Tiffany Aching is a girl who lives on the Chalk. She’s good at making cheese, she misses and loved her Granny Aching, and she’s also a witch. When her brother – who is a sticky, whiny baby – is stolen by the queen of another world, Tiffany takes it upon herself to go and save him. Armed with only a frying pan and a group of tiny men with Scottish accents, the Nac Mac Feegle, Tiffany sets off to save her brother and to embrace her newly discovered witchy heritage.
I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan of Terry Pratchett. There, I’ve said it; I have set out no less than three times before this to read the Discworld books and never quite caught on. I started at the beginning first, which I was assured was a mistake, though I thought the first two books were okay. Then a lovely friend, intent on correcting my error, sent me Mort which I liked well enough but which didn’t inspire me to read more. A couple of years later another generous friend sent me the Susan books, which again I enjoyed but didn’t inspire me to keep reading. As ever a glutton for punishment, I decided to give Discworld one last try; this time I was inspired by Nymeth who mentioned I Shall Wear Midnight with enough enthusiasm that I chose to give this last arc a chance. I was further encouraged by a number of others’ reviews, so I bought all three paperback Tiffany Aching books in one go and sat down to read this a couple of weeks ago. And, finally, on the fourth try, I was enchanted.
It’s hard to pin down just why this particular book was different. I recognized Pratchett’s sense of humor, which is always mildly amusing but never laugh-out-loud funny, so it wasn’t like this book was a vast step outside of the others. It could simply be that I’m older, that I’ve got a better handle on British culture after living here for over two years. Or, as I’m leaning towards, it’s Tiffany herself, a wonderful female character if I’ve ever encountered one. She’s clever, gutsy, strong, wise, but still human, still a little girl, still prone to confusion. She’s annoyed by her little brother, doesn’t want to take care of him, but she loves him and recognizes his importance all the same.
So much of this book struck a chord with me and I found I couldn’t stop reading. Tiffany’s feelings about her grandmother, the amusing Wee Free Men, the little ways in which Tiffany knows she’s a witch; I loved the series of thoughts in particular on this. She has thoughts about her thoughts, and then thoughts about those thoughts, which apparently only witches can do, and which somehow Pratchett manages to make not at all confusing but rather humorous. Tiffany is a heroine I think everyone girl could embrace; I kind of want to give them this instead of books like Twilight and the vampire romances that are so popular these days. All I know is, when I finished this book, the first thing I wanted to do was read A Hat Full of Sky, which I promptly did, and the only reason I’m writing this review instead of reading Wintersmith is because I didn’t want the stories to run out. I haven’t felt this way in a long time, and I missed it.
So anyway, now that I’ve gushed away, if you like fantasy or young adult literature at all, I highly recommend you read The Wee Free Men.
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