05 April 2015

Books: Wee Free Men By Terry Pratchett (2003)

One of the advantages I've discovered reading Terry Pratchett's books so late (and one, perhaps, I've should've realized long ago) is that they're all basically stand-alone tales set in his magical Discworld. But Pratchett does connect them, but not in away that's confusing or forcing you to read other tales first (having a general idea of Discworld is helpful, but not at all necessary).  The Tiffany Aching series begins with 2003's Wee Free Men, and thus becoming the 30th Discworld novel, but it is connected to the six books that make up the Witches series, which he started in 1987. And you don't have to read them to understand this, which I find rather refreshing (and it overcomes my thought process that I must read every book in published order. Yeah that is useful when reading George R.R Matin's Ice and Fire series, but not here). Also, Tiffany Aching is considered Young Adult, where the other Witches books are geared toward adults. I plan to get to the Witches series eventually (and finish the other two books that deal with Death) but my move to Tiffany Aching was just happenstance. Or, maybe, that the late Terry Pratchett's last book coming this year will be The Shepherd's Crown*, the final Tiffany Aching story. So I felt maybe I would read the four novels that make up this series so when that last book comes out, I'll be caught up.
Plus, I checked out those four novels from the library and got to get them back sooner rather than later. 
Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching is a young witch-to-be, and 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 kidnapped 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....

While Terry Pratchett takes the basic premise of the quest novel and it's many cliches (success through courage, wit, faith, and a lot of spunkiness) he gives it  fresh spin. What works most is the very loyal, sometimes rash, always feisty and really funny clan of Nac Mac Feegle. Also, despite this series being classified as young adult, Pratchett chooses not to talk down to his intended audience. As a matter of fact, he challenges them in the form of its heroine, Tiffany Aching (even I had to look up the word "susurrus" in the dictionary, and I'm as old as the dinosaurs). Tiffany must navigate the world of being a child and understand the world of adults, and under Pratchett's brilliant writing, audiences of young and old will enjoy the story. 
And like other books, Wee Free Men is terribly funny and using the Nac Mac Feegle as a prism between right and wrong (as interpreted by the Wee Free Men) is rather inspired, as is the borrowing of many folktale stories (and I think only Tilda Swinton can play the Queen of the Elves here, even though she played a similar one in the The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe). And Tiffany is such a well-developed character in her first outing. Her courage, her love, her understanding and the ability to dream and know when to stop and open your eyes, is something rarely seen in this genre. 
*There is a distinct possibility that the Discworld novels will continue after The Shepherd's Crown, as Pratchett himself noted, before his passing, that he would like to see his daughter, Rihanna, continue them. 

No comments: