There were many things I loved about The Wee Free Men, first and foremost its wonderful heroine, Tiffany Aching. But there were also things that bothered me. Now I feel like some part of me secretly went back in time, told Terry Pratchett all of that, he took it into consideration and continued to tell Tiffany’s story only leaving the good bits in. Yes, that is delusional and silly, and no, I don’t actually believe it. Whatever made him write this book the way he did, I am glad about it, because it is fantastic!
Published by: Corgi, 2010 (2004)
Paperback: 368 pages
Series: Discworld #32
Tiffany Aching #2
My rating: 9/10
First sentence: It came crackling over the hills, like an invisible fog.
‘WE SEE YOU. NOW WE ARE YOU . . .’
No real witch would casually step out of their body, leaving it empty. Tiffany Aching does. And there’s something just waiting for a handy body to take over. Something ancient and horrible, which can’t die.
To deal with it, Tiffany has to go to the heart of what makes her a witch. Get past the ‘I can’t’. But even with the help of the Nac Mac Feegle – the rowdiest pictsies on the Disc, who like facing enormous odds – she still might not be able to win herself back . . .
Tiffany Aching, now eleven years old, is ready to take on her apprenticeship as a witch. She expects spells and magic, not the chores she shares with Miss Level – a witch with a rather peculiar personality quirk, if you can call it that. Tiffany learns that there are many sides to being a witch, and that weaving spells or doing actual magic is just a small portion of what witches do. But even though she is doing well and learning things about herself and the world, Tiffany doesn’t know that she’s in danger. A creature is pursuing her. And in this creature, Terry Pratchett has created one of the best villains Discworld has ever seen.
You have to love Tiffany Aching. At eleven, she is still as practical as ever and I’d gladly see more children reading these books and seeing her as a rolemodel. She knows that life is full of lessons, especially the life of a witch, and she takes on her responsibilities like a grown-up. Tiffany deals with problems head-on, doesn’t shy away from unattractive tasks, and still relies on her second and third thoughts. I loved everything about this girl and about the way Pratchett portrays her – and the other witches – in his books. Tiffany is a many-layered, strong protagonist. She is the opposite of a trope, a girl who knows what she wants, makes friends with other girls, but also a girl who has to deal with her own problems.
I was delighted that the Nac Mac Feegle played an important role in this story. They may be the comic center of the tale, but despite their swearing, their love of fighting (and Special Sheep Liniment), they are fiercely loyal to their wee big hag and would gladly risk their lives for her. These little blue men aren’t merely there for comic relief or cute effect, they are central to the plot and responsible for saving Tiffany, when nobody else could. Rob Anybody especially grew on me. Where in the first book, the Feegles kind of blurred in my mind into one big mass of swearing, blue men who steal sheep, their personalities were more distinct and well-rounded.
Terry Pratchett manages, yet again, to mix his wonderful humor with a great story and suspense. The hiver, mysterious and truly scary, made for some quite frightening moments and I asked myself more than once how on earth Tiffany would make it out of this mess. Thank heavens Granny Weatherwax makes an appearance, not only because she nudges Tiffany in the right direction whenever she needs nudging, but also because she is one of the coolest people on Discworld. Tiffany, Granny Weatherwax, and the incomparable Miss Level gave me fits of delight – because they are a celebration of women and Terry Pratchett’s keen eye on humanity is reflected in them.
“Believe me, witches can act together if they must. It’s harder’n herding cats, but it can be done.”
If you can’t tell by now, I’m having a really hard time finding things to criticize here. Of course, Pratchett’s humor isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and I am not a huge fan of his earlier Discworld novels myself. But this was another brilliant combination of silly, clever, and serious – and A Hat Full of Sky may just have kicked The Amazing Maurice off his pedestal and turned into my favorite Discworld novel. For now, at least…
THE GOOD: Wonderful characters, a great plot driven by a multi-layered villain, hilarious dialogue and narration – and lots of hats.
THE BAD: If you don’t like Pratchett’s humor, you won’t like Pratchett’s books. That’s all I can think of, seriously.
THE VERDICT: A children’s book series that I cannot recommend enough. If you’re like me and were a bit unsure about The Wee Free Men, keep reading. This book explores deep themes without raising a finger, Tiffany is a flawed but incredibly lovable character and I dare you to not care about her, the Feegles, Miss Level, and Granny Weatherwax after reading this. I also dare you to stop reading the series after this book. Ha!
RATING: 9/10 – Nearly perfect!