The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching)by Terry Pratchett
Apparently, I’m on a fantasy kick. But that’s ok when there are still books by the late Terry Pratchett for me to read. I swear, during his prolific and tragically short lifetime he could write faster than I can read. Most of his books are good. Some of them are great. Some of them are uneven, but even the worst of Terry Pratchett is better than the best of most other authors. It is just that he has lead us to expect so much. This book, however, is one of his best, which is really saying something.
The Wee Free Men is the first in a sub-series of his Discworld novels. There is no real plot-related reason to read the Discworld novels in order, although it does sometimes help if you understand the backstories of the characters. Since this is a sub-series, you can consider this one the first one.
The Wee Free Men introduces Tiffany Aching, witch wannabe (or is she?) and the race of Nac Mac Feegles, also called the Wee Free Men, who are, in very broad descriptive terms, six inch high blue-skinned Scottish Highlanders from the 1700s or so. Don’t let their size fool you, though, as they are stronger than “Bigjob” men and canny and able. I won’t get too deeply in the plot, because I can’t figure out how to do it without spoilers, but someone has been kidnapping young children, and someone wants to get them back.
The plot, while twisted and always moving along, isn’t what makes the book so great, though. It is Pratchett’s ability to turn a phrase that makes you stop in your tracks and read over several times just to savor the simple brilliance of it. Amidst rip-roaring silliness and complete fantasy, there is also thoughtful wisdom that you will turn over in your head for weeks or more. Consider this: The Nac Mac Feegles think that this world (ok, Discworld, but it’s all a metaphor anyway, right?) is so amazing, with so much joy to be found, and so many pleasures to be had, that it must be heaven, which means they must be dead. When one of them ‘dies,’ they consider that he has simply returned to the living world. Let that thought worm its way into your brain for a little bit. There are similarly thoughtful bits about anger and fear, dreams, reality, and love.
I read the illustrated version, with colorful, detailed illustrations by Stephen Player. I can’t criticize the illustrations: they are true to the text, and vivid. I can’t help but think, though, that perhaps they took away a little bit of my imagination. I don’t have to dream up Nac Mac Feegles when I can see them. That’s a personal preference, though, not a criticism.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.