(For more Pratchett reviews, see The Great Pratchett Reading Project table.)
Wyrd Sisters is, perhaps, the best of the early Pratchett novels, and I think it ought to stand up with the best overall. In this book, ‘the play’s the thing’ for Pratchett, as Wyrd Sisters is basically a novel-length parody of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The old King of Lancre unfortunately falls on his dagger while falling down a flight stairs and the new King just can’t seem to get the stains off of his hands, even using steel pads. It’s up to Granny Weatherwax and company to set things right.
Most Pratchett novels have interesting characters, but Wyrd Sisters is different in that all characters involved are interesting. From the triumvirate of witches, to the new King (henpecked and insane) and Queen (powermad) , the Fool (very smart but hides it well), Tomjon (the lost heir), Greebo (the cat) and, of course, Death. Pratchett does a wonderful job of making each character unique and interesting, then blending them into a very funny story. Even Greebo, the oversized, aggressive feline gets a turn in the spotlight as he is captured in the castle, then set free by the Fool. I know I said in my review for Equal Rites that I wasn’t that fond of the witches as characters. Well, Pratchett remedies that issue in this book, making the witches a joy to read, especially the bickering and deliberate (or not?) misunderstanding of words that occurs between Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. And who can forget Nanny singing the Hedgehog Song?
From a comedy standpoint, Wyrd Sisters is chock full of laugh out loud moments, puns, wordplay and funny footnotes. Combine this with Pratchett’s skewed take on all things Shakespearian and theatrical and you have a book that is fun to read from cover to cover. That the characters take all this in stride just adds to the humor of the story. Pratchett also manages to sneak in a bit of commentary on the power of words, as Tomjon is able to rouse not only theater goers, but also roadside bandits, to his side just by quoting lines from a play and projecting his voice. That is, until he meets a born critic. And the trip to the theater by Granny, Nanny and Magrat is one of the highlights of the book. Imagine viewing a play with two people who don’t have a grasp on things theatrical, and decide to take everything they see at face value. Very funny, especially the ‘corpse’ becoming embarassed at being dead.
If there is one thing that bothered me about the book, it was the length. At just over 300 pages, its one of the longer early Discworld novels. However, I felt that, even at that length, Pratchett was stretching the parody. There were a few spots in the middle where the story seemed to be treading water, waiting to get back into full comedic flow.
As knowledge of the other Discworld novels is not required to enjoy Wyrd Sisters, I think this novel fits in nicely with Guards! Guards! as a great entry point for someone looking to get into the Discworld. And its also a great story in its own right.