Summer reading #10

Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

Published 1995    ~    ISBN #0-06-105691-X    ~    358 pages

Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors. His books are smart, hilarious and completely unexpected. They are set, for the most part, in a fictional alternate universe called Discword. My favorites are about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, followed by Death. But the Lancre witches also have their fine points, many of which arise in Maskerade–a novel about opera.

Maskerade is sort of a murder-mystery that plays off of The Phantom of the Opera, with witches and X-rated cookery thrown in for good measure. The main character is Agnes Nitt, a.k.a. Perdita X, a girl from rural Lancre who comes to the big city for two reasons: 1. to escape her image as a fat girl with a wonderful personality, and 2. to avoid being drafted into the Lancre coven. The Lancre coven, comprising Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, follows her to Ankh-Morpork for two reasons of their own: 1. to collect royalties on Nanny’s best-selling cookbook, and 2. to look out for one of their own (in other words, Agnes).

As it happens, Agnes has subconsciously channeled all of her magical gifts into her singing voice. She can sing in harmony with herself. Her vocal range starts too low for human ears and ends too high for human ears. She can imitate anyone’s voice. And she can throw her own voice, mid-aria, across the room.

While the totality of these gifts result in her job with the opera, it’s the last talent that lands Agnes onstage her first night. She sings from the chorus, while the more picturesque (and brainless, talentless, etc.) Christine lip-synchs downstage. If only dead bodies would stop turning up, everything would be ALMOST perfect.

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