This review was originally posted at Goodreads and imported here later with next to no spell/grammar checking.
This is my favourite book of the Witches sub-series of Discworld. While the earlier books were mostly for laughs, this one has a serious mystique and character development.
The plot picks up where Witches Abroad left: the coven returns home and Magrat (the young one) is about to get married to king Verence (from Wyrd Sisters). The wedding is to take place on Midsummer. A time when the barrier between worlds is the weakest and when beings thought only to exist in the fairy tales might come forth if called…
I’m pretty sure this book is referencing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream left and right, but having never seen the play, I only caught a handful of callbacks. Even with that glaring hole in my cultural knowledge, I have enjoyed this book tremendously. It starts with a mystery, builds up a proper intrigue, takes a new spin on some old ideas (a thing I deeply love in fantasy) and deepens the characters we know.
Magrat especially, who was always portrayed as a the meekest of the witches, comes to her own here and for a brief moment becomes a terrifying true fucking bad-arse warrior. The other two witches are just mucking about either. It was hinted in the previous books that Granny Weatherwax is no pushover and we get to see more evidence of that here. And Nanny Ogg who you may have been excused to think of a daft old lady is clearly a force to be reckoned with as well. Just in a more subtle, folksy way.
For all the issues with long-running series, this is what I love about them: you can really get to know the characters and see them change and grow (unless it’s written by GRRM in which case they get axed before you’re able to remember their names).
The humour again takes a bit of a back-seat in this one (or it went over my head), but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely fantastic bathtub scene. That is stuff of legends (literally — that scene has been read and re-read in our household for so long that I mistakenly thought I’d read this book before). Also, "time flies" in Nanny Ogg’s parlance is "Tempers fuggit".
Oh and if you think there’s got to be a pun somewhere in Casanunda’s name (the legendary lover who happens to be a dwarf), but struggle to find it: keep at it, it is there. And maybe remember that Terry Pratchett is English. Took me two books to get it.
Overall, Lords and Ladies is an excellent read. If this is the sign of things to come for the Discworld Witches books, it just might end up being my second favourite subseries (after the Ankh-Morpork City Watch of course).
If you do want to pick up the Witches books and are a little hesitant about the first two, start with Witches Abroad. This book follows its plot directly and it might get a bit confusing otherwise (though not too much).