In the thirteenth part of Lords and Ladies, I was not ready to be terrified by this book. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For issues of consent
I really didn’t expect this, and the more I think about it, the more brilliant it seems. Pratchett’s warning earlier in this book – through Granny Weatherwax – was that elves were not what we thought they were. It’s in this part of the book that he then lives up to that warning, and the demonstration of their power is downright unnerving. And it’s supposed to be! Why make that threat if you’re not going to make good on it?
AND HE DOES SO VICIOUSLY. There are very few jokes within this section of Lords and Ladies. Pratchett casts them aside so that he can focus on the chase, and what a chase that is! From the moment that Shawn Ogg hears the sound of the drawbridge being raised, Pratchett channels the best of the horror genre through his own book. Now, this is not the first time he’s showed off his thriller chops, so I’m not surprised that this sequence of scenes was as frightening as it was. I know he can do it! (Oh, Moving Pictures, you were so creepy.) But there’s a minimalism to this here. Pratchett focuses the action on just a few parties, and I think that helps this to feel as it does. We go from Shawn’s trip down to the dungeons to Ridcully and Granny’s labyrinthine trip through the forest to the intense chase scenes involving Magrat. And it all works so well!
Let’s talk about some of the reasons why:
The castle felt big, and old, and cold.
It’s a brief line, but coming from Shawn Ogg? That’s significant. When Shawn suddenly feels like this, it’s a sign that this is not a situation to be fucked with. And truly, I found it hilariously practical that when faced with all this, Shawn ran away. I don’t think that makes him a coward at all. Rather, he knows that what Granny told him is true, that the elves will try anything to get him away from iron. It’s self-preservation that gets him to run and directs him straight to Magrat. He believes the threat against him.
He glanced sideways.
There was a tall skinny shape outlined in the open cell doorway. It was standing very carefully, as if it wanted to keep as far away from its surroundings as possible
Diamanda was smiling at him in a funny way.
You are a true hero, Shawn Ogg.
I didn’t find Granny and Ridcully’s predicament to be that scary at first. Granny knew that she was lost, and that she was being tracked by the unicorn. Plus, she was a step ahead of everyone since she knew exactly what was going on in her mind:
When the walls between the universes are thin, when the parallel strands of If bunch together to pass through the Now, then certain things leak across. Tiny signals, perhaps, but audible to a receiver skilled enough.
In her head were the faint, insistent thoughts of a thousand Esme Weatherwaxes.
THIS IS SO COOL. Like… are we talking Sense8 levels of access? Is there an Esme in her thoughts that has a different skill set than our Esme? THE POSSIBILITY IS SO INCREDIBLE.
Anyway, Magrat’s scenes are UTTERLY UNFAIR because I AM BUT ONE PERSON, and they are TOO MUCH TO DEAL WITH. It’s interesting to see how the elves’ glamour manifests for different people. In Shawn’s case, Diamanda tries to use her attractiveness to compel him to remove his chainmail. (I should note that I obviously do not mean that Diamanda herself is doing this; she has not consented to what’s being done to her body.) Magrat is tempted by beautiful singing, which in reality is not beautiful at all:
The song changed while staying the same. The complex harmonies, the fascinating rhythm did not alter but suddenly grated, as if she was hearing the song through different ears.
I initially misread this and thought it meant that there were a bunch of screeching elves singing out of tune in Lancre Castle. I’d like you to know that this is now one of the funniest things my head has ever produced. Anyway, I thought this was a clever way to communicate what it was the elves do in order to glamour humans. Of course, it’s followed by ABJECT TERROR. Shawn’s frightened tone upset me as he desperately and quickly explained what was happening to Magrat. I worried about his fate, y’all! I mean, I guess Pratchett could actually kill him off, couldn’t he? Thankfully, he was in chainmail, but what about Magrat?
Y’all, I’m SO THRILLED by what happens to Magrat over the course of this section. She starts off running away, which is, I might add, a very smart thing to do. But what does she become after this? She takes a huge risk in the guest room she hides in because… well, she’s not wearing iron, nor does she have any to protect herself. She brilliantly uses the garderobe in said room to trick an elf, and it’s a sign that the elves can be fooled by clever people. But while running from the elves, Magrat discovers Queen Ynci the Short-Tempered.
I imagine that it was always an intentional thing that Magrat was never told about the warrior queen, and I’m guessing this is a sly bit of commentary from Pratchett about the role queens often fulfill in fantasy narratives. Why are they always the ones who react to disasters instead of those who solve it? Why aren’t queens warriors? So when she accidentally locks herself into the armory and discovers Queen Ynci’s armor, it’s clear that Magrat is ready to transform once again. This time, though, it feels different than her attempt to be Verence’s queen. With Ynci’s hat on her head, Magrat is going to become a warrior against the elves, and I CANNOT WAIT.
One last thing. I’d mentioned earlier that I didn’t find what Granny was going through to be all that creepy, but it was only initially. Y’ALL:
“You know,” he said, his voice staying quite level, “either autumn comes really early in these parts, or the birds here are the ones out of that story I mentioned, or someone’s in the tree above us.”
“Yes, because I’ve been paying attention while you were dodging the traffic in Memory Lane,” said Granny. “There’s at least five of ’em, and they’re right above us. How’s those magic fingers of yours?”
NO. NOPE. NOPE.
The original text contains use of the word “idiot.”
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