Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
Published by HarperPrism on August 23, 1996
Series: Discworld #14
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Humor
Length: 374 pages Source: ThriftBooks
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It's a hot Midsummer Night. The crop circles are turning up everywhere-even on the mustard-and-cress of Pewseyy Ogg, aged four. And Magrat Garlick, witch, is going to be married in the morning...Everything ought to be going like a dream. But the Lancre All-Comers Morris Team have got drunk on a fairy mound and the elves have come back, bringing all those things traditionally associated with the magical, glittering realm of Faerie: cruelty, kidnapping, malice and evil, evil murder.* Granny Weatherwax and her tiny argumentative coven have really got their work cut out this time...With full supporting cast of dwarfs, wizards, trolls, Morris Dancers and one orang-utan. And lots. of hey-nonny-nonny and blood all over the place.
*But with tons of style.
There’s a lot of revelling and a lot of chaos going on in Lords and Ladies. The fourteenth book in the Discworld series and the fourth in the Witches storyline. I’l pass on the warning that Terry Pratchett left on the first pages of this book – while most of the Discworld novels can be read independently, it’s highly recommended to read Witches Abroad before reading Lords and Ladies.
I will say that the only witches book I’ve read is Carpe Jugulum, and I never felt lost reading this one? But the author recommends maybe not picking this up independently so I thought I’d pass that along.
One of my favorite things about Terry Pratchett’s writing is the humor – it’s why I loved The Light Fantastic and what keeps me coming back to Discworld. The tone in Lords and Ladies is a bit different. It’s about an upcoming wedding and an elvish invasion and there’s a lot going on. No time, really, for joking around. I wouldn’t call the tone flat out series – I don’t think any of Discworld is serious – but this one takes itself a bit more seriously.
I found myself quite enjoyed Almost-Queen Magrat. She had good growth as a character, and there’s just something totally badass about a young bride digging up old legendary armor and riding a unicorn into battle. You want to turn fantasy royalty on its side and create a powerful female character, Magrat is pretty cool. I always give extra brownie points to the strong female characters in older fantasy, because while these heroines are a dime a dozen now (and so help me, I love them), they were still relatively uncommon in 1992, especially as written by male authors. But it’s not just Magrat that’s impressive – all three of the witches are great. Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax, and Almost-Queen Magrat all brings different things to the table with different styles.
The chaos in Lords and Ladies is like A Midsummer Night’s Dream gone wrong. Instead of friendly tricks and true love woven, with all back to good in the morning… this is a coup. This isn’t the “nice” kind of elves. These are mind-controlling trickster elves. We have three different couples. We have a king and queen of the Fair Folk. We even have a troupe of Rude Mechanicals which, frankly, feel as unessential to the plot here as they did in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I think that overall, this is a wonderful tribute to Shakespeare’s original play. It’s a twisted upside down version, but there are so many parallels and it’s a fun nod to the original story.
My only really complaint about Lords and Ladies is the multitude of characters and names to remember. A lot of them are purposely confusing, like Baker the weaver. There are five POV characters, but scores of other minor, recurring characters. Wedding guests, love interests, townspeople. It’s really difficult to keep track of all the characters and remember what they’re doing and why they’re important. It doesn’t help that sometimes characters are called by their first name, sometimes their last name, and sometimes a nickname or profession. It’s altogether a bit distracting and at times I felt like skipping over scenes that felt unimportant.
As a self-contained story, I really liked this book. The plot was fun. The story went along quickly and the dialogue was light and bantery. I was engaged in the witches themselves and enjoyed the character development from the three of them. The invasion plot line interested me, but the chaos outside of the elves and witches didn’t particularly catch my attention. I don’t think it’s the best of the Discworld novels, but it’s light and fun and tricksy and I enjoyed it for that.
Lords and Ladies stays on my shelf!
I actually quite liked this one, but I wasn’t really feeling it, if that makes sense. I’m a mod reader at heart, and if I’m not in the mood for certain books it affects how I feel about them. The fundamental aspects of Lords and Ladies are all right for me, but what I’m finding in this readathon is that a lot of the books are deeply serious and I really wanted some silliness out of this one… and that didn’t happen? So I liked the book, but it wasn’t what I wanted at the moment. I’d read it again, though. When I’m in the mood. 🙂
Your opinion: are the Fair Folk friends or foes? I like the stories better when they are causing trouble for the protagonist. I feel like there’s a great love for fairies and elves as love interests, so tell me your favorite stories!