Book Review: Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett

Wyrd Sisters

“Things like crowns had a troublesome effect on clever folks; it was best to leave all the reigning to the kind of people whose eyebrows met in the middle.

 Three witches gathered on a lonely heath. A King cruelly murdered, his throne usurped by his ambitious cousin. A child heir and the crown of the kingdom, both missing. The omens are not auspicious for the new incumbent, for whom ascending this tainted throne is a more complicated affair than you might imagine, particularly when the blood on your hands just won’t wash off and you’re facing a future with knives in it.”

Down with the monarchy!

Or…not.

In Wyrd Sisters, our three favourite witches on every side of the Ramtops interfere in, would you believe it, a good old-fashioned succession dispute (you’d better believe it), while steadfastly claiming to be doing anything [i]but[/i] interfering, because of course such shocking behaviour is below them.

There are a few other interesting events, such as Magrat’s heroic romance, a pub-crawl in our beloved Ankh Morpork (not for the faint of heart), and some dubious broomstick shenanigans, too, but, in the main, the future of the monarchy is at stake – or the monarchy they know and tolerate, anyway, like particularly thick but generally tasty porridge – and the characters in Wyrd Sisters are heavily involved in putting it right.

Or, at least, putting it less wrong.

With more than a passing resemblance to Shakespeare’s Macbeth­ – that’s the one with the dagger, for those of you that have left the particularly bloody tragedies to the sleep-deprived English students – Wyrd Sisters is an interesting jaunt of a tale, in possession of many of the successful components of vaguely similar novels, such as intrigue, murder, and ambitious – not to mention slightly unnerving – wives. It’s also written undeniably well, chockfull of Terry Pratchett’s special brand of biting humour, and has a good sense of pace.

That said (here we go), I found myself fundamentally unconvinced.

There are humorous scenes, it is certainly well written, the pacing works, and the plot is simple enough to follow, but complex enough to be interesting, but there were many aspects that jarred, preventing me from enjoying it in entirety. The problem was, simply, that I had read many other – better – Terry Pratchett novels, and that this one fell by the wayside.

Among other things, I felt that there was far too much emphasis on Magrat’s physical appearance, in comparison with what was offered of the other characters, both male and female. A basic description is expected, but Magrat’s fundamental lack of attractiveness seems to be a main feature of every single scene that she happens to feature in, regardless of why she’s there, what she’s doing, and who she’s talking to you. Aside from that being utterly unnecessary, it had the additional consequence of meaning that when she later engaged in her Epic Romance™, additional effort had to be expended to ensure that the reader knew her partner also qualified as unattractive, as justification for said Epic Romance ™.

Ugh.

Aside from that – moving on rather quickly – Wyrd Sisters frequently sidles unconvincingly into moralising, reading, on occasion, like a thesis on morality and the ruling class, with a side dish of very literal citizens and a temperamental forest, in case of boredom. Thus, despite the many undeniably positive aspects, I found Wyrd Sisters to be a slow, wearisome read, with little to save it beyond the familiar characters of our favourite witches and the unique peculiarities of the Discworld.

In other words, like the snobby English student I was: I’ve come to expect a certain level of excellence, and Wyrd Sisters fails to deliver.

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