Witches Abroad: A fun one. The parody of a group of British ladies going on holiday to Europe feels a bit dated in places (the stuff about postcards, food, etc), but it’s nice to spend time with Granny, Nanny, and Magrat, so it doesn’t matter that much.
One issue is that Pratchett spends so much time going through general “witches on holiday” stuff that the story feels a bit rushed once they actually get to it. The idea of Granny having a “bad” sister is a decent one, but she doesn’t get a lot to do, partly as her identity is being kept a secret despite being obvious.
I like the fairytale parodies (the Red Riding Hood bit is great), but The Fairy Godmother stuff feels a bit underdeveloped too; the witches make a big deal out of the magic wand, but nothing much comes from it. The voodoo stuff is good though, and I would have liked to see more of Mrs. Gogol and co.
Small Gods: I loved this book. It feels like an expansion of some of the smaller elements of Pyramids, about the nature of Belief, and works really well.
Brutha’s a great lead character, the jokes mostly work, and the story is strong.
Lords and Ladies: This one feels like a step back for the witches. The plotting is a bit off, the Shakespeare jokes don’t work that well, and the twists are all very predictable (of course Granny isn’t really dead). The fairy stuff is fine, but feels oddly generic.
I’m not sure why the wizards are in this book, except to allow Ponder Stibbons to give a loads of exposition on parallel worlds that never feels all that necessary. They don’t interact that many with the Lancre characters, and their being there at all feels forced (I was pleasantly surprised to see Casanunda back from Witches Abroad too, even if his appearance doesn’t make much sense either). I think The Bursar’s mental breakdown is supposed to be funny too, but it mostly just comes across as sad.
Pratchett continues to pretend Equal Rites didn’t happen, by giving Ridcully a very similar background as Granny Weatherwax’s childhood almost-love as the Archchancellor in that book had. It’s odd.
I do like a lot of the Magrat stuff in the book. The previous books often treated her rather condescendingly, so it’s nice for her to get to be both a protagonist and a hero here, even if it feels like she probably shouldn’t get married at the end.
Men at Arms: Another really good Watch novel. I especially like how the series starts to build on itself more here, bringing in Detritus and Gaspode from Moving Pictures, and the supernatural characters from Reaper Man. The whole “Gaspode can speak again” thing is a bit sweaty, but it doesn’t matter much.
The plot doesn’t make any sense, and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to, but I like the characters, including all the new ones. One thing the book has is the first time a death actually feels surprising. Usually the characters that die are the villains dying at the end, or minor characters who die at the start to kick off the story. Cuddy feels like a character being set up for future stories, and his death really hits hard.
One aspect that doesn’t work for me is Carrot’s dislike of werewolves, zombies, etc. It’s only there to introduce some tension into his relationship with Angua, but it’s unnecessary and feels completely out of character (and is completely forgotten by his next appearance).
Honestly, this book would be worth it just for the excellent section on Sam Vimes’ “Boots” Theory:
The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.
Soul Music: This feels very similar to Moving Pictures (down to Dibbler taking on the same role), but work much better for me. The jokes are funnier, Susan is a better lead character than Victor, and it’s better paced.
The Death plotline of him trying to deal with Ysabell’s death feels like a bit of an afterthought, and doesn’t measure up to the other “Death takes a break” stories, but it’s not bad.
Interesting Times: It’s been eight books since the last Rincewind story, which is probably why I was happy to see him back despite not really liking the earlier books.
I do love this one though. It’s odd how un-Discworldy it feels for most of it. Once Rincewind gets to the Agatean Empire, there’s basically no magic, no trolls, no dwarves, etc, until the ending. Even Death is barely in it, despite this having by far the highest body count of any of the books so far.
Instead it’s mostly a straight political thriller, as well as a rumination on age in the Cohen plotline. Lord Hong is a good villain, and it’s nice to see Twoflower again, even if he doesn’t get much to do.
While I like all the stuff with Cohen wanting to settle down as Emperor, it does cause the Agatean rebels to basically disappear from the book for the climax of their story.
Maskerade: Another book that’s very light on magic. The story could basically be done as an episode of Murder She Wrote without changing much.
It’s also the first real whodunit in the series. The two Watch books try at it, but there’s never much of a mystery in them. Some of the red herrings in this one got me, especially all the stuff about Andre the organ player.
I’d have liked a bit more of Nanny and Granny interacting with the regular Ankh-Morpork characters. We get to see Nanny interact with Nobby and Detritus, but I’d have loved a Granny/Dibbler scene, or a Granny/Vetinari scene.
One scene I did love is the one with Granny and Death at the inn, playing cards for the life of a baby. It has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the book, but it’s a lovely scene.