Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Review - Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men

The Wee Free Men (Discworld Book #30) by Terry Pratchett
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 2003
Format: Hardcover, 264 Pages
Challenge: Terry Pratchett, Fantasy,1st in Series
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Tiffany Aching has grown up on the chalk surrounded by sheep. She's never quite trusted the fairy stories that show the princesses as blond and blue eyed and the witches as all being evil and likely to entice you into a candy covered cottage. First off, being a brunette, she's not exactly princess material, secondly, ever since the day a harmless little old lady was killed because she was suspected of being a witch, Tiffany decided she'd grow up to be a witch and prove those fairy tales wrong. Because if her grandmother was still alive she would have protected the little old lady, because them that can has to stand up to them that can't. The thing is, nobody told Tiffany that witches aren't bred on the chalk, it's not proper steading. But it seems that, despite what other witches think, the chalk views Tiffany as a witch. After an encounter with a rather nasty water sprite, wherein Tiffany uses her brother Wentworth as bait, she has gotten the attention of the local critters, in particular the Nac Mac Feegle, a fierce little blue warrior clan with bemusing accents, little being the operative word as they're only six inches high. When Tiffany's little brother disappears, just as the baron's son did a few years earlier, all signs point to mystical mischief. With the help of the Nac Mac Feegle she learns from their ruler, the Kelda, that the Queen of the Fairies has taken Wentworth, as she took the baron's son before. The Queen lives in a land of cold and nightmares, a land where the Feegles are no longer welcome, they caused a bit too much mischief. And the Queen sense a weakness in the chalk and decides perhaps it's time to strike. The Kelda on her deathbed appoints Tiffany the clan's new Kelda so she will have unswerving loyalty in the fight to rescue her brother and save this world from that of fairy. Armed with a frying pan and a posse of little blue men they set forward into the land of snow. Where nightmares become manifest, where paintings are reality and the label on a pouch of tobacco can be entered into and hounds have razors for teeth. It's up to this little girl who wants to be a witch to save the world.

The first book in the Tiffany Aching series is the beginning of one of my favorite arcs in the Discworld oeuvre of Terry Pratchett. Tiffany is a girl as hard as flint and with a mind made to solve problems. Plus, she's a fellow book nerd, she read the dictionary straight through because no one ever told her not to. While the basic plot is akin to any coming of age story where a girl learns her responsibility to her family but also her own strength, thus drawing comparisons to Labyrinth, especially as there is a scene very reminiscent of the ballroom scene in that film, it is so much more. And in the more I'm speciafically referring to the Nac Mac Feegle. I don't think I love anyone in fiction as much as I love these pictsies with there lawless ways, their fear of lawyers and their stubborn loyalty. You want to read their lines aloud to revel in their dialect of half Scottish half absurd, where ships are the wooly things that eat grass and go baa, not to be mistaken for the other. If the book could be said to have a failing it would be that of the impossibility of properly building a nonsensical world. There has only been one person, in my mind, who has ever built a 100% believable world of absurdity, and that would be Lewis Carroll. Terry Pratchett does far far better than most, but a dream world of no logic based on memories, dreams and nightmares is a hodge-podge world wherein the plot gets chunky and doesn't flow. It makes it sectional and not cohesive. But in the end, it's a great start for one of my favorite witches. It's almost like reading about a young Esme Weatherwax, with all her future still to come.


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