Carpe Jugulum
October 8, 2023 8:25 AM - Subscribe

Come one, come all, to the naming ceremony for the new Princess of Lancre, daughter of King Verence II and Queen Magrat! The invitations have been sent out, beautiful and gilded, though Granny Weatherwax doesn't appear to have received hers, and is feeling a bit put out by the whole situation. And the Priest who was to perform the ceremony has been replaced by an Omnian (and they burn witches, you know!) And Count Magpyre definitely received his invite, and his retinue seems to have some sort of mind control powers that affect everyone but Agnes Nitt... (Witches #6, Discworld #23) By Terry Pratchett.

You are Cordially Invited to the Discworld Book Club, where we're going in order through the remaining books missing from our list. Previously:

The Color of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters
Guards! Guards!
Moving Pictures
Reaper Man
Witches Abroad
Small Gods
Lords and Ladies
Men At Arms
Soul Music
Interesting Times
Feet of Clay
The Last Continent
The Fifth Elephant
The Truth
Night Watch
Monstrous Regiment
Going Postal
Making Money
The Shepherd's Crown

Following our order of filling in the blanks, our next book will be Thief of Time


Queen Magrat has had a baby girl! In the Kingdom of Lancre (well, nominally a Kingdom, anyway - King Verence II has been reading a lot and would really like to start incorporating more democratic elements, but his subjects just see that as the King trying to push the work of governing onto everyone else) that means a Royal Naming Ceremony, which is a whole to-do.

Esmerelda "Granny" Weatherwax was, of course, the first invitation sent off. Not only is she the "Leader" that that Lancre Coven of witches most definitely does not have, but she's to be the baby's Godmother. But something seems to have happened to the invitation, and Granny is already not feeling great about this whole situation.

You see, most traditions surrounding witchcraft are pretty take-'em-or-leave-'em, but the one about "The Maiden, the Mother and... the Other One" is sticky. And with Agnes Nitt now making the tea and otherwise performing the role of the Maiden, and Magrat now a Mother, and Nanny Ogg getting up there in years herself, Granny is feeling a bit... obsolete. Pushed out. Done. No matter that Magrat doesn't consider herself a part of the coven anymore in any case, since being Queen is a full-time commitment and all. Some bits of folklore are tougher to shake than others.

Take Vampires, for instance. The Magpyre clan from Überwald have been training themselves not to be bothered by the traditional methods of dealing with Vampires, and can now cross running water, munch on garlic, and even go outside on overcast days. They can surround themselves with religious symbols with no ill effects. But that bit about needing to be invited in still seems to stubbornly apply. Fortunately for them, Verence has diplomacy on the mind, and has sent them one of those gilded invitations to the naming ceremony, and act which has invited them into the country as a whole.

The Magpyres are "modern" vampyres, developing a system whereby humans acquiesce to their control and occasional feeding. They're lightning-fast, imprevious to the accepted methods of disposing of them, and have considerable powers of mind-control, such that when they inform King Verence that Lancre will now be a Duchy of Überwald, this seems utterly reasonable. The mind-control seems to work particularly on the strong-willed and singularly-minded, though, which makes two people able to resist it:

Agnes, who struggles constantly with her internal bully and alter-ego Perdita, and the Reverend Mightily Oats, Priest of Om, whose theological schooling has left him such that virtually every situation is a crisis of faith and dogma. Granny has run off to finish her days in a cave, but the Magpyres recognize her power and have their sights set on turning her into one of their own. Which means Agnes and Nanny must recruit Magrat back into the fold to try to handle all of this themselves. WIth, of course, the baby in tow. And I haven't even touched on the Phoenix. Or the Nac Mac Feegle.
posted by Navelgazer (3 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry that this one took me a minute. I tend to listen to these books while working, this is one of the ones I hadn't read before, and when I was almost through it I realized that I hadn't really been absorbing it at all, and started it over so that I could actually pay attention to it. I'm glad I did, as there's just a ton of greatness in here, and the recording was another of Indira Varma's readings, which are gorgeous.

I'm curious how much Terry intended for this to be kind of a bridge between the "Witches" books proper and the "Tiffany Aching" books (in which Granny still plays a significant role, but the other Lancre witches not as much.) The introduction of the Nac Mac Feegle here certainly feels like a big pivot point, as does Granny's general headspace throughout it. But it could also be just that Pratchett really enjoyed his rowdy little "pictsies" and once Harry Potter really became a juggernaut decided that it was his duty to put some counter-programming out into the world. Either way, it falls into an interesting place in the series as a whole.

It's interesting that Agnes is really the main POV character here (though with Perdita, you really have to be seeing things from Agnes' perspective for them to make sense, I guess, plus it helps to view the effects of the mind control from the perspective of someone unaffected.) Similarly with Mightily Oats, a character who could easily be just a pretty scathing critique of milquetoast Anglicanism if not for the fact that we're in his head for so much of it and thus are invited (heh) to sympathize with him (plus it helps Granny hold her cards closer to the chest throughout the story.)

The Magpyres are a genuine threat, even for Granny to deal with, which is nice. There are proper stakes here. Granny's discussion of faith with Oats is a highlight. Is this also the first time we meet an Igor? I think it is, though that feels wild, considering how deep we are into the series by this point.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:39 AM on October 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

This feels a bit like a retread of 'elves take over Lancre - how will the witches fight back?' Which sounds more negative than it is, because I didn't mind going back there at all and I would happily read many more variants of this plot if it means I get to spend more time with the witches.

And Agnes faces more serious threats here than she did in her own book and really steps up her game. I love her best in this one!
posted by Ashenmote at 4:21 AM on October 9, 2023 [3 favorites]

I agree, I think Agnes (and "Perdita") really came into her own character in this book.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:32 AM on October 9, 2023 [2 favorites]

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