I’m a bad Terry Pratchett fan. I don’t read the DiscWorld books within their subseries; I read them as he published them. I was, then, a little rusty on what happened during the last book that dealt with the witches — I vaguely remembered it had to do with a fairy godmother and travel on the witches’ parts. Once I got back into their world with Lords and Ladies, though, I slipped right back into their storyline, and it’s a superb one.
The story is relatively simple — Granny Weatherwax is still a grumpy witch, but this time she’s being challenged by the Queen of the Elves, who wants dominion over Lancre. This is one of the things that makes Lords and Ladies so good — it’s a more serious, high fantasy-like story, while maintaining a good sense of humor. The plot is solid, without some of the meandering that occurs in earlier Pratchett books.
Mixed up with the story of the elves trying to take over is the story of Magrat Garlick, the meek, youngest witch of the trio living in Lancre. She is to be wed to the King of Lancre, Verence II, which came as a surprise. Magrat is, as Granny is fond of saying, a little drippy and soft. She holds to a more New Age type of witchcraft, which is not where Granny and Nanny Ogg practice, so they think she’s fairly naïve — which she is.
The two stories collide on the days leading up to the wedding. Magrat’s entire kingdom is put in jeopardy by Granny not telling her about the elves. Granny’s having difficulty defeating the Queen. Nanny is distracted by Casanunda, a blast from the past, and only gets into the action just in time.
One of the best aspects of this story is that Magrat grows as a person. She becomes stronger in her struggles against the elves, and she becomes, in actuality, quite the impressive woman. It’s easy to imagine her ruling a kingdom at the end of the story, which is really nice — you just knew that she couldn’t remain a dope forever.
As I stated before, one of the best things about Lords and Ladies is that it feels more serious. To me, the danger Lancre faced seemed very real, indeed, which is not something I necessarily expect from a Pratchett novel. There were fewer footnotes, which made the story flow better and turned it into something I liked better. I never thought I would say that I like a Pratchett novel without large numbers of footnotes, but I really did. It helped with the flow of the story immensely.
I think it also helps that these characters are ones he’s written about many times in the past. He didn’t have to establish much in the way of character development before getting straight into the story. I think that forced him to really think about the plot, which made for a better book all around.
Overall, I think a new Pratchett reader would want to read the other books in the Witch subseries first, and just know that it’s well worth it.