Terry Pratchett,
Lords and Ladies
(Victor Gollancz, 1992;
HarperPrism, 1994)

In Lords and Ladies, Terry Pratchett returns to Lancre along with the Discworld's most famous triad of witches: the formidable Granny Weatherwax, the cheerful and bawdy Nanny Ogg, and the introspective and insecure Magrat Garlick. They've come back just before Midsummer to find out that crop circles have been, er, cropping up and that someone has been dancing 'round the Dancers, a nearby group of standing stones. Granny Weatherwax knows what this means: the elves are coming back, and that means trouble.

Few people remember what elves are really like. Elves have style; elves have glamor; elves are good. Granny Weatherwax remembers, however, and she'll let the "lords and ladies" back into Lancre over her dead body. She deals effectively with a coven of teen-aged witch wannabes, but doesn't count on the vagaries of sheer chance when a group of "rude mechanicals" go up to the Dancers to practice a play.

Meanwhile, Magrat discovers that she is to marry King Verence at Midsummer's Eve. Now, there was a sort of understanding that they were probably maybe engaged, but she's astounded to find that he has already picked the date, sent out the invitations, ordered the wedding dress, and planned the menu. All Magrat has to do is start learning how to be a queen, which, as she discovers, has a lot to do with tapestries and complicated clothing.

A wedding invitation to the Unseen University brings Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully, young wizard Ponder Stibbons, the erratically inclined Bursar, and the Librarian to Lancre as well, a combination guaranteed to add to the midsummer madness. Along the way, they pick up the dwarf Giamo Casanunda, the world's second greatest lover (he tries harder) who, upon arriving in Lancre, is captivated by Nanny Ogg.

Pratchett's elves are nasty critters, and he doesn't mind saying so, but his point of view is supported by the folklore which indicates that elves consider human beings as a kind of animal made available for their amusement. This, in turn, does not bode well for other animals. There is a thread of horror running through the description of the elvish rampage through Lancre, and this element lends weight to the story, preventing it from dissolving into fluff.

This means that Lords and Ladies isn't one of Pratchett's more riotously funny books; it has more weight, but it never gets too serious. Between the theatrical artisans, also the local morris dance team known for not doing the Stick and Bucket dance, the antics of the wizardly quartet, and Nanny Ogg's personal, um, philosophy, among other events there is plenty to laugh at here, and Discworld fans will not be disappointed.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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