Witches Abroad is book 12 in Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” series. You can read my review of the previous book, Reaper Man here.
Like all witches of Discworld (and wizards, for that matter), Desiderata knows the hour of her death. In preparation for that death, she sends her magic wand to Magrat, the youngest of three witches/friends. She lets Magrat know that by giving her the wand, Magrat will effectively become the “Fairy Godmother” to Emberella, very far away from them, in Genua. And she gives Magrat strict instructions that she must stop the marriage of Emberella to a Duke (who happens to be a frog). Also, she is requested to not let her friends, Granny Esme Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg, know about this.
Of course, Magrat can’t help but let her friends know, and so they all go off on an adventure to Genua. Along the way, they meet dwarves and an enigmatic voodoo priestess named Mrs. Gogol, and a zombie named Samedi. They also find out that Magrat is actually one of two Fairy Godmothers concerned with Emberella, the other of whom is much more skilled and experienced, and stands in direct opposition to their purposes.
Like all of the previous Discworld stories, this one is quite funny. There’s a lot of humor in seeing ‘foreign parts’ through the witches eyes. We get to learn what the big deal is with ‘Dwarven bread’ and ‘gumbo’ and ‘Banana Dakris’ and witches hats. It turns out that Genua is kind of a fantasy stand-in for New Orleans, with much of the same culture.
And off-topic, but the book brought back memories of some of the best food I’ve ever eaten (on a budget, or otherwise), outside of NYC. It can be found in N’Orleans. Granted, I haven’t been there since the 1988 World Science Fiction convention, so I haven’t seen it post-Katrina. But if you love food, that’s one of the best places in the US to visit (and don’t worry about the spice if that’s a problem for you — Cajun food, of course, can be quite spicy, but Creole food usually is not). My guess is that like most urban cities, corporatization has not yet fully destroyed its local culture, and turned it into yet another ‘mall-town’ with all chain stores and franchises. Everyone should experience all the variety of culture that America has to offer, before it is totally swallowed up or overwhelmed by food franchises and shopping malls.
Overall, the book is concerned with turning the Cinderella story on its head, which, to me, doesn’t entirely work. I’ll admit it — I’m not a huge fan of fairy tale stories, modernized or otherwise. I watched a bit of the ABC series, “Once Upon a Time” (mostly with my mom, before she went into the Nursing home). But once I no longer had that obligation, I grew bored with it and lost interest. There is a lot of fun to be had with the book. But I found it to be one of the lesser books in the Pratchett series. But I do still recommend it.
Anyway, my thumbs are up for this book, just not all the way up.