Saturday, May 2, 2015

Book Review: The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

For the latest book club pick, and as a tribute to the late Terry Pratchett, we decided to read on the Discworld novels. We looked online and found a listing of the best ones, which included The Color of Magic, Mort, Going Postal, and, the one we selected, The Wee Free Men. It's a fairly short book.

Read on for my full review.

Overall Impression
This is a young adult Discworld novel featuring Tiffany Aching, a young girl in the Chalk with the talents to become a witch. The novel is fast paced and simple and, while the cast of characters isn't large, those that are there are impactful. Overall, a pretty fun and light read.

The Wee Free Men has a fairly simple and straightforward plot. It moves along at a very fast paced as the young girl, Tiffany Aching, works to save her little brother. Along the way she meets the odd Wee Free Men and other strange fairy creatures. It'll take clever thinking to avoid the traps and get the upper hand in rescuing her brother in this wild adventure.

The main character is Tiffany Aching and, as a young adult book, it focuses heavily on her with minimal secondary characters. She is a young, hard working girl with a bright mind and keen interesting in the world. As the story progresses, you realize she has the makings of a witch, even if she herself doesn't understand just what that means. She is a cool, clever character that takes charge of her destiny in an empowering way. Other characters, such as Miss Tick, Rob Anybody, and Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock, serve to accentuate Tiffany in her quest. The Queen is a suitably evil villain for the story as well. We also get to briefly see Weatherwax, who first appeared in Equal Rites.

Setting / World Building
This is a Discworld novel, but the setting is actually fairly generic. No mention of turtles or elephants or a flat disc in this book. Instead, we get a more pastoral feel as we see the daily lives of shepherds and farmers. Still, there are some odd and cool things in this world, such as the traveling teachers and the problems with witch magic in that region, known as the Chalk.

The Wee Free Men are key to the story. They are tiny blue men with red hair that wear kilts. They speak in a thick accent and seem to live for fighting and drinking. In short, it sounds like a parody of the Scottish. The Wee Free Men, or as they're also known the Nac Mac Feegle, are fierce fighters and help Tiffany Aching in her journey. They are very cool, especially when confronted with their unusual weakness, which I won't spoil here.

The Wee Free Men aren't the only extraordinary characters in the story, though. Strange creatures from fairy tales and nightmares start to appear as they leak through the boundaries of other worlds. It's actually cool if you can recognize some of the fairy tales that have been smashed together.

Final Thoughts
Overall, this was a neat Discworld book, though the setting was more generic. The main character was cool, but I would have liked to see a larger cast and more complex plot. Nevertheless, it is good for a fun, quick read, especially since the main character grows in the story. However, if you want the more classic setting of the Discworld, I would recommend other novels in that universe, particularly some of the earlier ones.

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