This is possibly my favourite Witches novel so I have to warn you I am biased on this one. I shall declare my interests here.
1. Agnes Nitt was the first time I saw myself represented so completely in a novel. I will explain more fully later but at 15 I was Agnes Nitt.
2. If you know me at all you know I take part in a lot of amateur musical theatre. The jokes and references in this one come thick and fast
3. Greebo gets his human on again. Aw yeah!
Reading Maskerade was the first time that Agnes takes centre stage in a story and it was the first time I can remember reading a novel where the protagonist literally looked like me. Having been large for most of my life I’ve heard all the ‘but’s (but she has a lovely personality, but she has good hair) and it was a revelation to see that represented in print. The other thing I adored about Agnes (Perdita) is that she is sensible and she gets stuff done.
This is really Agnes’ novel. Her journey to get away from the small town mentality. Joining the opera and having an amazing voice yet being overlooked because she’s a big –girl. (Oh how I can relate to this.) So we have Agnes and Christine a young ingénue who faints all over the shop and looks like a stiff breeze might break her.
I love all the operatic and musical theatre references. Specifically all the Andrew Lloyd Webber ones. The hugest reference is obviously to Phantom but there are others too. I love how accurately Pratchett has captured the politics and drama of putting on a production and whilst my own experience is of amateur groups doing musicals. The experience feels universal and yes everyone hates top sopranos – I think it is the law.
Granny and Nanny are not left out in this. Nanny has published a cookbook of erotic puddings and nobody could accuse Granny of being jealous but Nanny using the nom de plume of A Lancre Witch causes some caustic reactions. There are some wonderful set pieces where Granny does headology and Nanny infiltrates the Opera house by just joining in.
As usual the plot winds up at a humorous pace and then the second half of the book goes off like a train. With the mystery of who the unhinged Opera Ghost is as well as Granny and Nanny’s adventures in Ankh Morpork. Still very much one of my favourites and one I shall return to again.