Terry Pratchett – Equal Rites (1987)
I am utterly ashamed of myself. I have been meaning to read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels since absolutely forever, and now there’s what? – 6oo million different titles (I exaggerate, but only slightly) – and I’ll be hard-pressed to catch up. But I’m going to make a valiant effort – judging by Equal Rites, these are every bit as grand as advertised!
This is the story of Eskarina, a little girl who is born a wizard. Not a biggie, you’re thinking, except that on Discworld, that’s not how things are supposed to happen. Only males can be wizards – females are relegated to the much more minor magical role of “witch.” Wizards can attend University and read spell books and perform the really big stuff, while witches dabble in herbalism and midwifery and crock like tea leaf readings and palmistry. Esk, however, is possessed of a type of bold wizard magic that cannot be contained. Recognizing this, Esk’s mentor and grandmother figure, the acerbic and powerfully practical witch Granny Weatherwax, accompanies the little girl to the hallowed chambers of the males-only wizard training school in the fascinating big city of Ankh-Morpork. There are a whole lot of adventures and misadventures (and a great deal of stuff gets blown up) as Esk fights for her birthright.
Now, take that plotline and inject it with huge gobs of intelligent wit and humour and you got it right. This is one seriously hilarious book that lets it all hang out, but the spot-on examination of prescribed gender roles and sexism is not played merely for kicks and giggles. This should be required reading in university sociology classes (would have made the ones I attended a lot more interesting, I tell ya!). It is, quite frankly, brilliant.
‘Scuse me, I’m off to get another Discworld novel….