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Audio Book Review


Equal Rites


Author: Terry Pratchett
Read by: Indira Varma

Publisher: Penguin Random House


Release Date: 28 April 2022

Penguin Random House bring us an unabridged audio book recording of Terry Pratchett's third novel set in the Discworld universe, 1987's Equal Rites. The story is narrated by Indira Varma, and sees the dying wizard Drum Billet passing on his staff of power to the eighth son of an eighth son. Unfortunately for his colleagues in the world of magic, he failed to check that the baby in question was a son. Everybody knows that there's no such thing as a female wizard. But now it's gone and happened, there's nothing much anyone can do about it. Let the battle of the sexes begin...

If you were to break down the main synopsis to Equal Rites you could probably write it on the back of a postage stamp and still have enough room to add your bucket list of things to do before you die. The story is basically one question that is then expanded upon until breaking point. I can imagine Terry Pratchett sitting down to write this and thinking: "What if Drum Billet accidentally passed on his staff of power to a newborn girl instead of a boy...?" But from small acorns, mighty oaks are grown.

What draws the reader in (or listener in this case) is the characters. The main protagonists are Eskarina Smith (or Esk as she's known, the newborn girl gifted the staff of power) and the local witch Granny Weatherwax, who Esk manages to convince that girls can be wizards too.

The main story takes place when Esk is about 8 or 9 and decides she wants to travel to the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork. It's a bit of a trek and the majority of the story takes place on the road to Ankh-Morpork.

Pratchett's humour throughout the book is subtle and carefully plotted. There's no joke for the sake of having a joke and there's no cheap, obvious laugh either.

This audio is narrated wonderfully by Indira Varma, but both Bill Nighy and Peter Serafinowicz's appearances feel really odd. Serafinowicz narrates the part of Death (who has a very small part in this tale) and Nighy reads the footnotes that Pratchett used to include in his novels. Only in this instance Nighy hardly reads anything and so his appearance seems incredibly pointless.

The story hasn't aged a day since I read it in the '80s. It's still fresh and fun. This is the perfect way to discover, or rediscover, Pratchett's Discworld series.


Darren Rea

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