Terry Pratchett – Wee Free Men

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.

wee free men¹THE WEE FREE MEN
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Harper Collins, 2009 (2003)
ISBN: 0061975265
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.

But it’s amazing how useful a horde of unruly pictsies can be – as long as they are pointed in the right direction and can stop fighting each other first . . .divider

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”.

wee free men 2

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)

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The Tiffany Aching Series:

N. K. Jemisin – The Killing Moon

And thusly my Jemisin-spree comes to a halt. Don’t worry, I still love her writing, but I’m afraid I didn’t quite warm to the characters or the plot in this newer duology of hers. I will definitely read the second part but I’m nowhere near as eager as I was after The Broken Kingdoms.

THE KIILLING MOON
by N.K. Jemisin

published: Orbit, 2012
ISBN: 0316202770
pages: 448
copy: ebook
series: Dreamblood #1

my rating: 6/10
goodreads rating: 3.97/5

first sentence: In the dark of dreams, a soul can die.

In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.
But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh’s great temple, Ehiru – the most famous of the city’s Gatherers – must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess’ name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh’s alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill – or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.

It is with one laughing and one crying eye that I look back on The Killing Moon. Jemisin’s writing style, which I have raved about in three other reviews by now, is still as lush and beautiful as ever. She conjures up the most beautiful images in my head and I don’t mind the invasion into my brain at all. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love yet again with this story’s language and style.

However. The big problem is that we are introduced to several characters with names that are quite hard to remember and keep apart, yet we only spend a chapter at a time with each of them, which made it hard for  me to get to know any one character better and build up a relationship for him or her. For more than half of the book, I didn’t care at all and didn’t feel I knew much of their personalities. The young Nijiri was probably the most approachable character and I liked reading about him. He had personality and flaws and dreams – and I wanted him to be happy. Ehiru, while highly interesting, stays very distant and is too perfect in his faith and actions for my taste. Sunandi, who could have been a great character, felt merely like a stand-in or a token female. I’m still not sure why her character had to be there at all. To dump information on our heroes at the appropriate time – but otherwise her actions didn’t impress me at all, nor did she feel three-dimensional. That surprised me a lot, seeing as how the author definitely can write multi-layered characters.

As for the plot… it took long enough to take off. We spend pretty much half the book learning about how the world works. The city of Gujaareh didn’t quite feel vivid enough to me. The religion that rules the city, however, was brilliant. Again, Jemisin shows us that she can use mythology and Freudian dream analysis (yes, really) and mix them up into something wonderful and terrifying. The Hetawa keep the faith of the Hanaja and make sure the city is always at peace – corrupt people are sent into the realm of dreaming, forever.

Once we find out this peace is not as idyllic as we thought, things get more interesting. I really enjoyed the last third of this book but didn’t feel it was worth the slow beginning. What’s more: I still didn’t really feel close to the characters so whenever they got hurt or lost a loved one, the emotions I was supposed to feel simply didn’t come. So this is another book for the love/hate-pile.

I will read part two of the story, despite The Killing Moon‘s abrupt and – in case of Sunandi – ridiculous, unconvicing ending. If you don’t like series, this can easily be read as a standalone.

THE GOOD: Beautiful language, a great made-up religion and good world building.
THE BAD: Rocky beginning, I didn’t really care about the characters, they remain vague or one-dimensional. The inner conflict didn’t really come across.
THE VERDICT: Recommended to fans of Jemisin’s writing or people who enjoy stories in an Egypt-like setting with made-up religions and gods.

RATING: 6/10  Six killing moons. Quite okay.

The Dreamblood Duology:

  1. The Killing Moon
  2. The Shadowed Sun