Book Review: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Another dip into the wonderful world of Discworld with my book club. Discworld is a place where my heart lies, but my mind thinks Crocodile Gods, Golems, and the Ankh-Morpork river might not be a good place to pony trek or watch TV. So, I’m left with this world and Pratchett’s books. In Equal Rites, Terry Pratchett tackles an easy issue of women’s rights. Simple inspiration for a novel or at least Pratchett makes it out to be.

Equal Rites is one of the earliest books in the series. Terry Pratchett is still building his world and characters, and unfortunately, you can see this in the book. The first half of it was a “drag” (as much as a Discworld novel can be,) meaning I didn’t get the full immersion effect I’m used to when reading his books. But when Granny and Esk got to Ankh everything felt more familiar. The jokes got better and more metaphysical and philosophical. And Granny felt like Granny. Still, the late bloom, fast tempo with a feeling of Pratchett hurrying things over, and lack of his usual jokes made Equal Rites not the strongest of the series. Later in the series, he will fix issues he wrote on the book, and to be honest, it is a relief to see the master of comic fantasy to evolve. It gives me hope.

To conclude, the technical evaluation of the book, yes, it had its flaws and big ones, but Pratchett still ported me there with Esk, Granny, Simon, Librarian, and rest of the wizards. The book had that easy way about it and it took me places I want to get to know. Though I wouldn’t recommend this to be an introduction to Discworld novels or the Witch series, I wouldn’t say don’t read the book. Do. It gives history to Granny, Unseen University, and the rest.

Then to the subject of women and Equal Rites. It would be silly for me to say I don’t care about the matter that Pratchett is making an unnecessary fuss about it. But that isn’t the case. Women’s rights, minds, and education are still relevant. The world for women has changed little since the eighties when Pratchett wrote the book. Oh, there has been an improvement. But only now I hear talk about the importance of role models in TV, books, comics, toys, movies, and in science to pave the way for women entering to male-dominated fields. That if you want to shape the future, then it is necessary to get them young.

Thus, Granny’s unwillingness to fight for Esk at the beginning by trying to mold her into something she wasn’t was hard to read. Granny (the moral guide to human behavior) disappointed me. I have always upheld her wisdom and strict view of doing right and now this. I was one of those girls who got said what girls should and shouldn’t do: not to be headstrong, curious, and always on go. This had a personal echo. But I understand Granny’s unwillingness to go along with the nonsense of girl wizards makes sense. The same thing happens again and again in the world. Women and older women especially are keepers of the traditions and cultural beliefs. Thus granny did what she was supposed to do despite it being ungranny-like.

Pratchett argues in the book it is up to the young, Esk and Simon, to change the world. I have to agree with him. Yes, even when Granny and Archchancellor Cutangle aided the cause and fought for it, it wouldn’t be relevant or possible without Esk’s uniqueness. She is the key to change and what happens next depends on her and how the surrounding adults react to her skills and mind. Granny came around and did her best to teach Esk about the world, her own abilities, and to build her character. Without it, I think it would be hard for Esk to survive and fight for what she believes is right. I was glad Granny changed her mind. It would have been nicer if she had her head in the right place at the beginning with, but that makes bad drama.

There are philosophies that say you should accept life as it comes. It makes me happy that Pratchett doesn’t agree with such philosophies. He has always fought against the injustice in the world the best he could and that’s through his writing. He knew you have to mold minds with empathy, examples, and snarky comments. And I confess, he molded my mind when I was growing up. I found Pratchett in my teens and fell in love instantly his social commentary. His words and Discworld has been with me ever since and the books are timeless and ever so relevant. That’s humans for you.

Thank you for reading!

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