The third Discworld is also the first to not have everyone’s favourite failed wizard as the main character. Instead this book introduces another series favourite, the witch Granny Weatherwax.
So everyone knows how you get a wizard right? It’s the eight son of an eight son, eight being a number that has magical properties on the Disc. An eight son of an eight son is destined to be a wizard.
The wizard Drum Billet is soon to die, something that he is all too aware of. He travels to pass on his staff to a soon to be born eighth son of an eighth son. Billet, like many wizards, doesn’t have much time for women so refuses to listen to the midwife when she tries to tell him something.
He completes the ceremony & passes his staff onto…a baby girl, Eskarina Smith (Esk for short). No female has ever been a wizard; it’s unheard of on the Disc. Men are wizards & women are witches, it is the way things have always been.
As Esk grows up her magical powers begin to grow & Granny Weatherwax realises that she isn’t going to be a witch…she is destined to be a wizard.
Granny decides to take Esk to Ankh-Morpork & enrol her in the Unseen University, the Disc’s premier college of magic. Something that will turn the wizarding world on its head!
Like many of the early books that introduce characters it is amusing to see this early version of Granny Weatherwax. One of the most loved Discworld characters in the series, this Granny has plenty of bite but lacks a lot of the know-how that she will possess later on.
The story is great, filled with plenty of Pratchett humour & a thrilling take on real world equal rights between men & women. Esk & Granny’s attempts to try & change the outdated rules of wizarding is frustrating as they run into wall after wall.
It’s just a pity that it gets a bit side-lined in the second half as we see a young student wizard accidently begin to tap into the realm of the dungeon dimensions. It’s an exciting finale that allows us a look into their world but there is a reason Pratchett eventually stopped writing about them. They are just too fantastical for stories that base themselves on real world situations.
Esk, as a lead, is loveable. You want to see her succeed but after this she won’t reappear in a Discworld book for another 23 years…book number 38, I Shall Wear Midnight.