(See The Great Pratchett Reading Project page here.)
The adventures of Granny Weatherwax and company continue in Witches Abroad, this time parodying all things fairy tale. It’s been a long time since I had read this book, so I didn’t remember the story very well at all. After Wyrd Sisters, I was hoping that this book could equal the previous. Unfortunately it doesn’t. This is typical of the Witches books that I remember: a bit long, somewhat humorous, and less then endearing main characters.
In Witches Abroad, Magrat becomes a fairy godmother, with an annoying propensity for turning things into pumpkins, and must travel to Genua to do battle with the evil fairy godmother Lilith who is forcing the kingdom’s subjects to be actors in fairy tales, all for the sake of a happy ending. Given this setup, Pratchett takes the opportunity to have some fun with fairy tales and ridiculous nature of those stories. The witches get to interact with the tales as they are unfolding and try to break them to prevent the happy ending, which isn’t really all that happy for certain people, from happening. And there is some humor here, it’s just not enough to carry the book. Aside from the parodies, there is little else that I found amusing or funny, or all that interesting. The vodoo priestess and her zombie friends is somewhat funny and Nanny’s ability to make herself understood in the local language by basically yelling mispronounced foreign words and gesticulating wildly at people is funny. But other than that, the book feels long.
Heck, the ‘princess’ who will be marrying the prince for the happy ending isn’t even introduced till late in the book and she gets very little story time. Sure, she isn’t really the focus, but it would have been nice to see her earlier and possibly have her used in places as the plot unfolded. And Lilith, the evil godmother, just wasn’t all that interesting. Yes she and Granny have a history, which has an inbuilt antagonism and competition between them, but other than that, I found her to be a bit boring. And this book had no laugh out loud moments, as opposed to Wyrd Sisters which had several The humor here is much quieter and the book suffers for it.
Still, a mediocre Pratchett book is still diverting enough to not be terrible. This one just doesn’t live up to the previous book, and you should read this one as the events of the last book pick up directly after the end of this book.