Review: The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching #1) – Sir Terry Pratchett

Synopsis from Goodreads.
Up on the chalk downs known as The Wold, witches are banned — ever since the Baron’s son vanished in the woods. Anyway, as all witches know, chalk is no good for magic.
Nine-year-old Tiffany Aching thinks her Granny Aching — a wise shepherd — might have been a witch, but now Granny Aching is dead and it’s up to Tiffany to work it all out when strange things begin happening. There’ s a fairy-tale monster in the stream, a headless horseman and, strangest of all, the tiny blue men in kilts, the Wee Free Men, who have come looking for the new “hag” . These are the Nac Mac Feegles, the pictsies, who like nothing better than thievin’, fightin’ and drinkin’. When Tiffany’s young brother goes missing, Tiffany and the Wee Free Men must join forces to save him from the Queen of the Fairies.

OK, I’m going to start this review with some maths. No! Wait, don’t go. It’s going to be YA style maths and, well, it’s me… so it’ll be dead easy.
Though before we begin, you can leave your payment in the basket just over there. Not vegetables. I want chocolate. Not got any? No worries…I’ll wait until you come back from the paper shop*.

Hermione Granger + Mildred Hubble +Matilda Wormwood = Tiffany Aching.

I’m almost tempted to just leave this review at that because, honestly, if you’re not intrigued by that equation then I can’t recommend this book to you. Also, I can’t save your soul from eternal damnation.

But I won’t stop there because I like the sound of my voice or, you know, I like to see my typed words on a computer screen.

I have always said that when I’m rich and famous, I’m going to rent out a cottage in the middle of nowhere armed only with food, wine and Discworld books and just spend a week reading every single one of them from start to finish**. I’ve read a few of them (five, I think) and enjoyed them immensely but I think they are the kind of book you just need to immerse yourself in. And Discworld is so impeccably created that it’s the kind of world you need to spend a lot of time in, exploring it and learning its quirks and getting lost and finding your way out again. It probably helps if you’re slightly tipsy.
Even though Tiffany Aching’s adventures are set in Discworld and I understand they have a lot of overlapping characters, I believe that this could count as a standalone series. If you’ve read Discworld books before, you might get more of the jokes that have gone over my head but I honestly don’t think you’d need to have read any of them to get this story.
Actually, these books may be a great place to start.

Sir Pratchett gives you just enough details about the setting to make sure you don’t get lost and I love that about him. I always think that Sir Pratchett has so many more ideas about the world that he keeps to himself so we as a reader only get to see about 75%  of what he has created. And I just love that restraint… because there would be nothing worse than if he was like ‘HAVE ALL THE DETAILS. MY IMAGINATION IS AMAZING. LOOK. LOOK. LOOK HOW BRILIANT I AM. YOU’RE NOT LOOKING AT THE BRILLIANCE.

Because if you read a book like that you’d just get a headache and you’d probably need to lie down with a wet paper towel on your forehead. I just like the fact that even though he doesn’t share all the details, you know he’s thought of everything and he’s probably hiding them in his hat.

I like to think that a Pratchett book is the reading equivalent of colouring in. Bear with me… His mind has created the most breathtakingly brilliant pictures, one that will take you a whole miserable Sunday afternoon to colour in because of all the rich detail and the intricacy. And then he just leaves a packet of pencil crayons on the table next to you and lets you go wild with it. You have free reign in Discworld and you’re encouraged to colour it in with whatever colours you want. As long as they are bright. And he’d probably encourage you to colour out of the lines in certain places too. He strikes me as that kind of guy.
Even if you know hardly anything about Sir Pratchett, you will probably be aware that he is funny. Really funny. I made the mistake of reading this book in the presence of other people and found myself having to explain about pointy horses and backwards moving sheep.
Needless to say, I got a few blank looks.
”A pointy horse…IT’S HYSTERICAL.” I would yell in their faces. ”A UNICORN IS A HORSE THAT ENDS IN A POINT!
”Why are you shouting?”  They would say, backing away slowly.
“Stop using excessive punctuation.”

Trust me, it’s hysterical.
I just love his humour and I lovelovelove the fact that it hasn’t been dumbed down because this book is for… *gasps* *recoils in fear* younger readers. I can’t imagine any Pratchett fan being disappointed in these books.

“Are you listening?”
“Yes,” said Tiffany.
“Good. Now… if you trust in yourself…”
“… and believe in you dreams…”
“…and follow your star…” Miss Tick went on.
“…you’ll still be beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy. Goodbye.”


But let’s talk about the main event: Tiffany. I can’t decide whether I want to be best friends with Tiffany Aching or actually be her when I grow up. She is intuitive, watchful and extremely smart. She’s the kind of girl who reads fairy tales but doesn’t want to be the princess, she wants to be the witch because “where’s the evidence” that they’re all wicked?
I can’t put into (um..intelligent) words how much I loved her so I’m going to give you an example of her brilliance:

“…did the book have any adventures for people who had brown eyes and brown hair? No, no, no… it was blond people with blue eyes and the redheads with green eyes who got the stories. If you had brown hair you were probably just a servant or a woodcutter or something. Or a dairymaid. Well, that was not going to happen, even if she was good at cheese. She couldn’t be the prince, and she’d never be a princess, and she didn’t want to be a woodcutter, so she’d be the witch and know things…”



*OK, I have just realised that this review will probably make no sense to people who haven’t read this book. But that’s not my fault. It’s clearly yours. So go and read it and then come back and tell me how brilliant and ingenious this review is. And…. ok, I guess the book is.

**Well, ok… I’ll spend the first day trying to decide which order to read them in.

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