This review was originally posted at Goodreads and imported here later with next to no spell/grammar checking.
This is a Phantom of the Opera story. Um, one much less dumb than the original (whose plot summary I’d just read oh my god).
It is another Witches book. A really quite good one, actually. I’m beginning to think that my disdain for the Witches subseries had been because all the very early Discworld books just weren’t that good compared to the rest. And the Witches started very early on. I’d basically stopped reading them after the first two or three and they’re getting much better in the later volumes.
So: Agnes Nitt a young woman in Lancre has decided to evade her fate of becoming the third witch in the coven and instead, find a singing career in Ankh-Morpork. She gets a job in the famous opera house and discovers that the people there are completely twisted and that the whole thing runs on frenzy and superstition. And that’s before the Opera Ghost starts causing accidents. Meanwhile, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weathterwax visit the city for a completely unrelated reason and they wouldn’t be witches if they didn’t start meddling in.
This is a really comfortable read. Full of mystery, the plot moves on forward nicely, just a pleasure to read start to finish. And while Granny Weatherwax is ostensibly in the background, it is clear that she’s growing into (or rather being slowly revealed as) an extremely powerful witch. These generally have a short lifespan (often ending inside a baking oven), but she’s self-aware enough not to succumb into the self-importance and being drunk on her own power.
I had a good dose of respect for her character from the start (and it’s what kept me going in the earlier books), but she’s quickly rising to the top of my favourites.
And Nanny Ogg is getting more interesting as well. And powerful too, in her own — different but no less significant way. I really didn’t like her character at the beginning at all. She felt like a silly vessel for stupid laughs, but that’s (no longer?) true at all.
And I guess that’s what Diskworld really is about. Yes, you’ve got your jokes (which are generally quite good to insanely funny), your relatively simple but quick-paced plots, your not-quite-staple fantasy. But really, it’s the characters and their development that make the reader’s time investment worth it.
And the fact that these books are just getting better all around makes me hopeful for the remaining twenty or so. I’m quite looking forward to the next Witches book.