentrate more on developing an evenly spaced narrative style, which could then be stretched and flexed with comic expressions. As the character Bethan from book 2 revealed, he couldn't write parts for the "opposite gender" -- she was just a cardboard voice in dialogues. Here, by focussing on his weakeast points, Pratchett manages to hatch some intriguing female protagonists who are fleshed out and believable, even though they're really just vehicles for delivering a thoughtful, wry, laid-back humour.. He also gets a handle on many of the conventions that came to form the backbone of later novels, such as giving Death his particular verbal nuance and de-tangling the critical mass of Unseen University. A much more thoughtful approach to describing what needs to be described -- the discworld, obviously -- although the writing style tends to water down as the book progresses, hitting autopilot as the story gets into its stride, and just about hanging on towards the end.

Still a novel away from getting it right (MORT), but this is easily the best of the first three experimental attempts at writing a comedic book, with a memorable storyline.
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VINE VOICEon 10 September 2004
For the 3rd Discworld novel Terry Pratchett keeps his background setting but dispenses with previous lead Rincewind and introduces witch Granny Weatherwax (with some exceptions most Discworld novels seem to revolve around a lead of either Rincewind, Granny Weatherwax, or Sam Vimes and the City Watch), with her reluctant tutorage of female wizard Esk leading to a journey to the city of Ankh-Morpork and a confrontation with the Lovecraftian 'Things' from the Dungeon Dimensions.
Equal Rites is a noticeable step-up in writing style from Pratchett -this is a proper novel with character development, a beginning, middle and end, rather than the (admittedly hugely enjoyable) string of satirical fantasy incidence that made-up the first two Discworld novels. Make no mistake, this is still a very funny read, but Pratchett now allows enough room to allow the characters to breathe, and even when the jokes are slack there's plenty to admire in Pratchett's use of language ("The storm walked around the hills on legs of lightening, shouting and grumbling" etc). Its not entirely without fault - the real joy of this novel is watching Esk grow in her abilities (including some memorable 'borrowings' of other animals bodies) and Granny's dilemma over which magical path to send her down - the later adventure story hook of over ambitious trainee wizard Simon and his inadvertent summoning of the Things From the Dungeon Dimensions is rather slight, and the way every situation is overcome by Esk's inherited magical staff rather than Esk herself is a little too convenient.
Still, a good solid first outing for Granny Weatherwax, and a highly enjoyable romp in it's own right. Recommended.
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Note THIS IS A REVIEW of the AUDIO version Read by Tony Robinson.

Tony Robinson is brilliant.
For me he is the voice of all the abridged versions of Terry Prachett's books.

The simple reason is that he conveys the character and situations so well.
When you listen to Tony as Granny Weatherwax it is the voice of Granny we hear and so on.

Tony has of course been blessed with the wonderful task of reading the brilliant Prachett Disc World Books.

Now I read and listened to this book years ago and as a treat listened to it again.

Time of course does funny things but although I know the book is abridged it seemed to miss out huge chunks of the novel.
Whereas in some books this is fine because there is a lot of waffle with Pratchett's books this is not the case.
Every page has equal merit to borrow part of the book's title.

Equal rights really is a good book.
The story evolves around Granny Weatherwax a witch.
Witches in the Disc World have the secondary task of being midwifes.
(or midwives?)
The local blacksmith is the eighth son and his wife is expecting their eighth child.
8 is the magical number in this world and a wizzard is led by his staff to the birth so he can A. Die and B. Pass on his staff of magic to this 8th son.

BUT that is the trouble for the child is a girl.
And Wizzards cannot be girls or can they?

I think that although the book is excellent and Robinson's reading is brilliant the book has been abridged too much and too much good stuff has been left out.
At just 3 discs long this is far too short. I recall that Going Postal had the luxuary of 5?

Now before 100s of Terry fans give me a neg for daring to give only 4 stars.
Just think.
What I am in essence saying is that too much of the genius writing of Terry Prachett has been left out of this book and I think we all would agreethat including more of Practchett's wonderful book in the telling would be better?

This is a case of abridged too Far to borrow a quote.

Maybe I should reread the book?
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on 28 June 2001
This is quite a good book, although it is by no means one of Pratchett's best books! The book is not the funniest, but it has an interesting plot with a good set of characters.
The plot begins with the Wizard Drum Billet passing down his staff to Eskarina, a baby girl, who later shows signs of Wizard magic. Along with Granny Weatherwax, who had a big character change after this book, Eskarina travels to the Unseen University...
The book has some funny moments, although many people who have read Pratchett's later books will likely be disappointed. Unlike 'The Colour of Magic' and 'The Light Fantastic' Pratchett seems to have concentrated on the plot development rather than humour.
Also, this book introduces the reader to the concept of headology and Granny's broomstick. It is an introduction to Granny Weatherwax, and leads the way to other great books in the future such as 'Wyrd Sisters' and 'Witches Abroad'.
If you are a fan of Granny Weatherwax do not miss this book, if not, it is still a good read. I do not recommend this book as an introduction to the Discworld. 'Mort' and 'Guards! Guards!' are good introductory books.
This book is not as bad as many people say, it is just bad compared to the rest of the series, and that is not an insult!
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VINE VOICEon 31 October 2002
I think this just might be the most atmospheric of all the Discworld books. The description of rural life in the town of Bad Ass really evokes the sounds, smells and tastes of the forest. And the allegorical narrative - for Unseen University read Oxford & Cambridge in the first half of the 19th century - handles the whole issue of sexism rather well. Esk is a wonderful character that Pratchett has yet to repeat, at least on Discworld, a child with the wit and naked intelligence to cut right through the hypocrisy and nonsense of the adult world. A wonderful book that is the very definition of Intelligent Fantasy.
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on 13 March 2015
I had heard about the disc World Series by Terry Pratchett but had never read it. When I decided to read it, imagine my delight to find there are 24 or 25 novels to read! So yes I did, I took the first novel and started to read, to become familiar with the physics of the disc world and to start to understand what might be happening and why. Mr Pratchett created for himself a world, with its own physics with the forces of magic being high on the list. Having described the world, the disc world, pretty thoroughly in the first two books I found myself enjoying this science fantasy as Mr Pratchett's skills opened up and revealed themselves in his writing style. I am on book four and reading about the being called death and his apprentice, the book's progress is interesting as you may imagine. Equal rites is a very pleasant little story about wizards and witches and a woman trying to grow up and develop as a wizard in the "masculine by tradition" Wizard world. Because I have read the earlier books, it is interesting to follow this argument in the disc world. The book covers the process up to puberty roughly and stops there. I have no doubt that the female wizard will appear in a later book. I quite liked her so I will look forward to that.
The themes of the book are quite robust and do give the impression that they will last throughout the series of books, I am looking forward to the development of the different issues Mr Pratchett explores.
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on 27 April 2016
Terry Pratchett!! what a writer!! We were lucky to have him, and I love these particular books, they are often sold as a trio, and are very much about what they say they are about - through the difference in treatment between witches (women) and wizards ( men, of course)! It begins because a girl gets a wizards' staff, and goes from there. He has such a lovely light touch and an infectious sense of humour and of the ridiculous too, lovely. And its very rare for me to laugh out loud, but I did!
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on 4 May 2016
I've got a great collection of Discworld books, both paper back and hardback but I'd missed this one so bought it on Kindle. It's another good one and introduces Granny Weatherwax, and she does real magic too, not just headology!
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