Maskerade by Terry Pratchett
A night at the opera.
"Well, basically there are two sorts of opera,' said Nanny, who also had the true witch's ability to be confidently expert on the basis of no experience whatsoever. 'There's your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like "Oh oh oh, I am dyin', oh, I am dyin', oh, oh, oh, that's what I'm doin'", and there's your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes "Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!", although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That's basically all of opera, reely."
The Ramtop witches are back, well, most of them are back. They're one short of a full coven and their best hope to replace the lost Magrat (okay, not lost, you can't really lose a queen) has decided to follow the road to stardom, or in this case Ankh-Morpork which may not be quite the same but may have to do. Agnes Nitt is a girl with a dream. She dreams of not being a witch and of not living in Lancre. And unlike many young people, she has the drive to make her dream come true. So she packs up her meager belongings and hits the road, only to end up standing on a stage in the Ankh-Morpork Opera house, ready to start anew in a place where no one knows her name. Just to make sure, she changes her name. To Perditia. Perditia X. Perditia X. Nitt. If only there was something they could do about the Nitt.
And she's a hit. Turns out she has quite a talent for singing, and her physical stature is certainly built for classic opera. The problem is there have been accidents, terrible accidents and the culprit may well be a ghost. That's okay. Help is on the way, whether Agnes wants it or not. Because Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg have realized they need a third witch. During their adventures to Genua, they learned how much fun it is for three witches to team up against the world. With only two, they only get on each others nerves. And when a chance tea leaf reading reveals to Nanny that Agnes is in danger, there's no question that the witches have to go to the aid of one of their own.
I love the way Terry Pratchett can blend the Discworld with pieces of classic literature and really enhance both. In Maskerade, he's take The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux and blended with some of the funniest characters yet. Little Walter Plinge who does so much of the behind the scenes work. Christine, the newest bright star on the stage who can't sing at all. Somewhere the Watch is lurking. And of course the mysterious Ghost. Pratchett plays with each of these characters, pulled from the original but given new life on the Disc.
One of the very funny side plots is Nanny Ogg's cookbook. It seems she sent her recipe collection to Ankh-Morpork to be bound nicely and the publisher decided to turn it into a bestseller. Now, we know Nanny, and we know that a cookbook she writes is going to be sold in a plain brown wrapper (I admit to being curious about the chocolate sauce she uses in the dessert.) When Granny finds out, she decides that Nanny deserves more than just the free book binding service in exchange. While it does help the witches in their plan to solve the mystery of the opera Ghost, the whole episode is really just for fun. And it is certainly fun.
Another favorite part is the transformation of Greebo, the evilest cat in the world. A favored pet of Nanny's, in Witches Abroad, Granny and crew find it advantagous to turn this foul feline into a human. Now that he knows how it's done, he finds it much easier to do now. And the combination of cat mind in a human body serves the witches well.
The pun's aren't as fast and furious as they have been in the past. The jokes are a little more measured and paced, but that just helps to enhance the reading overall. Certainly a wonderful story, full of the humor we expect and the subtle lessons that we don't. I highly recommend it, and if there's anyone in the Denver area willing to try out the live action play, I'd buy tickets. Just let me know when and where.
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