Saturday, 14 July 2001
Terry Pratchett: Lords and Ladies (1992)
Review number: 873
The third novel to feature the coven of witches from the Discworld kingdom of Lancre follows on directly from Witches Abroad, as the three of them return home so that Magrat can marry the king. All is not well, however, as the sinister elves are trying to take advantage of a weakness in the fabric between worlds to attack the Discworld from which they were excluded centuries earlier. (Elves here are not the noble and beautiful creatures you might expect from other fantasy novels; cruel, sadistic and heartless, they can touch human minds to affect our perception of them.)
The elves are the big problem with Lords and Ladies. They have no character and no redeeming features; they are basically machines for being nasty. As a result they evoke repulsion rather than humour, so that Pratchett has to work very hard to be funny. (It is not so much the elves' unpleasantness which is the problem but the fact that they are so uninteresting.) Without them, the novel would be moderately amusing; with them it trades on the legacy of enjoyment left behind by the earlier novels in the series.