Verdict: Simple, witty adventure with a satirical thumb in the feminist pie.
“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.”
Although I’ve been aware of Terry Pratchett seemingly forever, I’m sorry to say there are huge gaps in my knowledge of his work. I first read Equal Rites at age 8 and, now I’ve re-read it, I realise that most of it probably went over my head. Reading Equal Rites again this year was like reading a brand new book – one that was far more satisfying.
Equal Rites is the story of Eskarina Smith, the eighth son of an eighth son… only, she’s actually a daughter. After a wizard bequeaths his staff to her, making her the Discworld’s first female wizard, Esk sets out on a mission to become accepted at the Unseen University.Pratchett entertains with his usual quirky wit and snide satire, but the story itself is more than that. At its heart is a story of how, when then the world is telling you to be one thing or the other, you can be both.
As always, the shining character is Granny Weatherwax, for reasons any Pratchett fan will know. In this story, she is the voice of age and tradition as she tries to convince Esk that wizards can’t be women and men can’t be witches. Despite her love of the old ways, as soon as it become apparent that Esk will not be deterred, Granny supports her anyway she can. Esk herself was a solid character, driving the plot forward with her desire to become a wizard and her flat refusal to be beaten. Her blunt, matter-of-fact approach to life is refreshing, especially in a child character, and she asks the important questions, such as, “Why not?”.
I found Equal Rites more coherent than some of Pratchett’s other Discworld offerings, but ultimately lacking in punch and potency. It didn’t give me papercuts from the speed of turning pages but if you want a good, well-written and entertaining story, this little book is for you.