In the nineteenth and final part of Lords and Ladies, Granny ends the story. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Ah, so I’ve reached the end of another Discworld book! This has been an interesting book, not one that I would say is my favorite. It’s an odd novel with some strange choices in pacing, especially here towards the end. I have some questions and some points to make, so LET’S DO THIS.
You know, I honestly didn’t think that by the end of this book, Magrat would be married. I didn’t! I thought the whole point of her journey here was to show that her desire to be a queen was misguided. The role of the queen in Verence’s castle was, in short, boring and condescending. There are entire passages detailing this! So as I came into this final section, I thought that we’d at least get some sort of acknowledgment of this from the text. Perhaps Magrat would require Verence to pay more attention to her, to allow her to do more than waste away in the halls of a palace. DOesn’t that make sense? If Esme and Ynci served a purpose here – to help Magrat become a better version of herself – why don’t we get to see that in the end? What sort of life will Magrat have as the Queen of Lancre?
We get no glimpse of this, and it makes me want to call foul. What was the point of all those scenes in Lancre castle? Is that the life that Magrat is going back to? Do we even know if she actually loves Verence at all? Or does she love the idea of him? (I’d like to think that Lords and Ladies is an entire book about how loving the idea of something is a bad, bad thing.) We don’t know these things, and bewilderingly, this is left out of the end of this book. We focus entirely on Esme and Nanny – which has its rewards, of course! – and Magrat ends up feeling like an unraveled thread. Granted, I know that I’m biased because Magrat’s my favorite out of the witches, but still. I don’t feel like she got any closure here, and if the conversation between Esme and Nanny is supposed to count as that, I feel weird about that. Magrat’s closure comes through other people?
Hmmm. Perhaps I don’t get it. I don’t have a problem admitting that, especially since that’s largely the sense I get from the end of Lords and Ladies. Occasionally, I feel ill-prepared for the Discworld. I don’t mean that to stand for the general sense of unpreparedness that I occupy AT ALL TIMES; it’s just that the Discworld books can be dense and highly referential at times. They’re also very, very British, and while I try to understand those aspects of the text that inevitably pop up, I’m never going to understand everything. But sometimes, I feel like these books go right over my head, despite that I’m doing my best to give them the attention they deserve.
Thus, we need to talk about
Consider this review me wondering aloud and nothing more. I didn’t dislike Lords and Ladies, and I found it to be one of the most unnerving Discworld books. But I’m confused by the conclusion because I don’t know why Pratchett chose to end on this note. That’s not to suggest that the closure provided for Esme is unnecessary because IT IS TOTALLY NOT. It’s actually one of the cooler things to ever happen to her!
Let me explain a little further. I think it’s incredibly compelling to have Esme let down her guard to the reader by having her express a wistful regret – for the briefest of moments – that she cannot meet all of the other Esmes from all the millions of lives she did not live. I think it’s a powerful moment that represents an aspect of Lords and Ladies that DOES apply to Magrat:
All she could do for all of them was be herself, here and now, as hard as she could.
I’d say that’s precisely what Magrat did when she stood up to the Queen, so it mystifies me that we don’t get any bits of her perspective on the end of this book. Again, that’s not to say that Esme’s perspective is a waste, because it’s not. It’s very necessary. But why her? Why focus on Esme? Why is it so important that she get the unicorn those silver shoes? I imagine part of this is explained here and I just simply forgot. Why does silver prevent the unicorn from going home or being Borrowed by the Queen? I can’t remember, to be honest, so the whole sequence is a bit lost on me. In terms of the power dynamic, I think I understand it, though. This is Esme’s final stand against the idea of all things like the Queen of the Elves. It’s Esme unequivocally stating that she is not to be controlled.
There are a million outcomes that could have ended this novel, and both Esme and Ridcully reflect on them as Lords and Ladies comes to an end. This is the story that Pratchett has decided to tell, and he concludes it with both a reference to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the chance for Ridcully to think about the world where he married Esme all those years ago. In another timeline, that happened, and they’re both happened. But the best that any person can do is be themselves in the timeline that happens now. There’s no real value in reminiscing on a past that could have been because the past can come back to haunt you. I’d say that the elves returning to Lancre were a manifestation of that. In lore and in the minds of nearly everyone in this town, the elves represented perfection and goodness. In reality? They represented perfection and evilness.
I think that’s what Lords and Ladies is about. Perception and nostalgia and identity. I COULD BE WRONG, THOUGH.
The original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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