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#6 - AH. THERE I THINK YOU HAVE ME.

I've read two of Pratchett's fantasy satires before: the first of his Discworlds, The Colour of Magic (an obvious warming-up with enough good ideas) and Going Postal (really kind of a masterpiece). I'd like to read them all, in order, but Maskerade just happened into my possession a while back, so I finished it up for #6. Basic plot: talented young singer Agnes flees the witches' kingdom of Lancre for a shot at opera stardom in the big city. The opera managers are impressed by her voice but want a slimmer, more comely diva in the lead - so they hire Agnes to ghost-sing the lead roles while their RealDoll charms the crowds. Meanwhile, two of Lancre's most powerful witches get the idea that Agnes might make an excellent third member of their coven and journey to the big city to bring her back home, whether she wants to come or not. Also there are Phantom of the Opera-style murders.

I enjoy that Pratchett's protagonists have real-people problems, not fantasy-hero Chosen One problems, and that his novels concern the day-to-day workings of a magical kingdom instead of Great Quests (Maskerade is about the theater; Going Postal is, naturally, about the postal service). He's in the Douglas Adams leagues when it comes to true-to-life one-liners ("There seemed to be so much to do that she couldn't bring herself to do any of it"), and his dry, gentle wit of his Death is always a treat.

The particular story here, though, was muddled and rather depressing. The main thread of the novel seems to concern Agnes finding her own voice & sense of self-worth, to stop others from taking advantage of her, yet it's at odds with the Other Two Witches thread, which concerns Head Other Witch taking advantage of and manipulating others and trying to make Agnes give up her dream, which we're supposed to think is wise and charming. The treatment of poor Agnes, who isn't allowed much agency in the novel's climax, is more depressing than I think Pratchett realized, and the perpetually-downtrodden-outcast/bubbleheaded-half-oblivious-mean girl dynamic between the diva and her is thin, rehashed gruel for the length of the story it has to carry. I never quite sorted out the cast of the characters at the opera or found them much endearing; the whole behind-the-scenes mystery seemed a bewildering, pointless waste.

Did like the Masque of the Red Death scene, though.

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cat63
Feb. 3rd, 2012 08:56 am (UTC)
the whole behind-the-scenes mystery seemed a bewildering, pointless waste.

Apologies if I'm stating the obvious, but the whole mystery thing is a parody of The Phantom of the Opera, so it makes more sense if you know at least the basic plot of that...

indigozeal
Feb. 3rd, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC)
I think the weakness of the mystery, though, stems from murky plotting and lackluster characterization. The lot down at the opera don't wholly distinguish themselves, so it's hard to take an interest in their motivations or problems, and the plotting is short-circuited by the ostensible heroine being taken out of the action and the moral of the story going against her apparent arc. The book meanders all over the place and never really gets anywhere worth traveling to.
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