Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett

Recently I decided to go back to the excellent Discworld series and read the young-adult novels that tie into that universe, which are also written by Terry Pratchett. I initially had no real interest in these books, assuming that as young adult fiction it would be somehow less developed than what I had come to expect from Discworld. Fortunately for me, a friend advised me that the only real difference between the young adult novels and the regular Discworld novels is that the protagonists are younger than the usual Discworld protagonists. Otherwise they are just as enjoyable as the adult Discworld books and I myself did not notice a significant change in reading level. I would definitely recommend this book for teenagers, adults, and those younger kids with a very high reading level.

The Wee Free Men is the first book in which we meet nine-year old Tiffany Aching, a resident of a region known as Chalk on the Disc. Tiffany, unlike most children, pays careful attention to the world around her and is constantly asking questions. She's the kind of child who wonders why the witch in the fairy tale is automatically evil, no questions asked, and why Jack gets away with killing a giant and stealing the giant's gold when he's clearly not bright enough to realize a cow is worth more than a handful of beans. (Tiffany's also the sort of child who reads the entire dictionary from cover to cover because no one told her otherwise.) So when creatures out of her storybooks start cropping up in Chalk and Tiffany's little brother, Wentworth, goes missing, she decides someone has to do something about this and that someone is her. Fortunately she's got some fearsome help as well, the Nac Mac Feegle.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and felt it touched on some really deep issues, specifically an emphasis on paying attention to details and thinking critically. Tiffany's main strength in the novel is she's able to keep calm during a crisis and think through a situation logically rather than jumping to conclusions which can be extremely dangerous. Plus, she's got an entire clan of pictsie warriors backing her, which helps more than you'd think. I also really enjoyed the message of speaking up for those who don't have a voice of their own and I think that's a really good call to action for people of all ages. I can really see a family reading this book together and discussing the issues covered in this story.

Overall this is another great example of the quality writing I have come to expect from Terry Pratchett, and has a strong, well-written female protagonist who I think a lot of awkward children who don't fit in can really relate to. I will definitely be reading the rest of the Tiffany Aching stories in the future and would highly recommend these for fans of excellent fantasy stories.

- Kalpar.

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