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This fourteenth Discworld book is essentially the sequel to Witches Abroad. Again it centers on the Kingdom of Lancre, where the former court Fool is now the King. But the real movers and shakers are the three witches Granny, Nanny, and Magrat. As they return home from their adventures abroad, Magrat’s on-and-off romance with King Verence quickly ripens into a marriage engagement and a large guest list starts to show up, including Archchancellor Ridcully, the Bursar, the Librarian, and Ponder Stibbons from Unseen U. And some of the townspeople are preparing a special entertainment, in the spirit of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Unfortunately there are also uninvited guests who are summoned into Discworld from a “parasite universe” (don’t ask!) by, would you believe, the Entertainment itself, which is unwisely performed at a circle of very special stones which any witch would know is supposed to keep undesirables out of our universe. Undesirables like, to begin with, a wild unicorn. Unlike the sweet fluffy unicorns of bedtime-story lore, this is a very fierce animal that is ready and willing to gore anyone to death who gets in front of it.
But more to the point, undesirables like the Elves, a.k.a. the Good Folk, the Gentry, the Shining Ones, the Lords and Ladies, etc. Who look like tall, slim, impossibly beautiful people with lovely voices full of laughter, but who regard humans as animals for them to hunt. We’re talking about extremely attractive, merry folk who, without any cruelty whatsoever, rob, kidnap, terrorize, play with, and destroy human beings because they do not regard us as people with feelings.
It’s a very frightening portrait of elves, which again, runs contrary to notions you may have held… and while Nanny Ogg is being wooed by Casanunda, the dwarf who claims to be the second-best lover in the world, and Magrat is struggling with whether she is ready to be Queen, Granny faces perhaps her deadliest enemy while worrying about her sanity, uncertain of her survival, and confronted with the boy who once asked her to marry him (and who is now Archchancellor of Unseen University).
Nanny Ogg’s brood of children and grandchildren also figure in the story, including her youngest son Shawn who is, all by himself, the entire standing army of Lancre (except when he’s lying down), and her oldest son Jason, who is the best blacksmith and farrier in the world and knows what price he has to pay for it. And one of the funniest scenes in the series so far takes place when the King tries to outrun Shawn to pick up the mail because he’s expecting a how-to book, with full color illustrations, on matters of marital intimacies.
There’s a lot of side-splitting stuff in this book. I like it a lot. I thought the ending was a bit of a deus ex machina but then again, the whole novel is a take-off on A Midsummer Night’s Dream with bits of Peter Pan and The Taming of the Shrew thrown in. The part where the village tradesmen attempt to do a play on the king’s wedding night about a bunch of village tradesman attempting to do a play on the king’s wedding night (which happens to be Midsummer’s Eve) is particularly funny in a multi-layered way.
Of course only in Discworld would there be a dance where one of the steps is called KILL! And I am still continually amazed by the infinite nuances of the word “Oook!”
Recommended Age: 14+