Terry Pratchett is one if not my favorite author of all time. His books are witty, intelligent, funny yet with serious undertones, pure fantasy….yet, very much grounding in reality. He can turn phrase that is at once hilarious but poignant at the same time. This is the third (or second if you count The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic as one book) of collection of books (at the time of this writing number around 40 books and comics) based on a fictional world known only as the Discworld. The Discworld is a flat micro-planet which rests on the back of four massive elephants which stand on the great world turtle, A’Tuin (whose sex is unknown…but that’s another story).
Pratchett was born in 1948 in Buckinghamshire, England. Growing up, he wanted to be an astronomer and collected Brooke Bond Tea cards on astronomy. This eventually led him to space-based science fiction. At 13, he published his first story in the school magazine which was later published commercially at age 15. At age 17, he began his first job in writing working for the Bucks Free Press writing, among other things, children’s stories published under the name Uncle Jim. One of these stories eventually led to the characterizations in his story, The Carpet People (not a Discworld novel).
In the 1980’s, Pratchett became the press writer for the Central Electricity Generating Board covering the nuclear power stations all the while writing his first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic which was published in 1983 and gave up working for the Central Electricity Generating Board in 1987 shortly after his fourth Discworld novel was published Mort.
He has been extremely proficient writing not only the many Discworld novels, which in itself contain several childrens or young adult stories, several children/young adult books not related to Discworld and several other fiction and non-fiction books.
In 2007, Pratchett was misdiagnosed as having had a stroke. It was later discovered that he has a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, posterior cortical atrophy in which parts of the back of his brain began to shrink. While his speech and motor skills have been affected, his cognitive abilities have not been impacted and he continues to write by dictation to his wife.
Having given so much joy to many lives including mine, I continue to wish him well.
Equal Rites, being the third (or second) novel in the Discworld stories and being an early work unfortunately show. Don’t get me wrong, Pratchett’s wit and shear joy are present; however, the characters are slightly different than they are in the later stories.
The story begins by the death of a wizard who, upon passing, transfers his powers to the newborn child of a rural blacksmith. The wizard made a mistake though, he had thought the child was a boy…it was a girl! On the Discworld, girls become Witches, boys become Wizards…girls do NOT become Wizards, it just doesn’t happen.
Granny Weatherwax, the local Witch, realizes that there’s not much she can do to help this young female Wizard, Esk. Granny knows what she must do….well, she always knows, even when she doesn’t, that’s part of being a Witch, and takes Esk on a long journey to the seat of all wizardry on the Discworld, Ank-Morpork and the Wizards at Unseen University.
This story is a great introduction into what a Wizard is and what a Witch is in the world of Discworld and what it means to be one or the other. In this story, Equal Rites is both an allusion to Women’s rights and to the commonality of rites between the Wizard and Witches on Discworld.
If you enjoy this story, by all means read the rest of the Discworld novels, too many to list individually here. I will likely review them over time.