Hello again to my readers! My apologies for my temporary disappearance recently. There have been a few causes for it. Firstly a small visit from The Wee Free Men – or alternately the Nac Mac Feegles – which was pleasant enough but it took a decently long time to kindly persuade them to not live in my house. Secondly I took a small holiday to the Galar region but I have successfully returned and can again begin my review in earnest.
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett is an interesting case for me personally. As to why? It is the first review to date I am doing by specific reader request. It is quite the honour for me so I hope my readers enjoy this one after my extended absence.
The story begins thusly: Nine year old Tiffany Aching isn’t quite like other children. She is far too observant. Or at least that’s what the adults on the chalk downs think. But things are changing on the farm now. Granny Aching has recently died and Tiffany is convinced her Granny was a witch…and now there are endless streams of magical creatures causing problems ranging from headless horsemen, monsters in the river and little blue men in kilts – The Wee Free Men. Then Tiffany must work with The Wee Free Men and some other unusual help to save her younger brother from The Queen of The Fairies. Good luck with the Pictsies, Tiffany!
The Wee Free Men was originally designated as part of the Discworld Children’s sub-series of novels akin to Pratchett’s other works for children and this baffles me. It’s no more a children’s story than any of the other Discworld stories ranging from I Shall Wear Midnight to Lords and Ladies or Reaper Men. I’ve heard a few stories of people past the point of childhood who would put the Tiffany Aching series up there with the best of Discworld and I am more than happy to join them. She fills the shoes of the Aching lineage referenced in other stories with distinction.
This story is such a laugh. The Wee Free Men – who are definitely NOT brownies – and their use of traditional Scots names and terms whenever they talk always makes me grin. One ‘ceilidh’ of sorts had me laugh uproariously at their attempts to blend in. Rob Anybody, William the Feegle equivalent of a piper and Daft Willie together just seem to work. And the various antics of the Nac Mac Feegles just made everything so much fun. Tiffany herself feels very true to the spirit of quiet but thoughtful and intelligent or precocious children. And her second and third thoughts are the embodiment of the internal thoughts that everyone has when they genuinely think about things. Even the not so nice thoughts that everyone wishes they didn’t have and regrets two milliseconds after they happen. That’s part of the glory of Pratchett. Even when you just want to enjoy a good story he manages to make his characters feel far more real than most other writers. Every family has a Tiffany.
The narration is also very entertaining. Stephen Briggs who took on narration duties in my last Pratchett review – Thief Of Time – is also tasked with being the narrator for the adventures of Tiffany and her companions. He does so with clear enthusiasm and I very much enjoy his performances. Tiffany and her family come alive from the page very well and the various stories the reader is given about Granny Aching are performed very well indeed. You can definitely understand why an older person like that would make a positive impression on a young child.
The Wee Free Men are also very funny. His accents for them are rather exaggerated as befits the book but they aren’t bad attempts at Scots or some approximation thereof. I’ve certainly heard worse! And on some occasions coming from known and proud Scots actors who somehow sound like they are deliberately overdoing the accent for whatever reason. In short I commend Stephen Briggs’s narration throughout.
In conclusion this tale and its accompanying audiobook are very very enjoyable. You don’t need to have any previous knowledge of the Discworld to jump in and if you do have any youngsters you want to start on Pratchett early, you could do a lot worse than with the help of Tiffany Aching and her hard drinkin, hard fightin, blue kilted friends.
Nae Queen! Nae King! Nae Laird! Nae Master!