A review by brokebybooks
Maskerade (Discworld, #18; Witches #5), by Terry Pratchett


I loved this book. Gee, I say that about every Pratchett book, don't I?

Ah well, it can't be helped. Pratchett has his own unique wonderful style and is truly a master at his craft.

So many things that I loved about this book.

1. I love Agnes. Her struggles and voice was authentic for being an over-weight woman over shadowed by her skinny counter parts due to bias against over-weight people, especially women. I get the criticisms that her heaviness was talked about a lot, but that criticism doesn't fit here. I hate it too often in books with the portrayal of over-weight people and how their heaviness is all they are; you could slap a name tag on a bag of sand to stand in for the character and no one would be the wiser. In the case of Agnes, it really is just her having the everyday dealings with people about her weight and how she thinks of it so much because of being conditioned of thinking about it so much. Self-conscious since it's peoples first and last thought with her. It's the main reason she isn't allowed a personality beyond do everything say only nice things doormat. It's her wanting to be herself and speak out that actually comes up more than her weight. It's the reason she becomes Perdita X Dreams. That struggle for speaking your mind when you're put upon to be the dependable nice invisible unless noticed reasonable one is so realistic. It really is a struggle for a woman to do that unless you harness the Bitch label and own it. Agnes speaks to and for so many women's experiences so well that I'm amazed it was done by a man. I give Pratchett so much props and love for this. Finding a male author that doesn't drown everything in the male gaze when it's suppose to be a woman character looking is hard enough and I'm reveling in how great Agnes character is.

2. I like how Pratchett brought up the issues of weight, with women and especially in show business and the pressures women face to be nice. The Witches series in Discworld has to be my favorite because of the strong female leads and how it deals with feminist issues. I do think Christina was a cardboard cut out of a character. While wonderfully described with her talking and moving in exclamations and signaling fainting on purpose for attention, she really was an airhead. Some women are airheads and the people with "star quality" get enough attention as it is. Of course, it would have been nice to see some perspective on the pressures women have to face to be skinny, stay skinny, and be dumb on Christina's side of the fence. For the first time ever Christina wasn't the star of the show. However, I think a lot of attention is payed to that and it's not a real detractor to the book. It probably would have only made the book longer and gummed it up.

3. Pratchett brought up and dealt with "the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone" very well. On page 4,
"Of course, it was nothing but an old superstition and belonged to the unenlightened days when 'maiden' or 'mother' or...the other one...encompassed every woman over the age of twelve or so, except maybe for nine months of her life. These days, any girl bright enough to count and sensible enough to take Nanny's advice could pull off being at lease one of them for quite some time.
Even so...it was an old superstition-older than books, older than writing-and beliefs like that were heavy weights on the rubber sheet of human experience, tending to pull people into their orbit."
It becomes much more about needing another person in the group to be a witch and train, keeping Granny good than filling in the stereotypical roles of women. It points out nicely how stupid it is and how Granny fits all three anyways.

4. I love Pratchett poking fun at opera and theater in general. It was quite fun. I'm not a fan of operas, musicals or theater, nor am I very well read on the subjects. Pratchett makes the parody of Phantom of the Opera and operas very friendly and understandable for even people like me, who don't get it. It's not snobby.

5. Bucket is an excellent parody of business men, especially those of American's right wing that claims to be self-made while using daddy's money. He's a made man with his daddy's money and he's about to make a fortune in the opera business because of sheer dumb luck. I think it's rather funny how it shines a light on the stupid shit a lot of people say and believe without thinking and holds up a mirror for people to recognize it, while not being directly insulted. Like judging someone based on the firmness of the handshake and no body is self-made even if you only used your own money for business. We're social creatures and live in a society together, the self-made man is a work of fiction. Propaganda garbage like the fabled American Dream. Everything is a big "Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours". Bucket as a person and a parody is perfectly summed up on page 15,
"I've been through the mill, I have,' Bucket began,'and I made myself what I am today-'
Self-raising flour? thought Salzella
'-but I have to, er, declare a bit of a financial interest. Her dad did, er, in fact, er, lend me a fair whack of money to help me buy this place, and he made a heartfelt fatherly request in regard to his daughter. If I bring it to mind correctly, his exact words, er, were:"Don't make me have to break your legs." I don't expect your artistes to understand. It's a business thing. The gods help those who help themselves, that's my motto.'

6. The twist and turns of the story. Even with this being a parody of the Phantom of the Opera it grips you, it's suspenseful, keeps you guessing and laughing out load. It's enjoyable. It's a breeze to read and get involved in. Like the little Mouse Death and Death dealing with a swan that refuses to do a Swan Song, which are some of my favorite scenes, as weird as that may sound it fits perfectly and just adds more to the story.

7. It's Pratchett. His description and voice is unique and hilarious. Like on page 3, "Lightning prodded the crags like an old man trying to get an elusive blackberry pip out of his false teeth." and "the sound of Nanny Ogg cutting bread, which she did with as much efficiency as a man trying to chainsaw a mattress."

Many pieces of awesomeness on every page, but to list a few things I wanted to pull out:

Granny dealing with the theater in her own way, on page 59,
"She didn't loathe the theater, because, had she done so, she would have avoided it completely. Granny now took every opportunity to visit the traveling theater that came to Landcre, and sat bold upright in the front row of every performance, staring fiercely. Even honest Punch and Judy men found her sitting among the children, snapping things like 'Taint so!' and 'Is that any way to behave?' As a result, Lancre was becoming known throughout the Sto Plains as a really tough gig."

On technical advances in society of movable print on page 74
Movable type was known in Ankh-Morpork, but if wizards heard about it they moved it where no one could find it. They generally didn't interfere with the running of the city, but when it came to movable type the pointy foot was put down hard. They had never explained why, and people didn't press wizards, not if you liked yourself the shape you were. They simpley worked around the problem, and engraved everything. This took a long time and meant taht Ankh-Morpork was, for example, denied the benefit of newspapers, leaving the population to fool themselves as best they could."

On wearing black,page 87,
That was the good thing about black. You could be nearly anything, wearing black.Mother Superior or Madam, it was really just a matter of the style. It just depended on the details.

Granny and Nanny on page 141
"Well, he looks aristocratic-" Nanny began.
'He looks like a beautiful brainless bully,' Granny corrected her.
'Aristocratic,' repeated Nanny.
'Same thing.'

On page 142, I love the description of Corporal Nobby Nobbs,
There was, indeed, a very short man in a suit intended for a rather larger man; this was especially the case with the opera cloak, which actually trailed on the floor behind him to give the overall impression of a superhero who had spent too much time around the Kryptonite."

Andre and Granny squaring off
Andre gave Granny a long look, like a man weighing up his chances. He must have decided they were bobbing along the ceiling.
“I… hang around in dark places looking for trouble,” he said.
“Really? There’s a nasty name for people like that,” snapped Granny.
“Yes,” said Andre. “It’s ‘policeman’.”