Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review: The Wee Free Men

The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett, is about Tiffany Aching, a nine-year-old girl with a flair for making dairy products whose family mostly doesn't notice her.  She has a toddler brother, Wentworth, who always wants "sweeties" or to go to "toy-let."  One day, Tiffany and Wentworth are warned by little blue men with red hair that there is a monster in the river by their house.  Tiffany gets rid of the monster with a frying pan, setting of a series of events including her becoming the kelda of the Nac Mac Feegle (the little blue men from the river), learning a great deal about her fabulous grandmother, sharing tales of sheep and dogs, defeating a fairy queen and, of course, coming into her own.

I love Terry Pratchett for many reasons, but one of the biggest is because I have always loved the main female characters in his story.  They are strong, witty, sensible and intelligent women.  I adore Pratchett for his ability to consistently write such excellent characters.  Tiffany Aching is no exception.  I love her.  She's the sort of nine-year-old I wish I had been.  She's the sort of girl I wish that I were now.

And while I love Tiffany for her heart and her courage, I love the Wee Free Men for their hilarious Scots brogue.  They are a feisty and amazing group of people.  There is a bonnagle, who is the bard of the group.  There is a pilot who rides birds.  They have hilarious names like Not-as-Big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-Bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock.  They say amazing lines like, "We wuz misunderstood when we was wee bairns!' yelled Rob Anybody.  'Ye're only pickin' on us 'cause we're blue!  We always get blamed for everything'!  The polis hate us!  We wasna even in the country!" when they were very clearly in the wrong.

There is a toad.  There is, for a brief, wonderful scene, Granny Weatherwax.  There is an insufferable prig of a baron's son.  An evil queen.  Dreams and nightmares.  Horrible things and wonderful ones.  Another reason why I love Terry Pratchett is that he knows, more than any other author, that dreams and nightmares are real for the people who have them.  He takes them seriously.  He gives them respect.  He knows that "things don't stop being magic just because you [find] out how it [is] done."  And he manages to do all of this, sharing deep and important lessons in all his stories ("He said it was better to belong where you don't belong than not to belong where you used to belong, remembering when you used to belong there") without ever once talking down to his audience.  And all the while, making you snort with laughter.  The Nac Mac Feegles will make you laugh.  A lot.  I guarantee it.

Terry Pratchett Challenge
Terry Pratchett is one of my all-time favorite authors, and it saddens me that people who would love him and appreciate his humor don't even give him a chance because he's a "fantasy" author.  Yes, he writes fantasy.  But he also writes humor and satire and political commentary and life lessons and coming-of-age stories and respect and kindness and so many, many other significant things.  He has such a deep and abiding kindness and dignity that weaves its way through all his stories, and The Wee Free Men exemplifies this.  Highly recommended.

Thanks to Marg for hosting the Terry Pratchett Challenge, which motivated me to pick up the YA books in the Discworld series!

29 comments:

  1. I loved this one! I think it's part of why Equal Rites felt like a let-down to me...after this introduction to witches, my expectations were high.

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  2. Yes! This is one of my favourite books of his, and you know that's saying a lot :P Did you know he's currently working on a fourth Tiffany book, I Shall Wear Midnight, which is rumoured to bring back Esk from Equal Rites? Oh, the thought alone makes my head very nearly explode. I love them both so so much :D

    Also, I completely agree with your final paragraph. Ah well...their loss I guess?

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  3. Terry Pratchett is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have all of his disworld novels. I really enjoyed the Tiffany Aching novels and DIDN'T know that he's working on the fourth. I'm glad. I keep trying to interest the kids at my library in him, but few will read them. They're thicker than the books the kids usually check out.

    I also didn't know that there is a Terry Prachett challenge. I'm going to have to check that out.

    Sad thing, he has Alzheimers, though it's in the early stages yet, and he says he'll keep writing as long as he can.

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  4. I really must read this book. I haven't read any of the Tiffany Aching books and they sound just as good as his other ones.

    I always think of Pratchett's books as using magic to show us something about our world. But then as my uncle said in response to me complaining about lit theory "lit theory - if it has wizards and elves and fairies it is good. other wise so so". My family likes the fantasy world. :D You are right though, people should give his books a chance because they are about so much more than witches, wizards and small blue men.

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  5. I love Terry Pratchett too! I love the way his books get better and better with each one. And like you, I don't class his work as 'just SFF', it's so much more and teaches me about the world we live in. And I am so excited that there will be a fourth in this series!

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  7. I deleted my previous comment because I thought I could find my favorite e.e. cummings poem for you online but I can't (at least not in an acceptable time!) but anyway it is about dominique and his zoom doom truck and how he likes the poet because e.e. cummings understands that "we and worlds are less alive than dolls and dreams." It sounds as if that is also the message of Pratchett, who I have not read, because of the fantasy fear you mentioned! I will request this one from the library though - it sounds like I would like this very much.

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  8. I'm supposed to read this, and while I enjoyed the only Prachett book I've read (The Amazing Maurice), I really can't be excited about this one. It just doesn't sound like the sort of book I'll like. Admittedly, neither did Maurice, which is why I know one day I'll cave and read this one too...

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  9. Eva- I can see why, really. I have Equal Rites, but haven't read it in some time, but I don't remember it being *quite* so hilarious :-)

    Nymeth- Yes, it IS saying a lot! I didn't know that about a fourth book at all! I still don't have the third book, so now I'm SUPER pumped to have so much to look forward to with the Nac Mac Feegle :-) I should re-read Equal Rites, too, in preparation.

    Mardel- I can see why kids would be leery, but they'll come around eventually ;-) And I think it's sad about his Alzheimer's, too.

    Zee- For some reason, I had less interest in the Tiffany Aching books, too, but I LOVED this one! And I completely agree with your uncle!

    chasingbawa- I don't know if his books get better each time, but many of them are true gems. I'm excited, too!

    rhapsody- That is a WONDERFUL quote! Thank you for sharing it :-) I hope you do read and like it- just give him a try.

    Amanda- I haven't read The Amazing Maurice, so I don't know if it's the same sort of thing, but in my experience... if you like *one* Pratchett book, you like Terry Pratchett, period.

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  10. I haven't read any Pratchett! Would this be a good one to start with? Since I'm in Scotland it might be especially funny.

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  11. Marieke- Yes, I think that this would be a great one to start with! Or Mort or Guards! Guards!

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  12. Loved your assessment on Pterry's female characters! I totally agree! And this series keeps getting better and uh, darker so to speak. Lovely review!

    Which reminds me, I need to get my Pterry books out as I haven't finished a book for the only challenged I signed up on for the year!

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  13. I love the cover its so cute...
    I have always wanted to read one of Pratchet's books would this be a good place to start?

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  14. Lightheaded- I am excited to read the rest of this series. And YES, his female characters are fantastic.

    Shellie- Yes, I think this would be a good place to start. It doesn't include too many characters that are in the rest of Discworld, so it's a nice way to dip your feet in without being overwhelmed.

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  15. Sounds like a fun read! I haven't read any Terry Pratchett though I've read so many good reviews that I probably should read it!

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  16. Ah Tiffany Aching, the Nac Mac Feegle, Terry Pratchett ... LOVE them. He writes wonderfully strong female characters and humour that makes you cry laughter.

    Genrification is so limiting but Sir Terry doesn't need those doubters and neither do we; we who love him know why we do, are loyal and appreciate and respect his satire and wit that knows no equal. It is, indeed, their loss and our gain.

    Congratulations on your 300th post!

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  17. I liked this one better than the second in this arc and this isn't my favourite Discworld strand, but a TP book I feel a bit less than love for is about a million times better than half the books being published at the moment. May there be many more books to come (and dare I hope for another illustrated novel?).

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  18. This is the only Tiffany Aching book I haven't read. I loved the other two with Wintersmith as my favourite.

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  19. Lol, I used to read him long long ago, and i really should again

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  20. Oh this sounds like such a fantastic book! I just picked up a copy of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents and Wintersmith (which I know is a Tiffany Aching book) from a book sale last week and am happy to be storing his tales away for a later time. As my husband reads through the series, he becomes more and more enchanted with Pratchett and he told me that I am going to love them too. I am so glad that you loved this book and I do think it sounds uproariously funny as well. Great review, so glad I will be reading something by Pratchett soon!

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  21. This is the book that hooked me on Pratchett, and will thus be my favourite book by him forever, I suspect. I am happy to be proven wrong, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Tiffany. I do believe that this might have been the only book I have ever read that has made me tear up both from laughter and from ... well, not sadness, exactly, but depth of feeling.

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  22. Aths- Yes, you definitely SHOULD read Terry Pratchett! Do it, do it, do it :-P

    Paperback Reader- Yes, you're absolutely right. I love his girls!

    Jodie- I've heard the second book is the weakest, but I'm excited to read it, anyway! And to read the third and the upcoming fourth! I haven't read ANY of the illustrated novels yet.

    Vivienne- How interesting as it is the first book in the series! It's fun- I recommend it.

    Blodeuedd- Yes, he is FUN.

    Zibilee- I haven't read Maurice, but Amanda said above that she enjoyed it. And from what I can tell, your husband has exceptional taste in books.

    Kiirstin- I think Pterry fans are all very attached to their first books by him. I read Mort first and loved it and it, I think, is still my favorite. I completely know what you mean about depth of feeling. Sigh.

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  23. I rarely read fantasy, but after the way you described this breadth of this author's writing, how can I resist? I am adding this to my TBR list.

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  24. Yay! So glad you loved this one, and that you are spreading the word on the awesomeness of Pratchett!

    I was planning on reading the Discworld books through in order which means I wouldn't get to these books for a while yet, but I might need to rethink that strategy.

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  25. I've only read The Amazing Maurice. I have more Terry Pratchett on my list but who knows when I'll get the time to read it. That said, I love your description of the Scottish accents and clan, this book sounds utterly hilarious and yes I think just like we should give peace a chance, we should also give Terry Pratchett a chance. ;-)

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  26. hello! i have given you an award on my blog. :)

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  27. I've NEVER read Pratchett. But this one sounds really fun!

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  28. I read Hat Full of Sky last year, and have been meaning to read this + Wintersmith since. As I have a copy, I think I might just end up reading it next! Thanks for reminding me :)

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  29. This is the only Pratchett book I've read so far and I LOVED it. I sat down with it in a chair in the library and before I knew it, hours had flown right by! Few books made me laugh out loud, but The Wee Free Men totally did. :)

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