The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , , | Posted on 8:33 AM

Rating: 4/5 stars

Tiffany isn't sure that she has the proper name for a witch, but there's no helping it -- she is determined to be one, despite all those stupid fairy tales with the old crone who gets shoved into ovens or tossed into lakes or set on fire (and no one really thinks about whether this actually helps matters). It probably has something to do with her grandmother, or the way the Achings have always been linked to the Chalklands, but when monstrous things start showing up on the wold, Tiffany knows she has to put a stop to it.

The only problem is, no one's actually taught her how to be a real witch. So Tiffany has to improvise with frying pans and bits of string instead of the traditional kit of cauldron, broomstick, and pointy hat. And she has to be creative in other ways, too -- after all, using one's little brother as monster-bait may not be strictly on the level in a moral sense, but if it gets the job done...

Then Tiffany discovers that help is available, only not in the form she expects. She meets the Nac Mac Feegle, a fierce tribe of blue-tattooed, red-haired warriors, who also happen to be about six inches high. And tend to be compulsive thieves. Which at least explains about the missing eggs and the disappearing sheep.

The Nac Mac Feegles seem to know what's going on, and if Tiffany could get them to stop drinking and fighting long enough to explain, she might be able to sort it all out -- except then some sort of evil Queen kidnaps her little brother, and she is suddenly very short on time...

I adore Terry Pratchett. I love his wry sense of humor and his sly little jokes, and the way he takes the expected and twists it into something fresh -- and especially the obvious joy that he takes in words themselves, their flavors and possibilities. Tiffany is a practical, stubborn nine-year-old girl whose initial self-assurance is really just a bit of common sense with a hefty dollop of pigheadedness and a dash of selfishness - the perfect traits for a witch, who needs to know far more about thinking and watching and understanding how people work than flashy incantations or curses.

This book is geared towards a younger audience, but it doesn't get overly cutesy or simplistic, and the characters are definitely complex enough to care about. The pacing is lively and the plot flows well, and things are wrapped up in a satisfying fashion that leaves plenty of room for more adventures. Maybe not as beloved as the Night Watch exploits, but Tiffany Aching's Chalklands are well worth revisiting.

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