Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review - Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith

Wintersmith (Discworld Book #35) by Terry Pratchett
Published by: Harper Teen
Publication Date: 2006
Format: Paperback, 450 Pages
Challenge: Terry Pratchett, Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Tiffany has been assigned to Miss Treason. After the oddity that is Miss Level, with her two bodies, one person, a blind witch who will use your eyes to see and is into all the trappings of what a witch should appear to be, Tiffany doesn't have too many issues. Issues that drove every other young witch ever to leave Miss Treason, sometimes before the first night was out. But Tiffany understands Miss Treason. The crone with the skulls and the clock that is her own heart, plus the profusion of cobwebs, they all seem to be feeding into the mysticism of witches. They are in fact, pure Boffo! Miss Treason, at the young age of 113, knows that what sells a witch is the stories that have formed around her, and she's worked damn hard to make up some good ones! To the villagers she tends it's pride, my witch is witchier than your witch. So when Miss Treason tells Tiffany that she will be dead soon, after all, 113 is getting up there, the opening of her steading becomes a hotly debated issue among all the witches. Despite Tiffany's young age, she knows the area, and all the other witches think this will lead to Granny Weatherwax bestowing her vote on Tiffany... but of course, Annagramma is the senior witch, so it should go to her. What better way for Granny Weatherwax to prove her point of Tiffany's suitability than by letting Annagramma take over and fail, or rely heavily on Tiffany and the other young witches. But the dispute of a witch's steading is not that important to Tiffany at the moment. One night in the woods she did something beyond foolish and stupid. She went with Miss Treason to watch a dance, because it had to be witnessed. The key is witnessed, not participated in. The Dark Morris is the dance of winter. It lacks the bells and good cheer that bring about summer. As it rightly should, this dance brings about the cold and the snow. The Wintersmith dances while there is a hole for the lady of summer, a hole that Tiffany thinks she'd fit quite nicely into... well actually, she didn't think, she just leaped and spun and danced. Summer and winter never meet, but Tiffany has disrupted this. The Wintersmith thinks that he has found his lady walking above the frozen ground. The Discworld itself starts to think the same as her tread on the earth brings forth new growth, as she's able to see other gods and goddesses, and she gets a very nice cornucopia, which can at least feed everyone while the winter goes on without end. Because the Wintersmith has decided to show Tiffany that not only is he all powerful, but that he can be the man for her... with iron enough to make a man. But if Tiffany cannot defeat the Wintersmith and end eternal snow, that just happens to have snow flakes that resemble her, people are going to die, through cold or starvation, and as for the little lambs down on the chalk, they don't stand a chance. With the help of the Nac Mac Feegle and the Baron's son, Roland, hopefully Spring will return.

Tiffany is growing up. Besides her responsibilities as a witch, which do tend to age one rather fast, she is getting into uncharted territory, mainly boys. Now while many witches retain the "Miss" their whole life, it's not a hard a fast rule. Look at Nanny Ogg, she has had, what, three husbands so far. Coupled with the fact this Wintersmith doesn't know what it's like to be human, let alone a boyish swain, and things get complicated fast. When infatuation brings about blizzards and death, it's a hard row to hoe. And there won't be another harvest ever again if the Withersmith has his way. The Nac Mac Feegle, in their direct and logical way, realize that a hero is needed, someone close to Tiffany's heart. There really is only one choice, Roland. Tiffany and him have always had a connection because of their differences to all others. So what's a little epic myth making thrown in when Roland must go down to the underworld to retrieve Summer. But to me, it's not this teenage angst that is the thread that holds this story together, but the thread of story weaving itself. More than the previous books I love that this story centers on what makes something worthy of myth and legend. It's not how you are, but the legends and lore you weave about yourself. You create your perception of yourself, and it's this that people latch onto. A witch must be a hag, with skulls and cobwebs, if not, she's not much of a witch is she? To prove your love you must battle through the underworld like Orpheus in search of Eurydice. You must make the leap and do that which is epic. Gather enough iron to make a man. You must kiss the winter and bring forth the sun. If at the same time you're able to cheat DEATH and annoy him a little, that's all the better.


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