Terry Pratchett – Feet of Clay

Well, it’s official. The Night Watch will never be the Witches, but as Terry Pratchett goes, I’ll take whatever I can get. Commander Vimes and Captain Carrot are crime-solving again. And this time, golems are involved…

feet of clayFEET OF CLAY
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Corgi, 2013 (1996)
Paperback: 416 pages
Series: Discworld #19
My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: It was a warm spring night when a fist knocked at the door so hard that the hinges bent.

There’s a werewolf with pre-lunar tension in Ankh-Morpork. And a dwarf with attitude, and a Golem who’s begun to think for itself. But Commander Vimes is more concerned about the crime that’s happened. He’s got to find out not only whodunit, but howdunit too. He’s not even sure what they dun. But as soon as he knows what the questions are, he’s going to want some answers.

Ankh-Morpork is in trouble again. Not one, but two murders have happened and Commander Vimes doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s going on. All he knows is that somehow the golems are involved. These giant clay figures can’t speak – nor, technically, think for themselves – all they do is serve and work. Their production has been prohibited but the ones that are already around are allowed to stay. Much to the chagrin of the general population…

As has been the case with the other City Watch novels, I was less intrigued with the murders and the crime-solving, and more with all the other stuff that goes on in Discworld’s capital city. This novel did some interesting things and, in the process, granted the characters an additional layer of credibility. As much as we love Carrot, for example, he is quite surprised and makes some truly idiotic remarks when he finds out one of the new Watch members (a dwarf) is female. Angua tells it to him how it is:

“Female? He told you he was female?”
“She,” Angua corrected. “This is Ankh-Morpork, you know. We’ve got extra pronouns here.”
She could smell his bewilderment. Of course, everyone knew that, somewhere down under all those layers of leather and chain mail, dwarfs came in enough different types to ensure the future production of more dwarfs, but it was not a subject that dwarfs discussed other than at those essential points in a courtship when embarrassment might otherwise arise.
“Well, I would have thought she’d have the decency to keep it to herself,” Carrot said finally. “I mean, I’ve nothing against females. I’m pretty certain my stepmother is one. But I don’t think it’s very clever, you know, to go around drawing attention to the fact.”
“Carrot, I think you’ve got something wrong with your head,” said Angua.

So even Carrot isn’t perfect. But then, neither is Angua. When it comes to golems, she is no fun at all. Being undead herself – even though I’m not sure yet how exactly werewolves work on Discworld – she has a lot of problems with the unalive. What ails her particularly is the fact that golems are just accepted for what they are, while she (and vampires or zombies) has to fight for her rights every day. And usually, it means leaving a place where people have found out about her “condition”.

Let me tell you, it was just lovely to see other sides of these characters. Especially Carrot, who was too good to be true anyway. It’s nice to see him blunder and just blurt out whatever comes to mind. But once his mistakes are pointed out, he goes back to being a Protector Of The People – including undead, unalive, and females.

Having fallen in love with the Discworld through the Tiffany Aching novels, I couldn’t help but grin when Wee Mad Arthur showed up in Feet of Clay. As a professional rat-catcher, no less. Although he is called a gnome, we all know he is a sort of Nac Mac Feegle. And, if you ask me, any book is automatically better if it has Feegles in it.

Despite the interesting social aspects, this book didn’t grab me as much as others. Sure, there were moments so funny that I could have sprayed juice from my nose, and Pratchett is as clever as always. But the plot left me hanging a little. I also think that the new additions to the City Watch spread the story out over too many viewpoints. Men at Arms was perfect in that respect, Feet of Clay felt all over the place and didn’t give some characters enough room to develop.

All things considered, it was a nice read. If you consider yourself a Discworld fan, it’s a no-brainer that you’re going to read them all anyway. And if you’re new to Discworld, I suggest starting either with one of the YA novels (The Amazing Maurice or the Tiffany Aching books) or Guards! Guards!. For me, it’s time for a little break from the Night Watch. I’ll got and see what Death has been up to…

divider1The City Watch novels (Discworld):

  1. Guards! Guards!
  2. Men at Arms
  3. Feet of Clay
  4. Jingo
  5. The Fifth Elephant
  6. Night Watch
  7. Thud!
  8. Snuff

Terry Pratchett – Guards! Guards!

This was my first re-reads in a long, long time. I do have an accumulating pile of books that I desperately want to read again but you know how it is. So many new and shiny books come out every month that the old favorites get forgotten. To be fair, I read Guards! Guards! when I was about sixteen and didn’t remember a lot of it. This time, to change things up a bit, I didn’t read my old paperback copy but listened to the audiobook instead. As always, Nigel Planer does a fantastic job of bringing Pratchett’s characters to life.

guards guardsGUARDS! GUARDS!
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Random House, 1990 (1989)
Paperback: 317 pages
Series: Discworld #8
My rating: 7/10

First sentence: This is where the dragons went.

Here there be dragons . . . and the denizens of Ankh-Morpork wish one huge firebreather would return from whence it came. Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all . . .).

Meanwhile, back at Unseen University, an ancient and long-forgotten volume–The Summoning of Dragons–is missing from the Library’s shelves. To the rescue come Captain Vimes, Constable Carrot, and the rest of the Night Watch who, along with other brave citizens, risk everything, including a good roasting, to dethrone the flying monarch and restore order to Ankh-Morpork (before it’s burned to a crisp). A rare tale, well done as only Terry Pratchett can.

Guards! Guards!
is the first novel in the Night Watch sub-series of Discworld. If you’re new to thsi universe, this is a great starting point. It introduces Captain Vimes, a mostly drunk and depressed man who doesn’t really see much point in his job anymore, as well as his companions with all their quirks and eccentricities. Carrott is probably one of the most adorably pure-hearted characters I’ve ever read about and while I have a soft spot in my heart for grumpy old Vimes, Carrott is the anchor that helps the Watch remember why they exist.

Terry Pratchett often said that this was meant to be a book about Carrott, but Vimes just took over. It’s easy to see how. He is not exactly an anti-hero – he does want to do the right thing, he just doesn’t have the gumption. The dynamic between Vimes, Carrott, Sergeant Colon and “Nobby” Nobs is great fun to read and some of their dialogue made me laugh out loud.

As I’ve said many times before, it is wonderful to see how Terry Pratchett evolved as a writer, how his stories become better and better. Seeing as this is only the eight Discworld novel, you now probably expect me to say it lacks craft. It really doesn’t. Sure, Sir Terry’s newer work is snappier and better structured but Guards! Guards! still manages to juggle a mystery plot with several view points and keep it interesting. Whenever you’re not guessing who is behind the conspiracy to call a dragon in order to lure out the king of Ankh-Morpork, you can just enjoy the hilarious banter or Vimes’ amazing character development. And Errol, of course. That little swamp dragon stole my heart in no time, and him eating a tea kettle was just the cherry on top.

I am and will probably always be a Witch girl at heart. But the Night Watch show us a different aspect of Discworld. Their story lines give us police procedurals set in the capital. Politics, intrigue, the Patrician’s cleverness, crazy bar brawls and all. What’s not to love? Did I miss Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg? Sure! But Vimes’ story is interesting in that his personal life developes, as well as his character. While Granny will probably remain a virgin forever, Vimes may have family life ahead of him, and the same goes for Carrott, who is still young and – although raised by dwarves and believing himself to be one (a six foot tall specimen…) – discovering that the big city has a lot to offer.

I felt that this was very much a novel setting up a place and characters for future stories. It wasn’t my favorite Discworld novel but I loved it in that it offers so many possibilities for the ones that come after. And even though I’m tickled to start reading Death’s storyline, I will probably jump straight into another Watch adventure after this.

MY RATING:  7/10  –  Very good

divider1The City Watch novels (Discworld):

  1. Guards! Guards!
  2. Men at Arms
  3. Feet of Clay
  4. Jingo
  5. The Fifth Elephant
  6. Night Watch
  7. Thud!
  8. Snuff

guards guards cover art

Terry Pratchett – Witches Abroad

It appears that, despite my reading resolutions, half a dozen ongoing challenges, and recommendations from friends and fellow bloggers, I am making my way through the Discworld series without so much as a pit stop. So it will come as no surprise that, after jumping around in the series rather wildly, I picked up the next (chronological) Witches novel.
When Terry Pratchett says “Witches are abroad”, they literally go abroad. With Granny Weatherwax’s practicality and Nanny Ogg’s immesurable knowledge of how to say things in “foreign”, what could possibly go wrong…?

witches abroad1WITCHES ABROAD
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Corgi, 2013 (1991)
ISBN: 0552167509
Paperback: 368 pages
Series: Discworld #12
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: This is the Discworld, which travels through space on the back of four elephants which themselves stand on the shell of Great A’Tuin, the sky turtle.

It seemed an easy job . . . After all, how difficult could it be to make sure that a servant girl doesn’t marry a prince?
But for the witches Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick, travelling to the distant city of Genua, things are never that simple. Servant girls have to marry the prince. That’s what life is all about. You can’t fight a Happy Ending. At least — up until now.

It’s fairy tale time. If you think that Witches are the only female magic-users on the Discworld, you forget a very important branch – fairy godmothers. Young Magrat inherits one late fairy godmother’s wand and the job that comes with it. There is a princess-turned-scullery-maid in Genua who must be kept from marrying the prince. Of course, this is Terry Pratchett, so expect every single fairy tale to be turned on its head, every cliché subverted, and every witch in Granny Weatherwax’s coven to be smart enough to see the bigger picture and realise that a Happy Ending isn’t necessarily what’s in the story book.

This is part travelogue, part mystery, and part crazy fairy tale. When the witches set off on their broomsticks and fly to Genua, there is much fun to be had. Little things like Nanny Ogg’s travel provisions, the fact that she brings Greebo, the cat, along, and Granny’s broomstick trouble make the journey all the more delightful. I was particularly enchanted and amused by Nanny’s ability to speak “foreign” and (more or less) translate words into English. On one of their stops, Granny Weatherwax once more shows her skill in playing cards, this time the famous Cripple Mr. Onion. Also, Nanny Ogg accidentally invents postcards and the little notes she sends home to her son Jason are hilarious. Misspelled words included.

Nanny Ogg sent a num­ber of cards home to her fam­ily, not a sin­gle one of which got back be­fore she did. This is tra­di­tional, and hap­pens every­where in the uni­verse.

witches abroad full cover

Terry Pratchett knows his fairy tales. While this Discworld book focuses mainly on Cinderella, influences of other well-known and not so well-known stories slip into the witches’ adventure. Take Mrs Gogol’s house, for example. You can see it in the (very green!) full cover illustration above. Anyone who’s ever heard of Baba Yaga will recognise that house on chicken’s legs immediately.

But even if you’re not a friend of fairy tales, classic or obscure, there are many more things to amuse and delight. If you’ve ever wondered, for example, if Discoworld had its own Casanova, search no longer. That is all I will say on the subject because he is best enjoyed without bias. I also loved Discworld’s take on racism. There is none. Because the inhabitants are too busy with speciism, nobody cares what color your skin is, just so long as you’re not a goblin. Of course, this is meant to be taken with a grain of salt, but I believe it shows Pratchett’s amazing gift when hiding real-world issues in Discworld without wielding the morality hammer. Sometimes when I read his books I feel that he just gets it.

Another pleasant surprise was that we find out a bit about Granny Weatherwax’s family and her upbringing. She is still a mysterious (and absolutely wonderful) character, but I believe she became much more human in this novel. Nobody needs worry, though. She is still a fond user of “headology” and her success rate remains incredible.

Some­times Ma­grat re­ally won­dered about the oth­ers’ com­mit­ment to witch­craft. Half the time they didn’t seem to bother.
Take med­i­cine, for ex­am­ple … Granny just gave peo­ple a bot­tle of coloured water and told them they felt a lot bet­ter.
And what was so an­noy­ing was that they often did.
Where was the witch­craft in that?

Having read Maskerade first, I had assumed certain things as facts without asking myself where they came from. Here was the genesis of one character’s transformation and it goes to show the author’s talent. I didn’t feel like anything was spoiled. Sure, I knew beforehand what would happen to the character but going back in time felt more like a privilege and a pleasure rather than catching up on a spoiled ending. Well done, Sir Terry!

I am getting to the point where I try (in my head) to rank the Discworld novels I have read so far. Tiffany Aching is still way ahead of anyone else, but Witches Abroad may just be my favorite Witches book yet. Let’s see if Lords and Ladies can kick it off its throne. Did I mention I’m already halfway through that one? What I’m saying is: Read the Discworld books.

RATING: 8 –  Excellent

divider1The Witches novels (Discworld):

  1. Equal Ritesgranny and nanny
  2. Wyrd Sisters
  3. Witches Abroad
  4. Lords and Ladies
  5. Maskerade
  6. Carpe Jugulum
  7. Tiffany Aching (sub-series)
    1. The Wee Free Men
    2. A Hat Full of Sky
    3. Wintersmith
    4. I Shall Wear Midnight

Terry Pratchett – Wyrd Sisters

Yes, yes. It’s me and those witches again. The more Discworld books I read, the more I want to be like Granny Weatherwax and/or Nanny Ogg when I’m old. They are the coolest old ladies I’ve ever read about and I can’t get enough of them. Even if this wasn’t my favorite Discworld novel, I still enjoyed myself enormously.

wyrd sisters1WYRD SISTERS
by Terry Pratchet

Published by: Corgi, 2012 (1988)
ISBN: 0552166642
Paperback: 368 pages
Series: Discworld #6
My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: The wind howled.

Things like crowns had a troublesome effect on clever folks; it was best to leave all the reigning to the kind of people whose eyebrows met in the middle.

Three witches gathered on a lonely heath. A king cruelly murdered, his throne usurped by his ambitious cousin. A child heir and the crown of the kingdom, both missing.
Witches don’t have these kind of dynastic problems themselves – in fact, they don’t have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn’t have. But even she found that meddling in royal politics was a lot more complicated than certain playwrights would have you believe, particularly when the blood on your hands just won’t wash off and you’re facing a future with knives in it…

The German title for this early Discworld novel is MacBest and it should give you a pretty good idea of the theme Terry Pratchett tackles in this one. There are three witches and thespians, destiny and murdered kings, bubbling cauldrons and a clever fool – and of course Greebo, the cat.

When Granny, Nanny, and Magrat’s meeting is interrupted, they find themselves with an infant and a crown on their hands. Since witches don’t meddle in politics, they find a safe place for both child and crown – a travelling troupe of actors whose fake crowns are much more grand than the real one now hidden among their props. This sets the stage for the second Witches novel on Discworld.

“Things that try to look like things often do look more like things than things.”

I am repeating myself but no story involving Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax will ever be truly bad. The strange thing is that I got to know them in reverse. I remember Granny most clearly as a side character in the (brilliant!) Tiffany Aching books. Going back to the beginning, I was curious to see whether she has always been the way she is or whether the author tweaked her personality along the way. I was incredibly happy to find good old, cranky Granny Weatherwax, just as I remembered her (from the future… sort of). The same goes for Nanny Ogg, who just makes me happy. I’m thinking of printing a poster of Nanny Ogg and Greebo to hang on my wall.

wyrd sisters full cover

While I liked most of the side characters, a lot of them were left rather shallow or were thrown in for a good laugh of two. Unlike the later Discworld novels, this one was more fun and less depth. There is nothing wrong with that. Not every novel needs to have a deep core that will leave you thinking for months later. Honestly, watching Granny Weatherwax in a dungeon, inquiring about the various torture devices, was more fun than I ever would have thought.

Ma­grat tried. Every morn­ing her hair was long, thick and blond, but by the evening it had al­ways re­turned to its nor­mal wor­ried frizz. To ame­lio­rate the ef­fect she had tried to plait vi­o­lets and cowslips in it. The re­sult was not all she had hoped. It gave the im­pres­sion that a win­dow box had fallen on her head.

Enough praise for Granny and Nanny. This was my first novel involving Magrat and I’m not a fan. I enjoyed the humor at her cost (yes, I’m mean that way) and she was a nice anchor of normality when Granny and Nanny had their banter going, but I didn’t really connect with her the way I did with other characters. My guess is that it’s just a matter of taste because she was a well-written, rounded character, if somewhat too fond of “occult jewellery”.

The only fault I can find with this novel is that the plot is a bit of a mess at times, and that it simply isn’t as good as what Pratchett writes now. And that’s rather a reason to be happy. If an author publishes his best work young and never manages to surpass it, it will be a sad day for us readers. Terry Pratchett’s development can be traced through his Discworld novels. So while I didn’t fall head over heels in love with Wyrd Sisters, it was a fun light read that shows Pratchett’s cleverness, even if it doesn’t do it as well as his newer books.

RATING: 6,5/10  –  Quite good.

divider1Second opinions:

Terry Pratchett – Maskerade

Discworld has taken a hold of me. It is a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants who, in turn, are standing on the back of a giant turtle going through space. It may have taken me a few years to fully understand Sir Terry’s brilliance, but now that I have discovered it, I find it hard to read anything else…

by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Corgi (1995)
ISBN: 0552167567
Paperback: 381 pages
Series: Discworld #18
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: The wind howled.

‘I thought: opera, how hard can it be? Songs. Pretty girls dancing. Nice scenery. Lots of people handing over cash. Got to be better than the cut-throat world of yoghurt, I thought. Now everwhere I go there’s…’
Death, to be precise. And plenty of it. In unpleasant variations. This isn’t real life – it’s worse. This is the Opera House, Ankh-Morpork…a huge, rambling building, where innocent young sopranos are lured to their destiny by a strangely-familiar evil mastermind in a mask and evening dress, with a penchant for lurking in shadows, occasional murder, and sending little notes full of maniacal laughter and exclamation marks. Opera can do that to a man.
But Granny Weatherwax, Discworld’s most famous witch, is in the audience. And she doesn’t hold with that sort of thing. So there’s going to be trouble (but nevertheless a good evenin’s entertainment with murders you can really hum…). And the show MUST go on.

Terry Pratchett takes on many things in his ongoing Discworld series. The Ankh-Morpork opera is not all that different from opera in our world as anybody who has ever been to the theater will see. But this isn’t just a book that makes fun of opera and the mentality of The show must go on! This is what would happen if The Phantom of the Opera were set in Discworld… with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg right in the middle of it. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

I have read Gaston Leroux’s novel, I know the musical songs, and I have seen the movie (with Gerard Butler as the phantom) and while you don’t need any knowledge of the original story to enjoy Terry Pratchett’s version, a handful of jokes and remarks made me giggle in particular because I remembered the original phantom. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

maskerade cover

Nanny and Granny are in need of a third witch to complete their coven. They feel that something is missing with just the two of them sitting on top of each other. Agnes Nitt seems a promising young girl, if not very gifted in the looks department, and she would make a first class witch. But Agnes has other plans. Calling herself Perdita X. Nitt – the X is for mystery –  she plans to make a name for herself at the opera. However, people there all agree that she has “great personality” and “good hair” but can’t really be put on stage where people can see her. Christine, the young, blonde, and thin girl, on the other hand, may be an awful singer but has exactly the kind of “stage presence” the directors are looking for.  Terry Pratchett has a talent for dealing with issues without overwhelming his readers or lecturing them. Agnes is fat. And – judging by the reactions she gets from other characters – quite ugly. But she has the voice of an angel and the heart of a witch, and so I found myself caring about her from the first moment onward. It can’t be argued that she suffers because of her looks and that some doors will always remain firmly closed to her.

nanny ogg stampWhen the resident opera ghost starts killing people, Agnes spends more time trying to figure out who the ghost is than worrying about her own career. As do Granny Weatherwax and the inimitable Nanny Ogg. I haven’t seen much of Nanny, as she only appears in the last Tiffany Aching book as a side character, but oh gods do I love her. Who wouldn’t love an old, round lady who keeps her money up her knickers and lives with a cat like Greebo? The banter the old witches have going on was especially fun to read. With those two, I don’t even need a plot.

But Pratchett wouldn’t be Pratchett if he let us down. There is a story here and it is not only a whodunit. Figuring out who exactly the ghost is wasn’t all that difficult but there are other questions that need answering, and I personally needed Granny’s help with that. I was also delighted with the cameos by the City Watch and the Librarian from the Unseen University. Discworld feels like such a rich and vibrant place that becomes real in your head and when these guys show up unexpectedly, it’s like old friends come visit you by surprise. I haven’t even read half the Discworld novels and already I couldn’t tell you anymore who my favorite character is.

EDIT: I completely forgot to mention the best poker game I’ve ever read about. Granny Weatherwax plays poker against Death for the soul of a sick child. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time and it was one of those scenes that was incredibly touching at the same time. Ah, Death… you make everything seem kind of okay.

Whether I’ll turn out to like the witches more, or Death, or the City Watch, there is one thing I now know for sure. Discoworld is a feel-good place, even though bad things happen there as much as anywhere (if not more). Make a note for reading slumps or bad times or terrible weather. Because I know where I’ll be when either of these happen…

RATING: 8/10  –  Excellent!

Something I’ve been thinking about lately: The reason I picked this (quite random) Discworld novel was actually a bit of an experiment. When I read the first Death novel (Mort), then the first witches novel (Equal Rites) and then the first guards novel (Guards! Guards!), I was entertained but never really hooked enough to call myself a Pratchett or Discworld fan. Then – as my careful readers will remember – Tiffany Aching happened and I was all afire. Now I saw two possible reasons for my change of heart. Either, when I first picked up the books mentioned above, I was too young to fully grasp how brilliantly Terry Pratchett writes satirical, hilarious, yet deep novels. Or the reason is that the older Discworld novels simply weren’t that good. I went for the witches because duh, and I went for the 18th Discworld book because it is slightly older but not one of the very first ones, to see how my theory would hold up.

I now blame myself completely and intend to re-read all the Discworld books I read when I was younger. Terry Pratchett is a genius and a master storyteller and I am quite glad that I still have a ton of his books to read. The upcoming one – Raising Steam – sounds like a blast.


The Discworld Series:

  1. The Colour of Magic
  2. The Light Fantastic
  3. Equal Rites
  4. Mort
  5. Sourcery
  6. Wyrd Sisters
  7. Pyramids
  8. Guards! Guards!
  9. Eric
  10. Moving Pictures
  11. Reaper Man
  12. Witches Abroad
  13. Small Gods
  14. Lords and Ladies
  15. Men at Arms
  16. Soul Music
  17. Interesting Times
  18. Maskerade
  19. Feet of Clay
  20. Hogfather
  21. Jingo
  22. The Last Continent
  23. Carpe Jugulum
  24. The Fifth Elephant
  25. The Truth
  26. Thief of Time
  27. The Last Hero
  28. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
  29. Night Watch
  30. The Wee Free Men
  31. Monstrous Regiment
  32. A Hat Full of Sky
  33. Going Postal
  34. Thud!
  35. Wintersmith
  36. Making Money
  37. Unseen Academicals
  38. I Shall Wear Midnight
  39. Snuff
  40. Raising Steam

Terry Pratchett – I Shall Wear Midnight

This is it. Tiffany Aching’s story is over, at least for now. Terry Pratchett said in an interview that, were he ever to continue telling Tiffany Aching’s story, the next book would have to be an adult novel because Tiffany would be grown up. Now that’s a thought I like. That girl kicked ass when she was nine and picked up a frying pan, just imagine what she can do as a fully-grown witch…

i shall wear midnight2I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT
by Terry Pratchett

Published in: Corgi Childrens, 2010
ISBN: 9780552555593
Paperback: 424 pages
Series: Tiffany Aching #4
Discworld #38

My rating: 9/10

First sentence: Why was it, Tiffany Aching wondered, that people liked noise so much?

It starts with whispers.
Then someone picks up a stone.
Finally, the fires begin.
When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .
Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.
But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.
Chilling drama combines with laugh-out-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.

The Discworld sub-series about the young apprentice witch Tiffany Aching has been consistently good, but was never more touching than in this final volume. As Tiffany grows older, so do the themes the author explores. Most striking, this book takes a very dark turn and recounts some of the more terrible things human beings are capable of doing. Tiffany, however, takes these things with her usual calm and the knowledge that she is doing the best she can, as any good witch would. While the first books can be put into children’s hands without second thoughts, there was one scene in particular in I Shall Wear Midnight that I found shocking, even as a grown-up. When a young girl, who is pregnant, is beaten by her father so violently that she loses the child, Tiffany is the one who will try to make things right. Or as right as they can be in such a situation. Clearly, being a witch of almost-sixteen means trodding darker territory than ever before.

In the way he does so well, Terry Pratchett manages to lift his readers’ moods by being absolutely hilarious. While I loved Tiffany’s visit to the actual Boffo, there were numerous moments that elicited chuckles, laughter, and sometimes hysterical giggling on my part. I feel like I’m repeating myself because, honestly, Pratchett does what he’s been doing for the last few books, and does it as well – if not better. While Discworld is a funny place, it is usually the little moments of wisdom, of bravery and kindness, that get to me and make these books so memorable.

And so, because nobody in the castle had ever been very enthusiastic about the dungeon, everybody had forgotten that it had a chimney. And that is why Tiffany looked up and saw, high above her, that little patch of blue which a prisoner calls the sky, but which she, as soon as it was dark enough, intended to call the exit.

I have talked a lot about Tiffany as a character and a rolemodel and someone I would want to be friends with if she were real (or I lived in Discworld). But, wonderful as she is, I must metion the side characters. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg only have a short cameo in this book. In their stead, we get to see a lot more or Roland and the lady Letitia (whose name is “halfway between a salad and a sneeze”) and her horrible snob of a mother. Just as I got comfortable hating certain characters and joining Tiffany in thinking nasty thoughts about them, Terry Pratchett reminded me that, despite their faults, these are still people with their own worries and dreams. Making every single character so very human that I can believe they are real (if only in my mind) is a feat that more authors should try to accomplish. Even characters we only see for one little scene get enough depth to make them three-dimensional.

midnight wearerAs I said above, the plot is a lot more sinister than in the previous books. Tiffany is neither hunted by a hiver, nor wooed by the Wintersmith. Instead, she has a much creepier, and more dangerous, creature to deal with. A creature that brings out the worst in people and a perfect villain, if you ask me. I enjoyed seeing Tiffany do her regular witchy work, although it does require watching people die at times, or helping a young girl recover from a beating, but her trip to Ankh Morpork definitely added another layer of fun to it. Not only does she meet certain officers of the Watch and visit Boffo’s, but another familiar character from the early Discoworld books makes an appearance.

The last thing I want to mention is the romance. Or lack thereof. Or the turning-on-the-head of the non-existing romance. You know… Sir Terry takes tropes from fairytales and fantasy literature alike and shows Tiffany (and us readers) that tropes aren’t actually rules.

And Tiffany… went back in time, just for a second. But in that second she was a little girl again, reading the well-thumbed book of fairy stories that all her sisters had read before her. But she had seen what they had not seen; she had seen through it. It lied. no, well, not exactly lied, but told you truths that you did not want to know: that only blonde and blue-eyed girls could get the prince and wear the glittering crown. It was built into the world. Even worse, it was built into your hair colouring. Redheads and brunettes sometimes got more than a walk-on part in the land of story, but if all you had was a rather mousy shade of brown hair you were marked down to be a servant girl.

Terry Pratchett doesn’t just show us that this “rule” goes both ways (what if a blonde girl wants to be something other than a glittering princess?) but also that its bullshit. Young girls with mousy brown hair, take heart. The other trope that was clearly subverted is the love story, even the love triangle. Now Tiffany is not immune to jealousy but she is also a clever and resourceful girl who trusts her Second and Third thoughts when they tell her the difference between love and friendship.

I am truly sad that this wonderful journey is over and can only hope that Terry Pratchett writes another book about the coolest witch I’ve ever read about.

THE GOOD: Brilliant characters, hilarious moments, a strong heroine dealing with tough situations.
It’s the last one in the seires!
Still as highly recommended as three books ago. Tiffany has stolen my heart and I already long to go back to her universe, the Nac Mac Feegles and the witches. Although I like none of them half as much as I like Tiffany. These are the kinds of books I wish I could have read when I was little.

RATING: 9/10  – Close to perfection


The Tiffany Aching Series:

  1. The Wee Free Mentiffany aching series
  2. A Hat Full of Sky
  3. Wintersmith
  4. I Shall Wear Midnight

Terry Pratchett – Wintersmith

Aaaaaaand we’re back. I like it when book series continually grow and become better as they move along. Terry Pratchett has created a wonderful heroine with Tiffany Aching and so far, every book has been better than the last. I’m already sad that I only have one more Tiffany-book ahead of me but, hey, maybe Sir Terry will write another adventure for the plucky young witch. I’m certainly crossing my fingers.

by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Corgi Childrens, 2007 (2006)
ISBN: 9780552553698
Paperback: 384 pages
Series: Discworld #35
Tiffany Aching #3

My rating: 9/10

First sentence: When the storm came, it hit the hills like a hammer.

Tiffany Aching is a trainee witch — now working for the seriously scary Miss Treason. But when Tiffany witnesses the Dark Dance — the crossover from summer to winter — she does what no one has ever done before and leaps into the dance. Into the oldest story there ever is. And draws the attention of the Wintersmith himself.
As Tiffany-shaped snowflakes hammer down on the land, can Tiffany deal with the consequences of her actions? Even with the help of Granny Weatherwax and the Nac Mac Feegle — the fightin’, thievin’ pictsies who are prepared to lay down their lives for their “big wee hag.”

dividerOh Tiffany, how much richer YA literature has become because of you. This 13-year-old girl may be clever and kind, but even young witches listening to their second and third thoughts sometimes make mistakes. This is a book about such a girl, making a rather big mistake – and then dealing with it, making things right again.

Tiffany Aching is now apprenticed to a new witch, the frightening and very odd Miss Treason. Now that’s a witch the way you imagine it. Blind and deaf, she borrows the eyes and ears of unfortunate creatures around her. May I draw your attention to the (beautifully detailed) cover, with her two seeing eye crows perched on her back? Tiffany wouldn’t be Tiffany if she didn’t just accept that Miss Treason is strange and get on with the job. And I was as surprised as Tiffany when certain things are revealed about the terrifying old lady in the black house. Terry Pratchett has created an entire cast of characters that is lovable and diverse and – despite their witchiness – utterly human. Up until now I thought Granny Weatherwax was the coolest person on Discworld but Miss Treason may just give her a run for her money.

Tnac mac feegleiffany is slowly growing up and makes sure everybody knows that Roland is not her beau but simply a friend who writes letters. Ahem. I was delighted to see more of Roland in this novel and couldn’t help shouting “awesome” whenever he outsmarted his terrible aunts. But then, I had the urge to shout “awesome” on nearly every page. Whenever we don’t get to see interesting and highly amusing sides to people’s characters (Granny Weatherwax now owns a kitten called You), Terry Pratchett lets us in on the secrets of Discworld. I will never forget a certain Boffo, nor the trip to the underworld with the Nac Mac Feegle. But this book isn’t called Wintersmith for nothing and while the story is still centered around Tiffany Aching growing up and becoming a witch, Pratchett managed to build his own mythology by creating the Wintersmith and the Summer Lady. Needless to say, I loved every bit of it.

I was introduced to a Discworld regular in this volume. Nanny Ogg – who lives at Tir Nani Ogg (that still cracks me up so much) – is not only a kind, apple-faced old lady but from what’s between the lines, she used to get a lot of attention from the men. And enjoy it. I couldn’t be happier to see a female character who may or may not have lead a promiscuous life but isn’t judged for it. Plus, she and Granny Weatherwax have been best friends for ages, that makes Nanny Ogg cool from the get go. I used to think the Guards were my favorite Discworld inhabitants but looking at these last Reviews of Gushing Love, I may be more of a witch girl… (*furiously juts down Witches books on top of TBR list*)

Most of this book is laugh-out-loud funny, with jokes ranging from silly to clever to absolutely idiotic. I chuckled constantly. But again, Sir Terry adds a deep and serious layer to it and shows us that his characters are more than just stand-ins for a good joke. In the last book, Granny Weatherwax said that witches can work together, hard as that may be, and here we get to see exactly that happening, in one heartbreaking and glorious chapter. Maybe I like Tiffany so much because, apart from her powers and cleverness, she is simply a good person. If helping her enemy means making sure that innocent people won’t be hurt, she’ll do it in a heartbeat. That’s the kind of rolemodel I’d want for my children and I’ll be sure to put these books into all the pudgy little child-hands in my family.

THE GOOD: A fun, adventurous story about growing up, making mistakes and taking on responsibility. Full of hilarious moments, characters I fell in love with, and even a trip to the underworld.
THE BAD: I liked the ending, but it felt a bit chaotic.
BONUS: Granny Weatherwax has a kitten!
THE VERDICT: If you never heard of Tiffany Aching, go pick up The Wee Free Men now. If you enjoy good YA fiction, like to laugh and watch brilliant characters grow up, this is for you.

RATING: 9/10  – Close to perfection

dividerThe Tiffany Aching (Sub-)Series:

  1. The Wee Free Men
  2. A Hat Full of Sky
  3. Wintersmith
  4. I Shall Wear Midnight

Terry Pratchett – A Hat Full of Sky

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!

hat full of sky 2A HAT FULL OF SKY
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Corgi, 2010 (2004)
ISBN: 9780552562911
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.

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 . . .

dividerTiffany 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.

hat full of sky frenc 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!

dividerThe Tiffany Aching (Sub-)Series:

  1. The Wee Free Men
  2. A Hat Full of Sky
  3. Wintersmith
  4. I Shall Wear Midnight

Frances Hardinge – Fly By Night

I picked this book up for two reasons. One, the Book Smugglers have a major love affair with Frances Hardinge’s books. And, two, I trust children’s books much more at the moment than I do YA. I never thought I could shy away from an entire genre but the pile of crap that is being published lately is disturbing. I am sticking with adult books and, to get my dose of whimsy, books for younger kids. Thanks to Ana and Thea for the recommendation – this was a blast.

fly by nightFLY BY NIGHT
by Frances Hardinge

Published by: Macmillan, 2005
ISBN: 0330418262
ebook: 448 pages
Series: Fly by Night #1

My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: “But names are important!”, the nursemaid protested.

A breath-taking adventure story, set in reimagined eighteenth-century England. As the realm struggles to maintain an uneasy peace after years of cival war and tyranny, a twelve-year-old orphan and her loyal companion, a grumpy goose, are about to become the unlikely heroes of a radical revolution. Mosca Mye has spent her childhood in a miserable hamlet, after her father was banished there for writing inflammatory books about freedom. Now he is dead and Mosca is on the run, heading for the city of Mandelion. There she finds herself living by her wits among cut-throat highwaymen, spies and smugglers. With peril at every turn, Mosca uncovers a dark plot to terrorize the people of Mandelion, and soon merry mayhem leads to murder . . .
With an unforgettable cast of characters and an inspiring message at its heart – sometimes the power of words can change the world


It’s going to be very difficult to talk about this novel without rehashing the entire plot. So I will only give you the basics. Mosca Mye runs away from home, with only her trusted goose from hell, Saracen, by her side. Her journey will take her to the rather unsuccessful conman Eponymous Clent, and later into the city of Mandelion. There, conspiracies are brewing under the surface, an illegal printing press has the Stationers Guild up in arms, and Mosca manages to get herself right into the center of the political intrigue.

copyright @ tealin

copyright @ tealin

Which leads me to the first two things that impressed me. First of all, Frances Hardinge manages to put a quite complicated political situation in a children’s book and make it accessible despite its intricacies. Sure, I can hear the outcry of certain parents (the same ones who cried out about Cat Valente’s Fairyland books) that this may be too difficult for a child to understand, but I’ve always been of the opinion that people can only grow when they are confronted with something new. And children spend most of their time discovering things they don’t understand. Yet. That said, it did take me a while to understand how the political factions are connected to each other. The Guilds – Stationers, Locksmiths, Watermen – each came to life after a while and I came to see a bigger picture.

The second thing that made me adore this story was the author’s phenomenal imagination. There is very little 18th century England in this novel, most of it is pure made-up brilliance. Be it the religion – one with numerous gods, shrines, and giving children a name befitting the Beloved under which they were born – the city of Mandelion, where coffee houses are found on boats and can float down the river at a moment’s notice, or the politics governing that city. Mosca is born under Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butterchurns (see why I love this?) and is thusly named Mosca – fly in Spanish. I found it stunning and refreshing and was reminded a little bit of the Flora Segunda books. Every page offers something new to the greedy reader and these things can range from downright hilarious, to scary, to surprising. You will look for boring  moments in vain.

copyright @ tealin

copyright @ tealin

The only reason I haven’t mentioned the characters yet is because the abovementioned two points stand out so much they had to come first. But Mosca Mye definitely deserves to be noticed, not only because she is a plucky heroine with her heart in the right place and her body often in the wrong place and the wrongest of tiems, but also because she is a girl I wholeheartedly want my own children to love and look up to. Mosca doesn’t always do what’s right, but she always does what she believes to be the right thing. She is not perfect. Living in the swampy town of Chough has made her eyebrows almost seethrough, her face is often described as ferrety and her looks don’t even figure into the plot at all. What a refreshing notion – and one I see much better done in Middle Grade fiction than YA, for some reason. While the side characters don’t show up a whole lot, they each have personality and a distinct voice that made it easy for me to know who was talking, even without the “xyz said”. Eponymous Clent especially has grown on me with his flowery speech and the big words he uses.

While this wilde adventure is over and Mosca is mostly unscathed (come on, that’s not a spoiler), there is a sequel to Fly by Night which I will be reading quite soon. After all, there is some unfinished business to take care of and I have a hunch that Mosca won’t be far from it when things culminate…

And after all, it was Mosca who said:

quotes grey I don’t want a happy ending, I want more story.

THE GOOD: Great characters having a wonderful adventure in a wildly imaginative world. Politics, intrigues, and ideas that will challenge kids to think for themselves. A heroine that is lovable and concerned with things other than boys and her looks. Yay.

THE BAD: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the political intrigue may be a bit over their head. Honestly, I think even without understand all the details, kids will still enjoy this story for the fun adventure that it is.

BONUS: Saracen, the goose. Unstoppable.

THE VERDICT: 7,5/10  – Very good.

dividerThe Mosca Mye Series:

  1. Fly By Nightmosca cover
  2. Midnight Robbery/Fly Trap

Tina Fey – Bossypants

You are correct, this is neither science fiction nor fantasy. Nor fiction, for that matter. But ever since my boyfriend made me watch 30 Rock, I have been in love with the show in general and Tina Fey in particular. Since I already owned the audiobook of Bossypants (a gift from last year), I felt the time had come to interrupt my Codex Alera good-night-ritual for something humorous.

by Tina Fey

Published by: Little, Brown, 2011
ISBN: 1609419693
Audiobook: 5.5 hours
Paperback:  272 pages

My rating: 8/10

First sentence: My brother is eight years older than I am.

Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.


Ever since her Sarah Palin impersonation on SNL, Tina Fey is a household name when it comes to comedy. While I had heard of her before, I really came to like her for her TV show 30 Rock which I am still watching with my boyfriend (we’re on season 5 or 6 right now). I really didn’t expect to like it and when I ended up loving it, I remembered that audiobook I had lying around.

Tina reads it herself which is a huge bonus. Anybody who has ever heard her start mumbling when she’s talking about something embarrassing, knows how much difference a good narration can make. Telling her own story, beginning – as one should – with her childhood and school years, she sweeps us into the world of a comedy star, which is also the world of a pretty regular girl, with regular girl problems. Going into this with basically no knowledge of Tina Fey the person, or even Tina Fey as anything other than Liz Lemon, I learned a lot of new things about her and about the world of comedy.

From the moment she go her scar (which, yes I googled right after hearing that part) to how she went on a catastrophical honeymoon, to being a working mom, Tina Fey lets us take a glimpse into her life. She never lingers overly on bits that would be boring unless they happened to you, and instead puts a humorous spin on everything. Whether it is shocking events (like the acquisition of that scar), sad asides, or revelations about her own character, she is never – ever – boring. Her chapters are mostly short but some of them manage to convey – through humor – certain truths about the world that I didn’t expect to find in this book.

Tina talks about photoshopped pictures, about Trying To Be Pretty As A Woman, and of course about her time on Saturday Night Live. The audiobook offers a special bonus that I must mention here. When the story comes to the point of Fey being Sarah Palin, the audiobook actually includes the SNL clip. A very pleasant surprise, indeed! The one thing that does get lost when you listen to this on audio is the pictures. But wait! The audiobook comes with a PDF file with all the pictures included. You get to see dorky soccer Tina, her baby’s awesome Peter Pan birthday cake, that photoshopped picture, and lots of Tina-as-Sarah-Palin fotos.

If there are things I didn’t like about this, it was that the autobiography was too short (well, she isn’t that old) and maybe the part about Photoshop not distorting yout girls’ minds. Other than Tina, I believe that despite knowing all the pictures we see in magazines are fake, we are still expected to look that way. Now trying to look like a model is hard enough when you’re just talking about the actual human beings graced with amazing beauty. Being expected to look better than those people – meaning: those people made even prettier by the magic of Photoshop – is literally impossible. But despite this disagreement, Tina always has a good point and an explanation, whether it is about women’s beauty craze or respecting your gay friends.

This is an easy book to recommend. If you like Tina Fey or anything she’s done on TV, you will enjoy this book. If you’ve never heard of her or dislike her, then don’t buy it. It’s that easy. You get more of her kind of humor, her sometimes self-deprecating (but not really) remarks and her hard facts about being a woman working in comedy. But you also get to meet the person behind the star. And that’s the kind of girl everybody would like to go out and have a beer with.

THE GOOD: A well-told, hilarious glance into the life of Tina Fey. Not a single boring moment and no whiny biography stuff.
THE BAD: It was very short and, given the issues Fey talks about occasionally, it wouldn’t have hurt to go more in depth.
The audio clip of “Palin and Clinton” on SNL that was cut into the audiobook.
THE VERDICT: Recommended to everybody who likes Tina Fey. Simple as that.

RATING: 8/10 – Excellent fun