In the eighth part of Equal Rites, ESKARINA AND SIMON! !!!!!!!!!!!! (!!!!!!!!!!!) Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of misogyny.
Oh my god I AM SO EXCITED TO SEE WHERE THIS GOES.
Only after going through this section a second time for this review did I realize that we were getting to read a character’s perspective on discovering the grandeur of the Disc for the first time. I suppose I forgot that Eskarina and Granny Weatherwax had spent all of their lives in Bad Ass and were used to living in a small village. So this opening scene – where they both marvel at Esk’s abilities and the unbelievable sights of the world below them – is just pure pleasure. It’s a treat, and I love it. I mean, I know I’ve referenced my love of discovery sequences in SF/F before, so that’s nothing new. IT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE NARRATIVE FRAMING DEVICES. But it’s so cool to me because this isn’t the first Discworld book. I’ve already been introduced to some parts of the Disc, and I understand things like the Rimfall and Great A’Tuin; I can appreciate the hugeness of it all. But not everyone on the Disc has traveled it, you know? I’d say most people probably haven’t. And so this journey forces Granny to re-think her view of the universe. On a small scale, that’s relevant to her questioning her stance on books and wizard magic, sure, but when she arrives at Ankh-Morpork, she ponders her beliefs on cities, too! Wait, LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS.
Granny Weatherwax and Ankh-Morpork
Yes, it’s true that this development makes it possible for Pratchett to keep Granny near to Esk for the time being, but I don’t care how convenient this is. I absolutely love that Granny arrives in Ankh-Morpork full of doubt and cynicism and mistrust for the place, and she slowly realizes that it isn’t what she thought it was. Namely, she finds out that she is HIGHLY RESPECTED BY THE PEOPLE WHO SEEK HER OUT. Words get around that a witch is in town, and by gods, people flock to her. I loved this line:
She was at first annoyed, and then embarrassed, and then flattered; her clients had money, which was useful, but they also paid in respect, and that was a rock-hard currency.
And look, I totally understand people who are terrified of big cities or who prefer small town life. I get it! I also adore that Granny discovers that life in a place like Ankh-Morpork, while different, isn’t this horrific thing. Granted, we don’t get to experience much of her settling into a groove here. There are suggestions that she might be interesting in expanding both her stay and her living/work spaces in the near future; we know that as she offers her services to more folks, she’s gaining a reputation, both as someone who deserves respect AND fear. It’s lovely and it’s exciting.
Treatle and Simon
Of course, I should have realized that eventually, Eskarina would have to run into the Vice Chancellor again, but it was definitely surprising that of all places, she crossed paths with him at the gates to Unseen University. It’s actually kind of fitting, isn’t it? He was her metaphorical gatekeeper before, and he acts as one again here. Except… well, I didn’t expect this:
“You can really take me in?” she said, her eyes shining.
“Of course. I am sure the heads of the Orders will be most gratified to meet you. Most astonished and astounded,” he said, and gave a little laugh.
That “little laugh” should have tipped me off, of course. Still, it’s not like I wasn’t highly suspicious of this. Just like that, Treatle was actually going to take her through the very gates he said had never opened for a woman before?
I’ll get back to this in a bit. After Granny takes off (and leaves Esk with some necessary advice), Esk has a reunion with Simon. Y’all, one of the first things he says is foreshadowing of what’s to come AND I ONLY SORT OF CAUGHT IT:
“He has t-these fancies,” he muttered, “bbbut he’s not a bad person.”
Ah, the perennial claim that while a person may do shitty things, they’re not a “bad” person! I couldn’t even remotely be able to recount how often I’ve heard this in varying contexts, and it’s another red flag. Eskarina is a fancy to Treatle, something he’s amusing himself with. That’s kind of dehumanizing, isn’t it?
Holy shit. Holy shit. I suppose I only vaguely wondered how Simon was offered the chance to come to Unseen University, and even then, I never really felt the need to question it. But if Eskarina’s experience with magic is at all indicative of what even a small portion of other wizards go through, then it stands to reason that magic would manifest in others in shocking and surprising ways. There have been little details since Simon was introduced that he was a genius of sorts, that while he was terribly nervous and often sick, he possessed something that was a bit out of the ordinary. Once he meets the other wizards, though, those hints became a lot more obvious.
I was intrigued. Why on earth did Simon already have a reputation? What had Treatle said about him? What if Treatle actually just went to retrieve Simon because of what the other wizards had heard of him? I mean, he’s referred to as a “scholarship boy,” so that implies that he was coveted enough to earn a chance to come to Unseen University.
I don’t think I could have guessed what his secret was, though that’s partially because I still don’t think I understand it.
He’s able to do something that either creates a vision of the universe. Or he’s actually breaking down the walls between the Discworld reality and the Dungeon Dimension. I wasn’t sure of that, and the fact that Eskarina was the only one to truly see what Simon was doing seems like a big deal, given that she’s got so much raw magic passing through her. Regardless, I didn’t need to understand everything to get that this was an INCREDIBLE display of power, and that if it weren’t for Esk, Simon may have done something to break down the barrier between worlds.
SO CAN SIMON AND ESK BE FRIENDS. I’D LIKE THIS.
Eight. ESKARINA IS ACTUALLY EIGHT AND LOOK WHAT SHE DOES HERE. She knows that these men aren’t taking her seriously, that to them, she is just a joke. I MEAN:
“Well, now,” he said. “You want to be a wizard?”
“I keep telling everyone but no one seems to listen,” said Esk.
Look, Esk is witty, sure. But I don’t think this is her be witty for the sake of it. She’s so plain-spoken because she hasn’t developed the kind of cynicism that, say, Granny Weatherwax has. When she asks Cutangle why she can’t be a wizard, she’s being completely serious. As much as he can’t fathom the idea of a woman being a wizard, she can’t fathom why this isn’t possible. I’m cut off right at the point where she’s going to physically demonstrate that she does possess the power of being a wizard, so HOLY SHIT, I am so excited to see how the wizards deal with this. How can they deny it after…. well, whatever she does?
The original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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