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HALL OF FAMEon 17 October 2005
Parodying Shakespeare is a cottage industry among novelists. Few, however, have the talent to weave sound philosophy within the narrative. Pratchett introduces some thoughtful notions along with his compelling characters. From the introduction of Esme Weatherwax in Equal Rites, he fills out the coven residing in the kingdom of Lancre with her cohorts. Each brings a highly unique style to the craft. Esme, acknowledged but undeclared head witch, is traditional, effective and highly sensitive to what's "good for people". Magrat Garlick, well-read, modern and innocent [if you can reconcile those viewpoints] personifies perfectly the modern "Wiccan" mystic. Nanny Ogg almost oozes practicality - having gone through three husbands and is served, if resentfully, by her phalanx of daughters and daughters-in-law. The story itself, however, concerns another matter - one far more pertinent to today's world.
What is, or should be the role of monarchy in modern society? Pratchett uses the Hamlet example to examine this question in a new and penetrating manner. Kings can rise and fall through many means. Duke Felmet, desirous of disciplined rule, fells the incumbent. According to Pratchett, assassination is a "natural cause" of death for monarchs [as is execution, but that's elsewhere in the series]. The coven, aware that the former King Verence of Lancre has been murdered by a potential usurper, becomes protector of the heir. It "protects" him by shipping him off with a troupe of mummers. Thus Shakespeare as example is supplanted by parody of the playwright and his work. The coven, however, senses what Shakespeare never expressed - monarchy's role in regard to the land and the people.
In Shakespeare's day, Elizabeth, the ruling monarch, expressed her love for "her people" and "the country". She was nearly unique in that view. Pratchett, always sensitive to nuances, employs this concern in this tale. On a world ruled by magic, the land itself discerns the injustice of the murder, reacting with anger and pain. Esme, who "borrows" minds, perceives the grief and gathers the coven to go beyond merely hiding the heir. Larger questions are at stake.
Pratchett's ability to weave philosophical questions into what is advertised as "humorous fantasy" is what keeps him at the forefront of the genre. His witty approach gives the widest possible audience the chance to examine the issues he raises. If you miss them or overlook them, he still offers a fine story told in his engaging style. If you are new to Pratchett, you can start the Discworld series comfortably here. If you are an established fan, you will discover this to be one of his better efforts. It is something to read more than once without eroding the pleasure of the first encounter. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 2 September 2003
I read this book soon after it was first published 14 years ago, and I have just re-read it.
It's as funny as ever (provided you really know Macbeth), but the really impressive thing is that, even when you have read all the other novels in which the characters have subsequently developed, they remain consistent. Granny Weatherwax is still gloriously herself - never confusing being good with being nice - and Magrat the junior witch is a recognisably immature version of Queen Magrat. The gags never get in the way of the personalities.
The Discworld books may be funny, and they may have started as spoofs on swords-and-sorcery literature (of which I read more than I care to remember when I was an adolescent), but this is *real* literature.
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Although we first met Granny Weatherwax in Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters gives us the three witches-Granny, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick-in all of their glory. These are my favorite characters in the Discworld, and loud peals of laughter are always to be found when this remarkable coven of witches gets together. The story itself is a thoroughly Pratchett-like concoction of Shakespeare, fairy tales, satire, and infinitely rich comedy. The king of Lancre, much to his surprise, has been murdered by the Macbethian Duke Felmet, and he is not at all happy about this. No one, in fact, is happy, including the very kingdom itself, which physically shows its rage at having a new king who despises his own royal domain. The witches are also not happy, as the Duke works continually to discredit them among the people-Granny Weatherwax just doesn't have any truck with that at all. Of course, in a story such as this, there has to be a long-lost child of the murdered king who will eventually come back to right the wrongs done his father and dethrone the regal malefactor-or something along those lines, anyway. Things are never quite that simple on the Discworld.
The antics of the witches are hilarious. Granny Weatherwax is a stalwart personality who never admits she might be wrong or that there is something she is not familiar with. Nanny Ogg is a rather worldly witch who enjoys nothing more than getting blasted and drunkenly singing about hedgehogs or the fact that a wizard's staff has a knob on the end. Then there is young Magrat, quite plain in appearance, who believes the traditional ways of witchcraft are best and whose sometimes naïve, positive nature often conflicts with the thinking of her older cohorts; you have to love her, really. Her romance of sorts with the shy king's Fool is a rather comical yet sweet subplot to the novel. My favorite scene, one of the funniest I have ever read, concerns the witches' trip to the theatre; Granny has no understanding of theatre or drama, and her increasingly raucous reactions to the performance she sees is not to be missed.
You don't have to know Shakespeare intimately in order to enjoy the numerous allusions to his work, particularly Macbeth and Hamlet, but I decided to read those two plays before reading Wyrd Sisters in order to make sure I caught as much of the comedy as possible. From the attempts of the duke to wash the blood from his hands to the manipulations of the duchess to the performance of a drama in order to call out the murderous king for his treacherous deeds, this fictional cauldron is swimming with Shakespearean ingredients. It's remarkably witty on a number of levels, yet the constant humor does nothing to take away from an intriguing and not wholly predictable plot. Even if you don't agree that the three "wyrd sisters" are the funniest and most remarkable characters inhabiting the Discworld, I do not see how you could possibly fail to find much enjoyment and humor in this novel.
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Terry Pratchett has become one of the most popular authors alive today and his popularity is richly deserved. But not even with his fertile mind could ever have envisaged the heights to which his Discworld series would rise. This book was first published in 1988 and is number six in the Discworld novels.

You would think that a fantasy world full of trolls, zombies, witches, vampires would be an alien concept to most readers. Werewolves and dwarves in the Ank Morpork city watch. Wizards running a university. All this born in the mind of one of the funniest minds writing today. Surely this style of writing would have a limited readership? But no the books are loved by anybody and everybody and are read by people who would not normally allow fantasy fiction anywhere near their book shelves. This is the Discworld of Terry Pratchett.

In this episode Granny Weatherwax and her fellow coven members are meddling in politics, the royal kind, which Granny Weatherwax thinks is the worst kind of all. The Wyrd sisters as they are known battle to put the right king on the right throne, at least that's the general idea. After all what are witches for . . .
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on 19 September 2000
Having read 1/2 dozen of this series, I think the best ones involve Granny Weatherwax - a highly formidable lady. Nanny Ogg is hilarious,and I can identify with Margat, the well-meaning but unconfident young witch who gets bossed around by the older two. This novel sees Pratchett doing his own amusing take on Macbeth, also ripping off the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. But he also uses the book to make the serious point that stories are powerful and can be used to change history (or at least our memory of it). Maybe he makes this point as the play Macbeth is historically dubious (Shakespeare not wanting to offend Queen Elizabeth). In this book, as usual, Pratchett borrows heavily from others, but he is so good at parody that he gets away with it.
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on 6 November 2005
Witches on the Disc have traditions, they're just not what you might think. Getting three of them together to form a coven is hard enough you can forget midnight "dancin around without your drawers on" as Nanny Ogg says. Besides the whole magic part one of the distinguishing features of witches is that they don't generally associate with each other.
This of course makes this story all the more interesting as Granny Weatherwax, Magrat (her mother couldn't spell Margaret) Garlick, and Nanny Ogg must cooperate to save the kingdom of Lancre from certain disaster. While Granny was introduced in Equal Rites this marks the introduction of Magrat and Nanny.
You'll see plenty of Shakespeare in this volume, especially MacBeth and Hamlet, which I think makes it all the more enjoyable. There is nothing more fun than getting exactly what you don't expect from a traditional tale whenever you're venturing onto the Disc.
And what could be a better setting than the country of Lancre, squeezed in at the foot of the Ramtops where most flat land is vertical. Lancre castle overlooks the main town (imaginatively called Lancre Town) and occasionally bits and pieces fall into the gorge and the far off (vertically) Lancre River.
If you like this volume then you should definately go on to Witches Abroad and Lords and Ladies. It delivers the humour definately expected from Pratchett and has the classical touch of Shakespeare turned on his head and spinning in his grave. :-)
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on 16 January 2016
For me, this is the weakest of the discworld books I have read so far ( I am reading them in what seems to be the most generally accepted order!) I still enjoyed it, and there were several 'laugh out loud' moments, but the story and characters didn't interest me in the way earlier books did. On to the next....
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on 18 December 2013
This is an excellent Terry Pratchett Discworld novel. It is witty, lively, funny but also very deep, clever and thought provoking. This is definitely a good read.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels are marvellous. Just give the first two a miss (The colour of Magic and The light fantastic) as they are wobbly, and whatever you do don't read the last one (Raising steam) ; Raising Steam (clearly not written by TP!) is appallingly poor and would put you off the author, which would be a shame as his books are masterpieces!
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on 5 January 2002
This is my favourite of all the Discworld books I've read. Although the story may seem strangely familiar, (the hand washing, king killing etc.) the book still has a very original take on events. Couple this with humour and a great twist at the end and you have a classic!
I agree with the comments about the Hedgehog Song being brilliant, but I don't know about a full version - maybe it's best left to the imagination!
All together now, "The giraffe if you stand on a chair, but the hedgehog....."
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on 9 March 2000
Wyrd Sisters is a halarious spin off of Macbeth and has everything all avid Discworld series reader could want in a book. It's the kind of book you can read once and then pick it up 20 minutes later, read it again and enjoy it just as much the second time! If you can't get enough of the main characters, Magrat, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax you should read Witches Abroad, Carpe Jugulum, Maskerade and Equal Rites.
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