It is official now. Discworld and I have become friends after all. I doubt I’ll ever become a big fan of the earlier Discworld books but ever since I started reading them at random, by pure whim, I have had nothing but fun in Terry Pratchett’s hilarious flat world.
Published by: Harper Collins, 2009 (2003)
ebook: 375 pages
Series: Discworld #30
Tiffany Aching #1
My rating: 7,5/10
First sentence: Some things start before other things.
Up on the Wold, there’s a monster in the river and a headless horseman in the drive. And now Granny Aching has gone, there’s only young Tiffany Aching left to guard the boundaries. To stop . . . things getting through.
It’s her land. Her duty.
Tiffany Aching is a practical, nine-year-old girl who has decided she would like to become a witch. Living on the Chalk, however, means herding sheep, making cheese and butter and – the one really bad thing – taking care of your useless and constantly sticky baby brother Wentworth. When Tiffany meets a scary creature in the stream and soon stands face to lack-of-face with a headless rider, she knows that things are afoot. Thankfully, the Nac Mac Feegle, little blue men in kilts and with a drinking problem, are there to help her wherever they can.
It is with utter charm and magic that Terry Pratchett allows us to enter Discworld once more. While Ankh-Morpork may be the center of the craziness, the Chalk made for a refreshing, rural setting and I couldn’t help but love Tiffany. A young girl who knows how to spell difficult words, how to cure ailments in sheep, and how to smack a monster over the head with a frying pan – she’s a heroine to my liking.
I found this book to be more obviously centered in the YA genre than The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents which is not to say that it is dumbed down in any way. I appreciate how Pratchett manages to keep the plot straight-forward (if not exaclty simple) and still respect his younger readers. He does not subscribe to the school of “that’s too hard for kids to understand”.
The main story arc is Tiffany’s little brother getting lost and her trying to get him back. However, there is so much more to discover. This book is about dreams and magic and believing in yourself. Tiffany does not rely on other people to help her, and she is not a perfect little person. There are moments of self-doubt, a lot of self-reflections (her Second and Third Thoughts take care of that) and realisations about life. All of that is wrapped in a fun adventure story with cursing, sort-of-Scottish blue men who are six inches tall and whose swords glow blue when there are lawyers nearby.
You know that you will laugh when you pick up a Discworld novel and this one is no exception. It was not laugh-out-loud funny on every page, some jokes are much subtler than others. I believe that any child will adore the Nac Mac Feegles for the hilarious creatures that they are. But there is enough for adults to get out of this to merit a read. References to fairy tales or pop culture may not be understood by every child but they will add a chuckle or two for (young) adults.
I must say, Maurice blew me away more but it is really not fair to compare the two. Tiffany Aching is an engaging, strong heroine and I look forward to her next adventure. Her character arc alone made this worthwile and I highly recommend it to fans of Discworld or even someone completely new to Pratchett’s world. If you don’t know where to start, the YA books are good choices. And trust me, you will not want to stop there.
THE GOOD: A fantastic protagonist, a lot of fun, crazy adventures and terrifying creatures. Not a single boring moment.
THE BAD: A bit confusing at times, especially when we enter dreams-within-dreams. Also, the toad should have been allowed to talk more.
THE VERDICT: A highly recommended (starter) novel of Discworld that introduces a character the likes of whom YA literature needs more.
RATING: 7,5/10 – Very, very good (leaning towards an 8)
The Tiffany Aching Series: