Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Equal RitesIn Discworld, girls can’t be wizards. Girls are witches. Boys are wizards. That’s the way of it. But when the old wizard visits blacksmith Smith’s home one morning, things change. Smith is the 8th son, and his 8th son should be born any moment. The old wizard is dying, so needs to pass on his staff. When the men hear the baby cry, the wizard prepares to die now. Granny Weatherwax brings the wrapped child down and the blacksmith brings his newborn’s hand to the staff. The powers transfer from the old wizard, who dies.
But the new baby is a girl. Everyone knows girls can’t be wizards. So Granny Weatherwax, a witch, and the blacksmith, decide to ignore what happened as if it never had. The wizard staff is tucked away in a dark corner. Magic will not let itself stay ignored. At age 7, Eskarina transforms one of her older brothers into a pig. Granny takes the girl in hand to teach her to be a witch. When even witching magic isn’t enough, Granny and Eskarina leave their small village to travel to the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork. Somehow Granny has to convince the establishment that girls can be wizards.
Terry Pratchett takes on sexism and the women’s equal rights movement in Equal Rites with amusing results. Granny Weatherwax is a wonderful character that Pratchett rounds out very well. Esk’s magical stumbling around before she can be trained is appealing. Of course Esk gets laughed away from the Unseen University. Granny is able to get her in the other way so she can prove herself.
Unfortunately, the novel takes a strange turn when it decides to include the origins of magic and the trouble that can be found. Equal Rites founders some in that section, and I glossed over most of it. At the end, though, it comes back together and is a delightful novel that belongs in the Discworld series.