Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett


My, so many covers.
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: *****
Pages: 375
Series: Part of the mammoth series that is Discworld. I've heard three other books feature Tiffany as a protagonist, but I haven't read them yet.

The Chalk is a patch of rural farm country where girls are expected to become shepherds or farmers' wives. Tiffany Aching wants to be a witch. Sure, the last "witch" was killed by the ignorant townsfolk. But that just means they need someone to stop it from happening again.
Besides, the Chalk has other problems. There's some kind of creature lurking in the river. Something's been carrying off sheep. Another reality is pushing at the border of theirs, letting in more monsters. And Wentworth, Tiffany's whiny, sticky baby brother, has just been kidnapped by elves.
Tiffany teams up with the Nac Mac Feegle-a band of stealing, drinking, fighting, six-inch high blue elves with attitude-to rescue him. She may not be a witch yet, but she's armed with a frying pan and her Granny Aching's wisdom. 
Elves and beasties, beware. You don't stand a chance. 
This is one of the first Terry Pratchett books I've read. That means I need to go find more now. So, why is it so great? Because the Nac Mac Feegle have swords that grow blue in the presence of lawyers. Because one of them's named Not-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-Thank-Wee-Jock Jock. But mostly because Tiffany's in it.
Tiffany Aching is such a wonderful character. She's brave, strong, clever-wait, those all sound like stock hero traits, don't they? Well, Tiffany makes it work. Maybe she is a little bit of a stock hero. But she's so much more. She's practical and curious and very, very angry if you mess with her stuff. She's the kind of girl who reminds you of yourself while you wish you were more like her. 
Best of all, she's a nine year old farmgirl. And she doesn't care. About the nine year old bit, I mean. Cheese making and sheep shearing are very important to her. Tiffany doesn't waste time thinking, "Nobody will believe me when I tell them there's a monster in the river. I'm only nine." Or, "I'm just nine. How am I supposed to fight it?" She just grabs a frying pan and gives it a good walloping. Now that's the way to get things done. 
Alright, enough Tiffany, now for the book itself. The writing's hilarious constantly and beautiful when it feels like it.  The only real flaw I can think of is the Nac Mac Feegle's speech. It's quirky and full of dialect, so sometimes I had to read it aloud to make sense out of it. But that just adds to the charm of the book.
Then there's the dreamworld Tiffany visits. I've read about a few other worlds like that and most of them read like acid trips. Throw out the rules of reality and dazzle you with random imagery. Not Tiffany's. Even though the world follows the fluid rules of dream logic and nothing is as it seems, it still makes sense. And it makes you think. It opens up your mind to a new world of thoughts, hopes, dreams, and ugh, I can't describe this book well enough, can I?
You know what? Just read it yourself. Meanwhile, I'll be looking for the next Tiffany Aching book.