1. “I got rambling / I got rambling on my mind / I got rambling / I got rambling all on my mind.” So sang Robert Johnson in 1936, when he also recorded the classic, “I Believe I’ll Dust my Broom”. These two songs ran through my head the whole time I was reading this book about voodoo, witches engaging in tourism to the discworld analogy of Louisiana, and the power of stories. The whole book ruminates on stories and the power they have—certain things need to happen in this tale because they have happened in other tales, and Pratchett says so. His real thrust is this line from the book: “People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around.” We create stories, and in so doing the stories create us. Pratchett plays this point for humor, as usual, but the point isn’t lost in the jokes. The two support each other in a way indicative of Pratchett’s brilliance.
Nanny Ogg knew how to start spelling 'banana', but didn't know how you stopped.
2. The characters are less revealing here than the theme. Pratchett doesn’t run wild or create too many new characters, rather, he lets characters we already know run the show. It could be seen as fan service, I guess, but it could also be Pratchett expanding the scope of his usual cast of characters. To me, because the novel is so smitten with the theme, it doesn’t come off like fan service.
Cats gravitate to kitchens like rocks gravitate to gravity.
3. Again, this novel follows episodic lines, but Pratchett has grown as an author. This isn’t a bad fix-up like the first two discworld novels were. The theme carries the whole with more consistency than Eric did, being so focused on one thing, rather than the three separate wishes of the boy
“Good and bad is tricky," she said. "I ain't too certain about where people stand. P'raps what matters is which way you face.”
4. So, it’s a novel, but just. It explores an interesting theme with wonderful humor, but plays heavy towards the humor. The characters feature more complexity than in past works, but are still familiar enough that the question of fan service is present. In all, I thought it was a fun book, a good one, even. But if you’re not into vampires or voodoo, it might not be as gripping for you.
Find the story, Granny Weatherwax always said. She believed that the world was full of story shapes. If you let them, they controlled you. But if you studied them, if you found out about them... you could use them, you could change them.