I am ashamed to admit that I had never read anything by Terry Pratchett, although he had written something like 70 books before his very recent death, so I looked up his oeuvre, and discovered this little beauty written with Neil Gaiman back before he (Pratchett) started his Discworld sprawling series.
Pratchett and Gaiman are both fantasy authors of the first water, so I figured it was worth a read, and wowser, was I right. If fantasy fries your enchiladas, you will love this book.
The tag on this title is The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. As we learn in the book, ‘nice’ is used in the old sense of ‘precise’. Not ‘nice’ in the sense of, well, nice, because the book is all about the End of the World, Armageddon, the Apocalypse, which is definitely not nice in the modern sense.
It stars two ancient beings, one an Angel, Aziraphale, who had been stationed on Earth since, well, almost the beginning, and his opposite number, Crawly, a serpent-like demon who had assumed a human shape and who had been around for about the same length of time. There was some danger that these two, although strictly speaking enemies but were actually quite palsy, had gone somewhat ‘native’. They liked Earth and its civilizations and flawed human population, and neither were in any hurry to return to their headquarters.
Heaven and Hell were about to embark on a war and to that end, had sent a newborn to start the process. But earth creatures being what they are, they messed up when three babies were born at the same time, and it seems like the creature meant to be raised to start the war by appropriate parents, actually got put with some rather nice folks, and the demon seed was raised by normal people who didn’t quite understand him but did their best to keep him in line, and the whole plan got seriously messed up. Even the Hound of Hell sent to help him, a great dark beast with red eyes and drooling saliva, on the desire of his young master, turned himself into a small happy cheerful dog, so the whole thing was going down the tubes.
Just a delightful book filled with delightful characters and odd items, not the least of which was this book of prophecy by the Witch, Agnes Nutter, written some far century ago, but in a random fashion, and it was not really clear which prophecy applied to which incident in history. We have witchhunters, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who were really the Four Motorcyclists of the Apocalypse, with Pestilence giving way to Pollution, since the Plague had pretty much been eradicated back in the umm 1300s, a gang of eleven-year-old boys in a small village, and you may well wonder what they might have to do with the Coming of the End of the World, when there were Angels and Demons involved, but really, it is all just too complicated for me to condense for you, so if you want to see how the End of the World turns out, you will have to read it for yourself.
Just a tidbit for you, to whet your appetite: the demon Crawley drives a vintage 1926 black Bentley, one owner from new, and that owner had been Crowley. It was his treasure, his pride and joy. So much better than that black steed of yore.
Aziraphale was the owner of a book shop specializing in rare, used books. Of the type that contained spells and such.
See? Isn’t that fun? Of course it is. Enjoy, my pretties. The End of the World Is Nigh.
SIDE NOTE, OR POSSIBLY TOP NOTE: I bet you don’t know where the expression “of the first water” originated. Yeah, neither did I, so in the interests of broadening all of our horizons, I looked it up. [I am a river to my people.] Wiki, my bestest friend, says:
First water means “highest quality” and is a term which originates from the gemstone trade. The clarity of diamonds is assessed by their translucence; the more like water, the higher the quality. The 1753 edition of Chambers’ Encyclopedia states “The first water in Diamonds means the greatest purity and perfection of their complexion, which ought to be that of the clearest drop of water. When Diamonds fall short of this perfection, they are said to be of the second or third water, &c. till the stone may be properly called a coloured one.”
And Shakespeare even alludes to it in Pericles:
Heavenly jewels which Pericles hath lost,
Begin to part their fringes of bright gold.
The diamonds of a most praisèd water
Doth appear, to make the world twice rich.