Book Review – The Wee Free Men (Discworld: A Tiffany Aching Adventure) by Terry Pratchett
Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching, a young witch-to-be, is all that stands between the monsters of Fairyland and the warm, green Chalk country that is her home. Forced into Fairyland to seek her kidnaped brother, Tiffany allies herself with the Chalk’s local Nac Mac Feegle — aka the Wee Free Men — a clan of sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men who are as fierce as they are funny. Together they battle through an eerie and ever-shifting landscape, fighting brutal flying fairies, dream-spinning dromes, and grimhounds — black dogs with eyes of fire and teeth of razors — before ultimately confronting the Queen of the Elves, absolute ruler of a world in which reality intertwines with nightmare. And in the final showdown, Tiffany must face her cruel power alone….
In a riveting narrative that is equal parts suspense and humor, Carnegie Medalist Terry Pratchett returns to his internationally popular Discworld with a breathtaking tale certain to leave fans, new and old, enthralled.
I wanted to read Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld book “I Shall Wear Midnight“, but then I found out that it was the fourth book in the YA-oriented Discworld: A Tiffany Aching Adventure series. Well, unfortunately, even though I’d practically read every Discworld novel out there, I’d kinda skipped on all the YA ones. Now, since I’m OC about things like reading all the books before in a series, I’m stuck reading all the prior books.
Book #1 is titled The Wee Free Men and it stars the very spunky nine-year-old dairymaid (and also maybe Witch-in-training) Tiffany Aching. Tiffany has made it her self-imposed mission to rescue her (actually really annoying) baby brother Wentworth from the clutches of an evil Faerie Queen. And she’s armed only with her wits, determination, a frying pan, a talking toad and the sheep-disease manual of her dearly departed Granny Aching (who may/may not have been a Witch), and oh yes, she also has an entire army of tiny rough-talking war-mongering Nac Mac Feegles (or the titular Wee Free Men) on her side. The evil Faerie Queen won’t know what hits her, right?
Now, I don’t know why I ever skipped the YA division of the Discworld series of books. But I’m damned glad I decided to read this. Tiffany Aching is who I wish I was when I was nine, she’s like the younger version of Mistress Weatherwax (my absolutely favorite witch in the Discworld series). Tiffany knows exactly who she is and what she wants to do in life, and that’s a lot for a nine-year-old kid. She’s a bit of a know-it-all and bossy besides, but I kinda always wanted to be like that 😉 Besides she kinda needed to have that personality in order to keep the little Wee Free Men (who love their alcohol a wee bit too much) in line, as she battles with the Faerie Queen on the Queen’s turf.
And what a turf it is – it’s partly the snow-covered kingdom of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” but it’s been Pratchett-ized so it’s like this nebulous and half-formed re-imagination of people’s most warped dreams and terrifying nightmares where things are half-real and half-dreams. There are monsters and challenges a-plenty for Tiffany, and there are many, many times when you will think that the Queen has won. Still, as with all the Discworld books, the action/suspense is mixed liberally with a generous helping of laugh-out-loud humor. Tiffany acts like the straight character in a movie where everyone else is a little over-the-top and ridiculous. I loved the Wee Free Men, even though it took me a little time to get used to their weird way of speaking (like Irish or Scottish?).
If I have any criticisms, it would be the frequent flashbacks with Tiffany’s Granny Aching, which while they explained a lot, also took the reader out of the story. It was okay, for one or two times, but there seemed to be a whole lot of reminiscence going on.
All in all though, I was wholly entertained with this book (it’s a fun and funny story!), and I highly recommend this one to both the young and old. I have a lot of respect for the young heroine, especially in her final showdown with the Elf Queen with a lot more than her little brother at stake. And I am so totally pumped to read book #2 in the series A Hat Full of Sky next!
You can also get the book at Barnes & Noble for the same price.