My absolute, all-time favourite author is Terry Pratchett. Not that I’d want to read him all the time, of course, because it’s hard to imagine dashing princes and majestic dragons wandering around Discworld, unless, of course, they were wandering around Discworld being hopelessly lost, incompetent, guided by witches and very lucky.
Terry Pratchett is a satirical fantasy writer. That means that he writes fantasy books set on a world called Discworld, which is flat and supported on the backs of elephants who stand on an enormous turtle, but they aren’t necessarily very serious. For example, the main city of Ankh-Morpork is filthy, vicious, and full of con artists, while still being every citizen’s favourite city. (And, likely, the only city they know.) The Patrician, or President, of Ankh-Morpork is a man called Lord Vetinari, who is very…organized. The Assassin’s Guild runs perfectly up-front, and the more high-profile you are, the higher the price, so that really the more important you are the less likely it is that someone can afford to kill you. The Thieves’ Guild has a set amount of times that they can rob from you a year, and if you sign up for a discreet payment scheme you will never be robbed. Thieves outside the Thieves’ Guild are quietly stabbed in dark corners by licensed thieves, because they really just ruin the entire system. Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler sells mysterious sausages and meat pies that are absolutely terrible but look nice, and he’s such a good salesman most people end up buying more than one, to their consternation. There are many species running about, dwarves and trolls and zombies and vampires and werewolves, and there’s a lot of species-ism involved, particularly between the dwarves and trolls, and the living and the undead.
It’s hysterically funny, but also very real, with moments that are poignant and down-to-earth. An extremely drunk Captain of the Night Watch, a police force, is panicking on the night before his wedding to the richest woman in the city, and as he’s helped into bed, a very new recruit remarks on how bare his quarters are, with only a piece of cardboard under the bed for boot soles, and sneers about how he drinks all of his money away, and in return a more experienced officer quietly shows her the book with the names of policemen’s widows and children and dollar amounts, because policemen’s widows don’t get pensions. In the end, nearly half his pay goes to other people.
And that’s not even starting on the witches. The first Discworld book I read was one of the Tiffany Aching series, which is about a nine-year-old (And eventually eleven, thirteen, and sixteen year old in the later books) who rescues her brother from Fairyland armed with a book about sheep illnesses and a frying pan. Witches don’t do much magic, and it usually isn’t very dramatic magic, (Dramatic magic is disdained as a wizard thing. Men.) but they take care of the things that need to be taken care of. They protect those who cannot protect themselves, and also talk to those who are lonely, and clip the toenails of people who cannot clip their own, and take the pain of those beyond healing, and generally make sure everything runs smoothly at the same time that they are viewed with suspicion and are the first ones blamed for any misfortune. Tiffany becomes a witch the day she watches an old woman with warts and a suspicious-looking face get stoned out of her house, the house burned down, her cat killed and her books destroyed because she looked like a witch and the Baron’s son had vanished. The old woman dies during the winter, begging for scraps and shelter at doors who give her nothing, and Tiffany’s only nine. She buries the cat and collects fragments of atlases with burns along the edges and keeps them tucked away in a secret place, and plants flowers over the ruins of the cat’s grave and the cottage. And then, six months later, she uses her little brother as bait for a monster and then whacks the monster over the head with a frying pan, befriends a tribe of tiny blue men called the Nac Mac Feegle, and generally causes havoc.
If you are at all interested in fantasy, satire, or hilarity, or even if you’re not, you should definitely read Terry Pratchett’s books.
Guards! Guards! is the first book in the City Watch series,
A Light Fantastic is the first book in the Rincewind series (About a bumbling wizard)
The Wee Free Men is the first book in the Tiffany Aching series
The Wyrd Sisters is the first book in the Lancre Coven series (About witches.)
Go. Read. Have fun.