Wyrd Sisters was the second Discworld I read, back when I was sixteen or seventeen, and my first introduction to Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. I was instantly charmed by the idea of three bickering women thrown together by their work, each of whom had their own ideas about how witchcraft should be done. Granny Weatherwax is a traditionalist – a stickler for doing things right, by the old ways no matter what the cost. Nanny Ogg is – well, I suppose you might say she’s more of an organic witch, funny, earthy and often shown as bumbling. And then there’s Magrat – young, inexperienced and determined to prove to herself and everyone else that she’s up to the job. And the job in this case is to help the rightful King of Lancre to fulfil his destiny and resume his place as ruler of the kingdom. Whether he wants to or not.
One of the things I loved about Wyrd Sisters was the way it took a well-known story and poked fun at it. I was studying A Level English at the time I first read the book and took great delight in spotting the familiar landscape of Macbeth (with elements of Hamlet and several other nods to Shakespeare tossed in here and there for good measure.) But what it taught me the most was feminism. Here we had three strong female characters; smart, sassy women who flew rings around everyone else. Granny Weatherwax is irritable but brilliant, with razor-sharp mind I would come admire enormously in time. Nanny Ogg is one of the warmest, funniest Discworld characters ever but don’t let that fool you – she’s fiercely intelligent too. Even Magrat, who seems like a bit of a wet blanket at first glance, comes into her own and does her bit for the coven and for herself. Three women, standing up for themselves and what they believed in, refusing to let anyone disrespect them and demanding that the world (or at the very least, the rest of the Ramtops) pay attention. And I don’t doubt that Wyrd Sisters was a massive influence on my own writing – in re-reading it for this review I could practically see the way that Terry Pratchett’s style had touched and shaped my own. It has everything – a fabulous plot that rocks along, great characters (the kind I am jealous of not having written) a wonderful setting that was close to my heart (having grown up in the Lake District), jokes and puns, and a song about a hedgehog that I still remember now. In fact there are so many fantastic things about Wyrd Sisters that are good and important and awesome that I could spend all day writing a list of what I loved about it. Pratchett’s voice was so fresh at the time and it’s good to know Wyrd Sisters is every bit as readable now as it was when it was first published. It hasn’t really aged or dated.
I recommend Wyrd Sisters to anyone who is just getting started with the Discworld series – it’s a perfect introduction to three amazing women and laugh out loud funny in a lot of places. In spite the humour, there are times when the story veers off towards into more serious territory and you’ll just as easily find yourself with a little something in your eye. Granny Weatherwax is more than just a character to me – she’s a role-model (yes, really) and Wyrd Sisters is a great way to get to know her better. It may not be her first appearance (that’s in Equal Rights) but I feel it’s the book in which Terry Pratchett gave her free rein and let her be the character she was meant to be. Read it: you won’t regret it.
This review is part of the Farewell Terry Pratchett Blog Tour, instigated by Vivienne DaCosta.