Terry Pratchett,
Witches Abroad
(Roc, 1993)

I was fortunate enough to read Witches Abroad while on holiday in a country I'd never visited before, where the common language was one I spoke little of.

Reading about the travel experiences of the Discworld's leading coven -- Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick -- as they journey across the Disc to become substitute fairy godmothers had a little extra spice as their encounters with various unfamiliar folkways mirrored a few of my own, and their obnoxious tourist antics reflected, well, a lot of the obnoxious tourists I encountered on my trip.

As the witches -- bickering amongst themselves, as usual -- travel by broom, boat and other means of conveyance across the varied landscape of the Discworld, they meet, often offend and sometimes inadvertently help an amazingly varied population. Nanny Ogg's beloved hellspawn cat, Greebo, makes a few significant impacts of his own. And you'll learn a lot about various Discworld cuisines, too. Along the way, Terry Pratchett manages to lampoon a surprising number of well-loved fairy tales, seen here as the Brothers Grimm certainly never intended them to be. The endings, assuredly, have been substantially altered from the expected norm.

In this case, the primary goal of the fairy godmother triumvirate is to stop the poor orphan girl, Emberella, from marrying the prince. But there's another godmother, mirror-fixated, who's dead-set on giving everyone the happy ending she desires -- even if it kills them. There's frogs involved, and dwarves. You'll meet a not-so-bad wolf and an unfortunate vampire. There may even be three pigs in there somewhere, plus lots of pumpkins and not a few banana daqueries.

It may have been the setting, but I suspect you, too, will laugh harder and louder than most resort hotels prefer from their guests. A working knowledge of the witches, who've appeared previously in Equal Rites and Wyrd Sisters, is useful but not necessary to enjoy this book.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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