Grade: Α — Great book, must read regardless of what Genres you enjoy. Makes you think (or at least laugh at) of things beyond the scope of the book
The Wee Free Men: A Story of Discworld is the extremely amusing and engaging first volume of the Tiffany Aching Series by Terry Pratchett. Set in his ever-amusing Discworld (about which there are so many books one cannot keep up), this Mid-grade to Young Adult novel chronicles the adventures of Tiffany Aching, a young girl (approximately nine years old) from the Chaulk. It is funny, engaging and wonderfully enjoyable.
The Chaulk and the fairy realm, both of which are part of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Discworld is a comic fantasy setting of a flat, well, disc shaped world, balanced on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle that swims through the universe.
CRIVENS!!! I truly loved this story. Really.
The Wee Free Men: A Story of Discworld, by Terry Pratchett, is a stand alone novel, but also serves as the first volume of the Tiffany Aching Series. It is the extremely funny and engaging story of a nine year old girl who finds herself plunged into a magical adventure of epic proportion. Along the way, she encounters the magical race of small blue men known as the Nac Mac Feegle, or Feegles for short. This translates (roughly) as Wee Free Men (as in the title of this book). They are an amusing, all but undefeatable set of comic Scots who fear only one thing: Lawyers.
While in some ways the Feegles steal the show due to their ridiculous behavior, Tiffany remains the focus of this story throughout, and the proactive heroine of the tale. Indeed, one of the things I loved the best about this story is how brilliantly strong and proactive Tiffany is, while still seeming a completely believable nine-year old girl. She is at times selfish, at times remarkably giving, at times frightened and always heroic. As such, Pratchett creates a brilliant role-model, particularly for young girls. She occasionally needs help, but never really needs saving. Brilliant.
Yet while the target audience for this book is mid-grade to young adults, it remained equally, if not more enjoyable for me: a middle-aged man. The tale is funny, but at no point does Pratchett condescend to his heroes (even the ridiculous Feegles) or to his audience. The latter is perhaps the sign of a truly great writer of YA fiction (or any fiction for that matter): he treats his audience as if they are intelligent and capable of following complex plots.
Added to this are the brilliant settings he uses. Oh, I don’t mean Discworld, which is always fun. I mean the Chaulk and the Fairy Realm. He takes well know locals, in one case real, the other imaginary, and does justice to both while making them his own.
As pointed out in the book, the Chaulk is a fictionalized version of the Chalklands of South Central England, particularly those in and around the Uffington White Horse and Pratchett’s own native Wiltshire. I spent considerable time excavating and performing landscape surveys on those windswept uplands and to me, reading his descriptions was a bit like returning to a beloved old haunt. I was at once transported to the Ridgeway as magically as Tiffany is transported to the Fairy Realm.
As for the Fairy Realm, Pratchett created a half-dreamlike reality that wonderfully mirrors the Fae world described in 18th and 19th century transcriptions of folktales. It is dark and twisted, beautiful and unfulfilling. The Fairy Queen is perfectly portrayed in a manner that is uniquely Pratchett while remaining true the more recent (by that I mean 18th and 19th century) portrayals of such characters.
Yet it really was the characterizations that stole the show, particularly Tiffany and that of her brother Wentworth, whose sticky screaming is exactly what I would think a nine year old sister would make of her two year old brother.
For me, this is one of my favorite YA books ever, which means it is one of my favorite books ever… since a good YA book should be equally readable by anyone.
Notes about the Audio Edition:
Stephen Briggs does a wonderful wonderful wonderful job of narrating this book. He let’s narrative do the work, uses voices only when necessary (and crivens! They are necessary in this book) and captures Pratchett’s tone in a way that only someone who has worked closely with an author can do. Brilliant.
 Or indeed full adult… as that I think any adult will enjoy it at least as much as a midgrader…
 OK, in the Discworld logic they are not Scottish, but they are CLEARLY a parody of Scotsmen. In fact, while they are highly amusing, they are so stereotypically comical Scottish that one can’t help but cringe at times due to the perpetuation of stereotyping that occurs. Despite this, they are also shown as brave, heroic and loyal to a fault… so not all the stereotypes are bad.
 I mean, I’ve never been a nine-year-old girl, but to me Pratchett does such a remarkable job of pulling me into the mindset of one that I sometimes wonder if he had at sometime been a nine-year old girl.
 And boys, for that matter… but there are more positive role models for boys than girls in literature (sadly).
- What’s the Color of Magic? (jworqprojeqs.com)
- Terry Pratchet’s Snuff (shawjonathan.wordpress.com)
- The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (ninasbookblog.wordpress.com)
- ‘Jingo’ is a Real Word! (jworqprojeqs.com)
- Review: Mort, by Terry Pratchett (janetsketchley2.wordpress.com)
- trib’s #CBR4 review #7 – I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett (cannonballread4.wordpress.com)
- Series Spotlight: The Tiffany Aching Series (slclteens.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (thebookaddictblog.wordpress.com)
- No offence to all you discworld wizards (thebookaddictblog.wordpress.com)
- A book review – Terry Pratchett’s Thud! (thethoughtstorage.wordpress.com)