Are you ready for a trip into a dimension full of very creepy Things? Good thing, because you’re about to get a healthy helping of them as we finish our foray into the subject of Equal Rites.
Esk finds herself in another sort of reality entirely. She sees the whole of the Disc and the Great A’Tuin, and almost makes the mistake of trying to Borrow its mind, but stops herself. She tries to remind herself of things in the real world to keep herself grounded. She finds Simon there, holding a small glass pyramid that holds the stars, and he’s surrounded by Things that are watching him. Esk takes the pyramid and tries to flee, knocks Things down left and right, but they come to her in Simon’s form and insist that she give back the pyramid. When she won’t, they allow Simon to speak to her, and he tells her to leave his dream and run away with the pyramid—it contains the idea of the world made out of numbers, and ideas are real in this realm.
Back at the University, the students manage to stop Granny and Cutangle’s duel to go check on Esk and Simon. They smoke together and Granny tells the wizard about Esk. She also tells him that Esk threw her staff in the river… which is apparently flooding at present. They head to the water and Granny insists on getting in a boat, which Cutangle follows her into, only it turns out neither or them know anything about boats, and they have to start bailing with the wizard’s boots. They get further out into the water and magic is leaking around them. The water gets cold and they hit ice—the staff is feeling the same cold that Esk is feeling wherever she is—so they walk out onto it. They talk and it turns out that they grew up quite close to each other, and Granny used to get eggs from Cutangle’s mother’s chickens. They think back on their youths and how things have changed, and how being magic makes one feel apart from everyone else.
They find the staff, but it doesn’t want to come back with them, so Granny begins to threaten it with an untimely end. The staff allows her to wield it, and they fly back on her broom before the ice melts beneath them. It’s raining in the city, and the rain is pouring into the University where Treatle is. Granny and Cutangle make it back, and Cutangle seems intent on listening to Granny, which doesn’t sit well with Treatle at all, so much so that he feels the need to comfort the building. They find Esk and Simon with the rest of the students, hiding in the library. Cutangle wants to give the staff to Simon, but Granny knows that’s a terrible idea, giving him more power. She lays the staff onto Esk, but nothing happens. Cutangle is adamant that women still cannot be wizards because there’s no precedent, which Granny is having none of at this point. Cutangle starts to consider the merits of her argument.
In the other realm, Esk gets the staff, but she’s figured out the trick—the best thing she can do in this dimension is refuse to use magic. It strips the Things of their power. They begin to work their way toward getting out on that logic. Back in the library, the staff begins to move and glow and Esk and Simon reemerge. Esk is wearing a wizard hat; Cutangle has changed the lore and she’s a wizard now. Simon left his stutter behind in the Dungeon Dimension as well.
Granny and Cutangle discuss the strange ideas that Simon and Esk have, and Cutangle says that the University will probably accept more women now, and then asks if Granny would be willing to lecture as a result. Granny says she’ll consider, and Cutangle invites her to dinner. Esk and Simon create a new type of magic that no one understands, “but which nevertheless everyone considered very worthwhile and somehow comforting.”
Book Club Chat
This book is strangely paced as all get-out, but still a lot of fun. It really picks up there at the end and a lot of stuff just happens, and some of it is great and some of it is less exciting. I do find it interesting that after spending so much time building up this story for Esk, it’s really more of a story about Granny. I can’t ever be upset about that because she’s amazing, and it’s so incredibly, stunningly rare to see a story where an elderly woman gets to have an adventure and be truly heroic all while getting to be so singularly herself. (Granny Weatherwax and Eglantine Price have a lot in common, so what can I say, I have a type when it comes to witches.)
Also, I’m just gonna say it, I wish Esk had tried to Borrow the Great A’Tuin’s mind. Come on, that would have been amazing to read, no matter how terrible the idea was.
It strikes me that the type of magic Simon and Esk work to create is essentially the magic version of philosophy maybe? The idea of something that no one understands but is somehow comforting sounds like philosophy to me. But it sort of tickles and frustrates me simultaneously that their trip to the Dungeon Dimensions is kinda… not very important to the overall story. In addition, I don’t know how I feel about Simon losing his stutter. My instinct is to say that I’m against it—the idea is awfully close to a character with a disability magically losing said disability, and I don’t really care that sort of narrative. It’s okay for Simon to stutter. It doesn’t diminish him at all.
So I guess the real question is, do I think that this story is an answer to the concept Pratchett sets up with the speech he gave and the opening to the book? The idea of why Gandalf isn’t married and why Merlin is a man? And in all honesty… I think it’s a fun exploration of these ideas and themes, but I don’t really think he does much with them in this book. It feels very safe, like he’s still working out how he truly feels about it. And from what I remember of later Witches Discworld books, that’s ultimately true. He’s dipping his toe into gender dynamics, and he does alright here. The good stuff is still coming.
And that’s perfectly fine. You’ve got to start somewhere, and the idea of starting because he wanted to model a character after his daughter is awfully sweet. It’s just not quite there yet.
Asides and little thoughts:
- I dunno, I have a lot of feelings about Granny and Cutangle talking about how when they were young the world was full of old people, and now that they’re old the world is full of young people because why does it feel that way?
- Drum Billet is an ant now. He gave reincarnation the old heave-ho. Good for Drum Billet.
- I feel like Granny saying “Most things most people believe are wrong” is just a generally good thing to keep in mind throughout your life.
“So you were thrown away,” snapped Granny. “So what? She’s hardly more than a child, and children throw us all away sooner or later. Is this loyal service? Have you no shame, lying around sulking when you could be of some use at last?”
There was another brilliant flash of lightning, which shows that even the weather gods have a well-developed sense of theater.
Somehow being a wizard didn’t feel any different from not being a wizard.
GET READY, everyone, because next week we’re starting MORT.