Equal Rites = 4/5
I read Equal Rites (by Terry Pratchett) for the first time at least a decade ago, and I remember being distinctly impressed by the spunky protagonist, Eskarina, and how she defied social customs to become the first female wizard of Discworld. Upon rereading Pratchett’s third Discworld novel, I was actually more impressed by Granny Weatherwax and her willingness to defy societal norms to ensure that her charge (Esk) receives the education she needs.
Equal Rites is about Esk, who was accidentally gifted a wizard’s staff at her birth (she was the eighth child of an eighth son, after all), sealing her destiny as a wizard-to-be. Her magic manifests as she grows, until the point that the local witch (Granny Weatherwax) decides she must take Esk away from the girl’s hometown of Bad Ass to find the Unseen University, where she can receive a proper wizard’s education. The novel follows their journey(s) to Ankh-Morpork, where the Unseen University is located, attempt(s) to enroll Esk into the U^2, and all sorts of encounters with people telling (or saying) Esk can’t be a wizard because she’s a girl. Monsters and alternative dimensions make an appearance, as does the Librarian (who only says “Ook”) and Death (who only speaks LIKE THIS IN CAPITAL LETTERS).
A quintessential Pratchett novel, Equal Rites is a perfect combination of humor and fantasy, and an excellent choice for anyone who doesn’t mind a meandering, light-hearted fantasy story that addresses broader themes. I certainly expect to reread it at least a few more times before Death comes to tell me YOU’VE NO IDEA HOW HORRIBLE IT IS TO BE AN ANT.
TL;DR: Equal Rites is a lighthearted, picaresque novel reminding the reader that women can be wizards, too, and that it’s okay to defy “the way it always has been” ’cause you may just be saving the world.
(Review originally written 25 February 2017)