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Equal Rites: 06/14/11

cover art

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett is the third Discworld novel and the first of the witch books. It's also the first hint of the social discourse that has become the mainstay of the series.

The book opens with a wizard wanting to pass on his powers to the eighth son of an eighth son before he dies. In his haste he passes his powers to the daughter of an eighth son. When she comes of age she will need to learn how to use her powers. All young wizards go to the Unseen University. There's just one problem; it's an all male school.

A lot of the book (as the title implies) is a discussion then on the perceived differences between men and women, including for Discworld, differences in men and women's magic. Men become wizards, use spell books and wands, wear funny hats and robes. Women becomes witches and do practical magic (midwifery, healing, and so forth). Esk while she's destined to be a wizard, can't a man be destined to be a witch?

Equal Rites begins Pratchett's exploration of the society he's built in Ankh-Morpork. From this point on (with a few exceptions), the Discworld books will toss in a problem and use it to deconstruct some aspect of society. Later books expand this exploration to other parts of Discworld and other cultures.

Five stars.

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