Terry Pratchett – Maskerade

What? Another episode in the Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon already? Well, I did say I had a bit of a backlog, and this is where I catch up with my reading so far.

Maskerade picks up the story of the Lancre witches. Well, two of them. Magrat is far too busy Queening to work with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, and that’s a problem. You need three witches to work together properly, and without that third witch to moderate her, Nanny’s concerned that Granny’s power could force her in on herself and lead her to become something like the notorious Black Aliss, who before some damn kids stuffed her into her own oven was the kind of witch who

turned people into gingerbread and had a house made of frogs

The witches decide that a local girl called Agnes Nitt is the ideal candidate. Agnes prefers to be known as Perdita X, and has gone to Ankh-Morpork to become an opera singer, which leads us into the main theme of the book. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, The Phantom of the Opera with the knobs turned up to, ooooh, about 152.

More fun is involved with the slight problem of Nanny Ogg’s book which has been published in Ankh-Morpork. It includes some of her more, err, interesting recipes, and has been selling rather well. Granny thinks that Nanny is owed rather more than the three dollars she’s been given, and this prompts the witches to go to the city. This is, of course, a Cunning Plan on Nanny’s part to get Granny to meet Agnes Perdita and recruit her.

At the opera house, amongst many other extreme characters, Agnes (OK, I’ll stop doing the name thing now) meets Walter Plinge, a young man who is quite blatantly Frank Spencer. And much fun follows. There’s the Opera Ghost who’s quite harmless, apart from killing a few people, a mystery in the cellars, more confusion and misdirection than the average opera and as you might guess, it really isn’t over until… well, you’ll need to read that bit for yourself, won’t you?

I’ll give a small selection of quotes to give a bit of a flavour of the book. Nanny admits to Granny that her recipes might not be altogether innocent

Weeelll, they starts out as Maids of Honour,” said Nanny, fidgeting with her feet, “but they ends up as Tarts”

When the witches first meet the publisher of the book, Granny insists that Nanny should be paid.

“She wants a little bit of money for every book you’ve sold.”
“I don’t expect to be treated like royalty, said Nanny.”

Grone, etc. It’s been clearly established that Granny rarely uses actual magic, and that much of her power comes from the use of headology. It’s important to understand that this isn’t the same thing as psychaiatry:

A psychiatrist, dealing with a man who fears he is being followed by a large and terrible monster, will endeavour to convince him that monsters don’t exist. Granny Weatherwax would simply give him a chair to stand on and a very heavy stick.

But the best bit is Granny talking about how she can’t do Bad…

“The trouble is, you see, that if you do know Right from Wrong, you can’t do Wrong. you just can’t do it and live. So… if was a bad witch …”.

She mentions some of the things she might do if she was bad, then gives a chuckle. And happily sets off to do what’s best. Which is not something you want to get in the way of at all.

All good stuff, and some quite serious signs of Granny’s growing power, which is always fun, so long as you’re not in the way of it. And you’ll never look at opera the same way again. You might think it’s all a bit silly, but it’s much sillier than that…

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