Top critical review
3.0 out of 5 starsPratchett's much needed feminist shift
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on February 26, 2018
The first Discworld novel to move away from the Rincewind arch. Evidently, Pratchett noticed his profound lack of strong female characters and sought to rectify this. He did well...I think. Well, I suppose it would've been better in this regard if the narration wasn't so on-the-nose with the topic: the intro to the book straight-up says that it's "a story about sex" (and not in the "count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense"). I did laugh at this, though, and that's all that matters when it comes to Discworld.
I primarily liked this one because it introduces one of my all-time favorite characters from the series, Esmerelda Weatherwax--also known as "Granny." It's protagonist, Esk, a little girl who wants to be a wizard, it also highly delightful, especially considering that Terry Pratchett modeled her after his daughter. The cast is the best part of the book--as opposed to The Light Fantastic and The Color of Magic, which I think are clogged up with characters. Plot-wise, however, there's a critical difference. With the first two books--in following Rincewind and Twoflower, both of whom have no explicitly overarching goal at hand (sort of)--the rambling and seemingly aimless plot kinda works. Here, where Esk's endgame is to enroll at Unseen University, all the sidetracking gums up the flow of the narrative. This is only made worse by the ending, which feels inordinately rushed and doesn't focus on the protagonist's accomplishments enough. Thus, it's not my favorite Discworld book but, as always, it's not bad at all.