on November 23, 2003
Unlike the Watch and Death novels, even some others in the Witch subseries, this book makes little pretense to deliver Pratchett's 3-P's--profundities, politics and philosophy--although we do get something of a political lesson on the perils of utopianism. It's the funniest of all the Discworld stories. Even rereading it, I find myself laughing until I get tears in my ears.
WITCHES ABROAD lampoons just about every tourism cliche, and I suppose I got the biggest laughs from the parodies of riverboat gamblers on the Vieux (Ol' Man) River and Mardi Gras ("Fat Lunchtime" according to Nanny), plus a voodoo witch with a Russian name and a baba yaga house, which made her even funnier. Every fairy tale you can imagine is parodied and twisted around, even modern ones like THE WIZARD OF OZ. But the best lampoon is the hysterical two page Hemingway send-up in the bull chase sequence, turning that author's infamous cojones and humorlessness into something side-splitting.
In spite of her inner urgings, which are brought out most forcefully in this novel, Granny Weatherwax is her usual sour but fundamentally decent self, making us prefer her direct tactlessness to her sister's slick manipulation. "Tact" is something Granny ignores. She perpetrates every paranoid suspicion generated by "ugly American" tourists and their British counterparts, and I've met both kinds while traveling in Europe. Nanny Ogg is almost too eager to communicate, and too certain of her "forn" vocabulary. Her malapropisms of languages and cuisine (crap suzette, anyone?) had me collapsing with laughter. Magrat, who for the most part bids farewell to the subseries after the next book, LORDS & LADIES, may be a wet hen but begins to show some mettle. Certainly she demonstrates good sense when she objects to the servant girl's name, Emberella, as sounding like "something you'd put up to keep the rain off."
There's so much more that will keep you giggling -- a continuation of Pratchett's dwarf bread jokes, Greebo the Cat's amazing transformation, Nanny's introduction to the very short great lover Casanunda (whose name is one of of Pratchett's best puns). All in all, WITCHES ABROAD would make a wonderful Christmas present for anyone who needs cheering up. Since it's readily available in bookstores around here, why is it currently NOT available through this website?
on July 17, 2004
Fairy godmothers. Witches. Voodoo. Magic.
And a large bowl of gumbo washed down with a round of absinthe and banananana dakrys.
This is not your typical fairy tale. Make sure the servant girl doesn't marry the prince. Easy? Not in a land where Happy Endings are strictly compulsory.
Enter the witches. The newly appointed Fairy Godmother Magrat Garlick, in search for cosmic harmony and how do set this bloody wand off pumpkins, and the classic double act that is Granny and Nanny.
Pratchett has managed to mix in Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz and even The Lord of the Rings (complete with a sleazy Gollum). Even when I knew a joke was coming, Pratchett did so well with it that I smiled and even laughed anyway.
I couldn't find a single flaw. The plot, the characters, the jokes ... all perfect.
You won't be disappointed. This is my favourite Discworld novel by far.
For me, the Discworld is never as much fun as when I have Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick as my chaperones, and Witches Abroad is a truly seminal work starring my three favorite witches. This is a story about stories, and on the anthropomorphic wonderland known as the Discworld stories are so powerful that they can become almost unstoppable forces; they are so important that they shape people rather than the other way around, making people do things for the sake of the stories alone. Once a story gets going, it's almost impossible to stop it. You don't tell Granny Weatherwax that anything is impossible for her to do, though, nor do you tell her you need her help, not unless you don't want her to come. The fairy godmother Desiderata knows this, although she is not particularly adept at training a successor (and since witches know when they are going to die, her death is no excuse for such lack of planning). Just before she dies, she wraps up her magic wand and sends it to Magrat Garlick, Lancre's youngest, most good-hearted, tradition-obsessed, open-minded, overlooked witch along with a note telling her appointed successor that she must go to Genua to prevent the girl Emberella from marrying the prince and that she must tell Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg that they are not to come with her. Thus, all three witches are soon flying away from their homes in Lancre in route to the eastern port of Genua. Their journey finds them bumping headlong into a number of different stories, Pratchett-twisted episodes such as one involving a young girl in a red cape, her grandmother, and a wolf. It soon becomes obvious to the three witches that someone is making stories come true, but only Granny secretly knows just who is behind all this. Arriving in Genua, they are exposed to the city's own brand of magic, namely voodoo, run up against snake sisters guarding poor Emberella, delight in an entirely new kind of cooking (the ingredients of which are kept from Granny for the most part, which is obviously quite the right thing to do), and set out to stop the warped Cinderella-based fairy tale events surrounding Emberella, knowing that, should Emberella marry the prince, the other fairy godmother (they come in pairs, incidentally), the witch wielding and invigorating her power by the use of mirror magic, would have power over the whole city and force her happy endings on everyone in town. There's nothing wrong with happy endings, but being made happy against one's wishes and knowledge is one of very many things that Granny doesn't hold with. As Magrat's attempts to use the magic wand result in only pumpkins and more pumpkins, success in this unexpected tour of fairy godmothering duty requires all three witches working together, and Granny herself needs all of her skills at headology when she confronts an important figure from her past.
The ingeniously satirical incorporation of fairy tales by Pratchett makes this book worth its weight in gold, but it is the constant bickering and resulting comedy between the three very different witches that makes this book so entertaining. There is no citizen of the Discworld whom I find as fascinating and entertaining as good old Granny Weatherwax. Her obstinacy and refusal to admit a deficiency of any kind is quite comical in and of itself, but put this beside poor Magrat's idealized notions and unconventional ideas (such as her decision to wear pants and thus, to Granny's horror, let men see where her legs are underneath them) and Nanny's ribald, good-natured humor and zest for life (and alcohol and dirty songs, etc.) and you've got a recipe for high comedy indeed. Nanny's unique cat Greebo also takes on vast importance in this novel, offering us yet another unforgettable travel partner in this strange world of Pratchett's ingenious creation. Granny's character is especially well-developed in this novel, and the new-found insights into her childhood offer quite a telling new insight into her personality. Witches Abroad is among the best of the best of Pratchett's Discworld series.
on September 20, 2002
I am pretty much a gung ho Terry Pratchett fan. I think I've been reading his Discworld books ever since he started writing them. What baffles me is that every time I think I have caught up, I find a couple more that were written 'back then.' I am becoming convinced that somehow Pratchett writes his books 'now,' and has them published 'then.' It is probably some weird way to garner more royalties.
'Witches Abroad' is a case in point. I was just feeling sorry that there haven't been any tales starring the team of Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick (apprentice witch and all around wet hen) when, miraculously, this appeared on the shelves. Is it new? Not hardly! First published in 1991 it has managed to escape my notice for all that time. Or rather, that is what Pratchett wants me to think. I know a plot when I see one.
There are two rules about godmothers in Discworld. First, they come in pairs, and second, when one dies, another has to come along and replace her. Desiderata Hollow was a good godmother, but an awful planner. When DEATH finally showed up, she had to pick a successor and skip the necessary training. So while the two elder witches head for Desiderata's cottage to search for the wand, Magrat gets a package at home (where she is practicing New Age self-defense) and finds that she is now the only wet hen who can turn absolutely anything into a pumpkin.
Worse, when Gytha Ogg and Esme Weatherwax recover from this shock they discover that Magrat has a pressing assignment. She must travel to Genua (a city far, far away in another place entirely) and keep a young woman from kissing a frog. And so, the three most unlikely (and irascible) travelers set off for foreign parts, victimizing vampires, werewolves and countless innkeepers along the way. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that Nanny brought along Greebo the (oversexed) cat along for company. Of course, that is exactly the kind of cat Nanny would keep.
Leaving the countryside in a shambles, the three ride their broomsticks into Genua and set about the arduous task of rescuing Ember Ella. You will like Genua; it is a combination of New Orleans, Port au Prince, and Hong Kong. The food is wonderful, Voodoo witches ride their huts through the swamp, stories always come true, and everyone is either happy or dying in the effort. And the other godmother lives there. Book a flight now on the Trans Witch Airlines and you will arrive for the Fat Lunchtime Festival.
Once again, Pratchett has written a tour de farce of slapstick, sarcasm, and pure vaudeville. 'Witches Abroad' is an opportunity to make fun of everything from world travelers to fairy tales, and no one escapes unscathed. Granny Weatherwax is one of my favorite Discworld characters, combining an acid tongue with Socratic wisdom - tough as nails and proud of it. She and Nanny Ogg simply shine. Margrat would too, if wet hens could shine. And even she has a grand moment or two. This is the best of the Discworld witch tales, if not one of Pratchett's best overall.
Terry Pratchett was recently awarded a well-deserved prize for "lifetime service to Booksellers". That's not surprising, although finding enough shelf space for two dozen Discworld books must be a challenge. Witches Abroad is one Discworld tome deserving a permanent niche on any shelf - especially yours. You'll return to it often.
The clash between established experience and youthful endeavor is caught here in Pratchett's matchless style. Granny Weatherwax, Lancre's predominate headologist, is severely challenged by the youngest member of the coven, Magrat Garlick. Magrat's heir to a powerful device and honour - a fairy godmother's wand. Magrat's life is further complicated by an identity crisis. She's not always comfortable in her role in life, and this new responsibility compounds the problem. Nevertheless, she's been given the wand and a charge to prevent a marriage. A formidable task, given that the marriage is to occur in "forn parts".
The witches' journey to Genua is one of the highlights of Pratchett's inventive mind. Esme's participation in a Cripple Mister Onion contest along the way would make the most ardent card player shudder in recognition. The innocent Granny exhibiting "beginner's luck" is priceless.
Pratchett introduces us to the power of the story in the universe. Stories "play themselves", shaping people's actions to their own ends. People who resist their roles in stories do so at their peril. This story, so classic and well established, should be irresistible, but then it hasn't dealt with Esme Weatherwax. The struggle is immense, with mighty powers brought to bear in seeking a resolution. Only time will tell which has the greater power.
Most of Pratchett's stories have the value of being timeless. Among the Discworld tales, this one has a particular ageless quality. It can be read at any time with many levels of pleasure and value. No other book in the witches' Discworld series quite matches this one for confirming the worth of Esme Weatherwax as one of Pratchett's finest character inventions. Yet, whatever you find on Discworld, you must remember its equivalent resides somewhere here on Roundworld. There's that lady just down the street . . .
on August 23, 2001
This was another amazing Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. I have read several of his books now, and I continue to be surprised at how fresh and original each books is. This one is a continuation of the witches' series, and it is one of the funniest I have read to date. Granny, Nanny and Magrat are among the most comical of Pratchett's creations. The three witches travel to foreign lands to prevent an allegedly "good" fairy Godmother from forcing a "happy" ending to a "story" against the wishes of the story's unknowing participants.
Witches Abroad contains a collage of many well-known fairy tales. The novel is loaded with irony and the story happens to be poignant. I loved this one and highly recommend it. (I also recommend that you go back and read the excellent previous books, Equal Rites and Wyrd Sisters.)
on October 27, 1999
Have you ever wondered, what it would be like, when GrannyWeatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Margrat Garlick go abroad? If so, this is THE book to read. I have now read 14 of Prattchets Discworld books (I think there are something like 26), but this is by far the funniest. The cr** suzette, the dwarf bread, the dairy air... it is just too funny. The best thing however is the vampire. Pratchett never mentions the word vampire, yet as you go along, it becomes clear to you what he means. (i love the way Greebo finds someone to "play" with... hahahahahaha... it's just too funny). Any way! Well done! I hope threre will be more books like this! Now I have to go back and read another Discworld Novel! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
on December 6, 1999
I have never read a Terry Pratchett book before (except from half of Moving Pictures), but I think I might start now, since Witches Abroad is definitely one of the best books I've ever read. I particularly liked Granny Weatherwax, who is one of the greatest characters I've ever met in a book in the sense of having flaws and behaving badly and still being someone you just have to like. There are a lot of great scenes in the book, like Granny playing cards on the boat and her fight with Mrs Gogol, who is another wonderfully drawn character, too. So if you ever wondered about what makes stories happen, or what it really means to be a fairy godmother, just buy this book!
on February 28, 2002
I have to admit I was a bit thrown as I didn't realise that 'Witches Abroad' was the second book about Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax and Magret Garlick as they had already apperared in the 'Wyrd Sisters' and in Grannies case 'Equal Rites'and I hadn't read these two books as I was taking the 'whichever book you find approach' to reading the Discworld series but even without this essential reading I found the book brilliant especially Nanny Ogg's approach to foriegn. It is a must for any Terry Pratchett enthuisiast or anyone who favours the Kingdom of Lancre over Ankh-Morpork.
on July 14, 1999
This book is the funniest book I have ever read. I haven't read (or even attempted to read) any other of Terry Pratchett's novels (the plots seem to 'foreign') but I worship the person who recommended this book to me (I am eternally grateful) for I am sure that I will never come across any book more hilarious and witty than this. The characters, the plot, everything is so perfect. I especially like Nanny Ogg's language lessons etc. I was almost disappointed when the book came to an end (though it was a fabulous end). A must-read.