For me, the best possible thing that fantasy as a genre can do is to say something important about our world and history, ideally while also commenting in some way on the traditions of the genre itself, and being a damn good read. Add to that a whole bunch of female characters who happen to be the central drivers of the plot and…
Oh, yes. Lords and Ladies is that good.
In some ways, this book is the last third of an unofficial trilogy (with Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad) featuring the original trio of Pratchett’s witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. In other ways, it’s the beginning of an unofficial trilogy (with Maskerade and Carpe Jugulum) about the mortality and power of Granny Weatherwax, with bonus Nanny Ogg at every turn (she doesn’t just steal scenes, she gets them drunk and makes them blush with dirty jokes) and the growing pains of Agnes “Perdita” Nitt.
But this is also, like so many of Pratchett’s best books, a book about stories. In this case, having taken on Shakespeare and fairy tales, he looks at the role of women in English folk songs and folklore. This is a story about cold iron and fairy glamour; of midsummer rituals and blood in the snow and dodgy jokes about morris dancers and maypoles. It’s a story about how practicality trumps romance every time, if you’re lucky.
Most of all, while it has much to say about witches and wives and mothers, this is a story about queens.
[MANY MANY MANY SPOILERS]