This is far from my favourite Pratchett fare. It pales in comparison to the other books of his I've read, especially in direct comparison to the other Witches' adventures. "Wyrd Sisters", which Terry proclaims in the Author's Note is prerequisite reading before delving here, was a more exciting adventure for Granny Weatherwax and her curious coven to undertake. "Lords and Ladies" feels like a derivative retread. And "Wyrd Sisters", which deconstructed "MacBeth", brought more insight into its Shakespearean source than this does for "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Witness his treatment of the character of the Fool, so strong and vibrant in "Wyrd Sisters". He is little more than background material here, a bureaucratic imminent king, indifferent to his fiancee's perspective, and caught up in the ritual of his duty. I suppose something could be said for the themes brought out by his transformation from Fool to King, but it didn't interest me one bit. Except for one bit where it is discovered that the Fool, so accustomed to sleeping curled up in a ball outside the King's door, can't truly get used to his new status and thus now sleeps curled up in a ball on the other side of the door. It's a beautiful little moment. One character who does make a strong impression is second-Witch-in-command Nanny Ogg. Her down home malapropisms and sunny (but implicitly precarious) demeanor make her a joy to read. Late in the book, she is teamed once again with Casamunda, the self-proclaimed second greatest lover in the world and incessant liar. Watch her skillfully fend off his advances; watch him quickly get back on the horse for another go. I'd love to see what Pratchett could do with these two over a whole book. It at least broke up the (soon-to-be) monotony of watching Granny Weatherwax grouch her way through another typical adventure. The central conceit here is that elves, previously believed to be cute and cuddly creatures in popular mythology, are really evil. Terribly evil. Unspeakably evil. When elves are around "life was certainly more interesting... but usually it was shorter. And it was more colourful, if you liked the colour of blood". Okay? So? I don't think Terry does much with this notion. The elves he concocts are not frightening at all, at least in comparison to other Discworld villains. And the final confrontation feels like every other final confrontation Granny Weatherwax has been involved in. The lack of suspense was a surprising discovery. To me, this is Terry's first true misstep in the Discworld series. Although I thought little of the story, Terry's sense of humour remains intact. There are many fine examples to choose from, but here are a few of my favourites: .. a delicious footnote about the naming adventures of the Carter family, ends with Hope Carter becoming a depressive, while Bestiality Carter is generally kind to animals. .. a word that beings with 'M', that means "seein' the other person's point of view"? Empathy. .. More fun with Latin: "Il Porcupino Nil Sodomy Est" is, I think, a nod to true hardcore Internet Pratchett fans. .. the New York second (defined as the time between when the light turns green and the cab behind you honks) .. "Magrat says a broomstick is one of them sexual metaphor things" (although this is a phallusy) Terry amazes, yet again, with his verbal gymnastics. I just wish he'd tacked them on a worthwhile story. I guess one sub-par book in fourteen (so far) is not a bad ratio. Don't worry about skipping "Lords and Ladies" on your way through the Discworld catalog. You won't miss much.
I am not a big fan of comical fantasy...I've always preferred the gritty Robert E. Howard style to the silly and anachronistic Piers Anthony school. But I must admit that Pratchett has a gift for working up endearing and memorable characters and putting them smack dab in the middle of totally off-the-wall and unbelievable settings and situations. The characters come across as very real persons (may remind you of folks you actually know...), and Pratchett conjures up the chummy atmosphere of a rural English town (Kingdom of Lancre=Medieval England) quite nicely with the humorous verbal exchanges of the principal players (Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax are a hoot). This novel differs from most other works of its kind in one startling aspect...the elves are the bad guys. For all of you fantasy fans who are sick to death of tired re-hashings of Tolkien's faeries, this will no doubt be a refreshing curve ball. Pratchett presents them here as an extra-dimensional race of magical humanoids devoid of morality who utilize the inherent self-loathing of human beings to achieve their sadistic ends by clouding men's minds with glamour. The elves enter Disc World at Crop Circle time when the fabric between the dimensions of the Multiverse are weakest...in this story, the weakest spot in Lancre is located at the Dancers, a ring of standing stones that fell from space in ages past. The stones actually serve as a barrier for the Gentry, for they are composed of a sort of iron ore base that hampers the elves' powers of perception and action. So, the elves have to relye upon human BELIEF in them to weaken the space-time fabric even more so that they may achieve the power to act freely in Disc World. Of course, Granny is wise to what's up (she "knows what time it is", so to speak), so most of the action in the book centers around Granny and her chums trying to push back the elf invasion of their home dimension after a group of bumbling local craftsmen perform a version of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Dancers (to celebrate Magrat's marriage to King Verence) and bring about an influx of the sadistic Gentry (after the area has already been weakened by the dancing and sabbats of a group of young witches who mistakenly believe that the stones were put up by Druids...). Oh, well, just read the book. I still don't know exactly what to think of this goofy novel, but at least it left me curious enough to want to check out some of the other Disc World books. Oh, as for the cryptic references to ancient Celtic Britain..."Herne the Hunted"=Cernunnos, "Queen Ynci"=Boudiccea, you may note more :).
I recently had an opportunity to chat with a number of other people who have read most of Pratchett's books. I found each reader had a definite dislike. Some could not stand any of Pratchett's books that involve Granny Weatherwax, but liked all the others. Some could not stand any of Pratchett's books that involve Rincewind, but liked all the others. Some could not stand any of Pratchett's books that involve Death as a major character, but liked all the others. When it was my time to chime in, I could only say, "Ditto!" Any book with Weatherwax, Rincewind or Death as a major character has a major hurdle to overcome. Yet INTERESTING TIMES, which invoves Rincewind, is one of my favorite Pratchett books. LORDS AND LADIES has Granny Weatherwax facing an invasion from fairyland, and it is far from my favorite Pratchett novel, but it has its points. The plot is interesting, the characters are well-developed and have something to do, and the novel comes to a climax instead of dwindling away with a whimper, as some of the Pratchett opi tend to do.
Let me start out by saying that I read Pratchett's books for two reasons. The first is that they are FUNNY. The second is that I enjoy the way he presents a twisted, cynical view of our world through the Discworld's crazy characters. Bearing that in mind, I can't agree with the other reviews of this book here... Lords & Ladies just isn't that great. It is well-written and has a decent plot, but I have read every one of Pratchett's Discworld novels, and this is the most disappointing one (with the exception of the slender Eric). I think Pratchett is suffering from the same "disease" that Douglas Adams caught... once the reader expects the unexpected, then it is no longer funny. If you've never read Pratchett, start at the beginning, with The Colour of Magic. Mort and Sourcery are good as well. When I shell out my 5 bucks for a Pratchett novel, I expect to laugh out loud while I read it. This time I didn't
I am a big fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, but this novel left me disappointed. Lacking in humor, this novel resembles the kind of novel which others in this series (Interesting Times, Jingo) are such a great parody of.