Author: Terry Pratchett
UK Publisher: Corgi
UK Release date: 1987
Summary (from Goodreads): On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard's mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University--and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!
Review: In the mountains of Discworld, a wizard is about to die. In true tradition, he passes his staff and magical powers onto a newborn child. However this young babe is a girl - and on Discworld, girls just aren’t wizards.
Equal Rites follows Eskarine as she grows up with her magical powers, learning how to control them and trying to understand the difference between witchcraft and wizardry. Local witch, Granny, takes Esk under her wing in the hope of teaching her witchcraft and helping her control her powers. It seems however that Esk is destined for wizardry. Whether the wizards will agree is another matter entirely!
Eskarine is a stubborn minded, rebellious young girl. Magic comes naturally to her and she doesn’t realise that everyone else can’t create fire, fly in the body of an eagle or turn their brothers into pigs. Soon her talents far extend anyone’s expectations including Granny’s, however her age and naivety lead her into situations that would be dangerous for anyone else, but she manages to use her powers to get herself out of them.
I really enjoyed the character of Granny, as she tries hard to be a proper witch, wearing only black and learning how to use a battered broomstick. Despite being an ‘inferior’ witch, Granny is a match for any wizard. I liked her refusal to accept that only men can be wizards, but rather thinking that sometimes to get what you want you have to sneak in the backdoor.
Having read the first two books in the Discworld series, the pace of Equal Rites seems slow with far fewer crazy adventures and wild characters. This shouldn’t reflect badly on Equal Rites, which could be a standalone book in itself. Pratchett's usual style of writing, wit and humour come across, helping the story flow well and make it an enjoyable, light-hearted read.
In the Discworld’s magical professions, gender roles are very clearly defined: men are wizards and women are witches. Pratchett pokes fun at this stereotypical viewpoint, by showing that it’s all a matter of names and ‘headology’, and that both Esk and Granny aren’t the little women the wizards think they are.