GRANNY Weatherwax's back - and this witch is still bad news. Well, that's what the villains think, anyway.
This time, the heavies are the fairies. No, the other ones, the ones humankind has endowed with wings - except that in Lords and Ladies Terry Pratchett (Corgi, $95) has left out the wings, but added some really nasty traits: these elves may still be beautiful but they are somewhat lacking in the personal hygiene department, and their fashion sense leans heavily on metal. And tattoos.
This time they want more than your teeth - and they are not going to leave money under the pillow, either. The elves, who are confined in another dimension, have decided they want the whole human being and are plotting to break out and conquer the Discworld.
It's up to Granny Weatherwax, fellow witches Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick, wizards, dwarfs, trolls, and an orangutan to stop the fairies. Which, courtesy of Pratchett, they do with tongue-in-cheek humour.
Pratchett's humour is uncomplicated, verging on the hearty; he loves letting the air out of serious literature ( Wyrd Sisters, which introduced the three witches, drew heavily on Macbeth). If you look for lyricism in your literature, go straight to J. R. R. Tolkien; if you like examinations of real life in a fantasy setting, read Stephen Donaldson (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, A Dark and Hungry God Rises).
But if you just want a few laughs, Pratchett is like an ice-cold drink on a hot day - and there is a summer's worth of such days ahead of us.
TERRY Brooks' The Talismans of Shannara (Legend, $72) ties together the threads of the first three books of The Heritage of Shannara series.
Par Ohmsford, Wren Elessedil and Walker Boh were sent on quests - Par to recover the Sword of Shannara, Wren to find the Elves and bring them back to the Four Lands, and Walker to return Paranor, the Druid castle, to their dimension - to help them fight the evil Shadowen.
Now the trio try to master their new-found powers while they prepare to battle the Shadowen.
If you have not started on this series, do so: the characters are fully formed, the plot keeps you turning the pages, the chapters are beautifully balanced, the pace exciting - and Brooke never loses a reader as he switches from character to character, telling the story from several points of view. L. E. MODESITT Jnr's The Magic of Recluce (Orbit, $105) is a coming-of-age tale that poses the question: What's left after perfection? In the land of Recluce, perfection is the norm, but to a restless young boy, Lerris, perfection spells boredom. Unfortunately, restlessness creates chaos, and the guardians of Recluce are ruthless with malcontents: they are sent into exile to fulfil a quest.
Modesitt examines the process of maturation in a magical setting, and has produced a colourful bouquet from her pen. Watch for the sequel, The Towers of the Sunset.
TOM Holt loves to turn heroic conventions upside down. In Grailblazers (Orbit, $85), a comic fantasy tale, he does so in a contemporary setting.
Prince Boamund, who fell asleep 1,500 years ago after drinking a glass of warm milk, is rudely awakened in modern-day Britain to discover the world is still full of magic: motorbikes, fax machines, pizzas delivered to your doorstep.
He is sent on a quest to recover the Holy Grail, which the ancient order of Grail Knights seems to have misplaced centuries ago. These chivalrous and brave men are now eking out a living as pizza deliverymen and salesmen - and there's nothing they want less than to be uprooted and sent on a probably dangerous mission with a snotty idiot like Boamund.
MAGGIE Furey's Aurian (Legend, $60) is the first book in The Artefacts of Power series and follows the coming into power of Aurian, the child of renegade mages, as she sets out to find four lost magical weapons.
The book blurb claims Furey will set epic fantasy alight, but the tale's really not so bad that it deserves to be consigned to a fire.