on 24 November 2003
This is the Thirtieth(!) book in Terry Pratchett's series on the Discworld--a flat world, supported on the backs of four massive elephants riding on the back of a planet-sized turtle, anything hilarious can happen here, and eventually does.
Young Tiffany Aching has lived her young life in the Chalk, where raising sheep is the normal form of living. But, when creatures out of fairy tales begin to appear, she realizes that something is very wrong. A group of tiny blue men, with bright red hair and kilts (the Nac Mac Feegle, the Wee Free Men) begin to take an interest in her, and Tiffany quickly learns that her very world is under attack by the Queen of the Elves. The Wee Free Men think that she is a witch, like her grandmother, and just maybe she will be one day, but she's not now. But, armed with her native intellect, her determination, and a wealth of memories of how her grandmother did things, Tiffany might just be enough.
This is another *great* Terry Pratchett book! I have been a fan of this author for a long time, and this book does not let you down. As is often the case in Discworld books, a couple of "regulars" put in an appearance (Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg), but the show is definitely stolen by the Nac Mac Feegle - they are great! (Rob Anybody, Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock, he he!) But, even beyond that, the story is enthralling and the characters are quite interesting. If you are a fan of humorous fantasy, then you must read this novel by the king of them all, Terry Pratchett!
on 21 May 2003
The Wee Free Men is the story of a young girl whose brother is stolen by the Queen of Fairies. Tiffany Aching’s adventure begins when she meets two tiny blue men with bright red hair and miniature kilts, who warn her of approaching danger...just before she meets the terrifying Jenny Green-teeth and isn't the least bit scared. All she has to help her are those loyal blue men, a talking toad, a frying pan, and the deceased Granny Aching’s favourite book (Diseases of the Sheep).
The Wee Free Men is based around Tiffany Aching, a brown haired, brown eyed nine year old who is too sensible for her own good; Rob Anybody, No’-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock, Hamish and the rest of the blue and red kilted Nac Mac Feegle; Miss Perspicacia Tick, a witch who has learnt that her elbows are generally very reliable; the rather mean Queen of the Fairies (who also starred in ‘Lords and Ladies’, also by Terry Pratchett); and Wentworth, the eternally sticky, sweet-loving toddler who is in agony when he has too many sweets – he can never decide which to eat first.
This book is set in a part of the Discworld previously unknown. It is set partly on the Chalk, low-lying hills that I assume are quite near the Ramtops, but mainly in Fairyland. The atmosphere of the novel is quite mixed; those parts set in Fairyland quite sinister and forbidding (but not really scary) while other parts are rather humorous.
As this is a children’s book, Terry Pratchett does not go into the deeply philosophical theories that he usually explores (and makes fun of). Instead he dips into the idea of stereotypes (particularly that of the witch and shepherd/ess), dreaming, and a little religion (the Nac Mac Feegle, for example, believe that this is the afterlife and when they die now they will return to the World of the Living).
Personally I adore this book. After eagerly waiting for it for many months I was full of high expectations when I finally got my hands on a copy. I was not let down. The Wee Free Men is a light book for an adult or teenager, but would be perfectly suitable for the more thoughtful child. It contains plenty of suspense and drama, brilliant description and typically amusing characters. It is a must for any fan of Terry Pratchett, whatever your age, but you don’t have to have read other stories by him to enjoy it. Over all, I consider it a great read and a good laugh.
on 12 November 2003
Pratchett has created Tiffany in Dreamland - a Discworld version of the girl on a quest. Could this turn out to become a new timeless classic like Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass? Why ever not. Alice’s adventures have infiltrated everyday English culture and language with their images and proverbial sayings. So might the Nac Mac Feegle, the Wee Free Men, enrich our mind’s eye and add to our vocabulary with expressions like “Crivens ”! Whatever its long-term influence, this wonderful story is highly entertaining for everybody. Its expressive ironic humour as well as its underlying wisdom reach far beyond the Discworld fans.
Tiffany Aching, the heroine of the story, inquisitive and mature for her nine years, views herself as an apprentice witch. She has the tools: a cast-iron frying pan, a piece of string, an unusual book of recipes, and, above all, the memory of her very special granny. To rescue her brother, Tiffany has to enter a fairyland, full of strange and dangerous creatures, all controlled by an evil “Quin”. Fortunately, she has inherited “first sights and second thoughts” - a powerful combination for a budding witch. These are essential talents for her to distinguish between reality and dreams: “to see what is really there” and what is imagination created within a dream. “Follow your dream”, Miss Tick’s advice to Tiffany, builds up to a real challenge when Tiffany, after fighting wild animals and dream-creating dromes finally confronts the Queen. She has to peel off layer after layer of their dreams to escape from being taken over by them, then use her own dreaming power to find a way back to her own reality.
Tiffany’s quest wouldn’t have a chance at being successful - and would be a lot less funny -without the Nac Mac Feegle. What a hilarious bunch of little guys in kilts (only one girl and the ageing kelda) they are: full of mischief, fighting spirit and a wonderful version of Scottish. Wouldn’t you like those around to do the chores around the house! But you would need some witching power - otherwise they would go back to their nasty tricks, like stealing eggs or making the sheep disappear. Their language and vivid expressions are a treat in themselves. Turning up in a black suit with a bow tie, one of them explains sheepishly: “The dream wouldnae let us in unless we wuz properly dressed…”
Pratchett has created a real gem of a Discworld story here - fast moving, imaginative and highly entertaining for young and old. It would not be Pratchett if he did not find a way to weave in some educational messages and real-life round-world wisdoms.
on 19 May 2003
There's something very special about that moment you open up the new Terry Pratchett book - it's a bit like putting on a pair comfortable slippers, settling down in your favorite armchair and having a nice cup of tea (hoping you won't laugh at the wrong moment and splutter it all over the place).
The Wee Free Men is set away from the hectic, sordid, big city life of Ankh Morpok and the pace and complexity of the story reflect this making it an altogether a more wholesome and pastoral reading experience. There are (in no particular order) shepherds, sheep, a dairy maid, a not so wicked witch, a toad, a cat, a prince (well, the son of a Baron so it counts) a Faerie Queen, a magic sword (well, frying pan) a clan of small blue pictsies (like a pixie but from the highlands favorite passtimes: fighting, stealing, drinking, shouting 'Crivens!', avoiding lawyers or any other form of unnecersary paperwork) and a happy ending. These elements are then turned around and upside down and mixed up to create a thoroughly modern fairy tale which touches on everything from careers counselling (if you want to be a witch) to bereavement .
We enjoyed this book, it's fun, intelligent and a good read aimed at the lower age range of Pratchetts usual readership but as usual that didn't seem to matter that much. Like 'The Amazing Maurice' 'The Wee Free Men' hits that happy point where it doesn't patronise the reader either old or young and has really funny moments that are appreciated by all.
on 1 May 2003
Terry Pratchett has done it again, producing another truly entertaining and wonderful story. Wee Free Men is the story of Tiffany, a 9-year-old girl who would like to be a witch, and the Nac Mac Feegle (Wee Free Men). The story follows Tiffany on her quest to save her sticky little brother who has been kidnapped by the Fairy Queen. On this quest she is helped by the Nac Mac Feegle, these little blue-skinned, heavily tattooed, pictsies like nothing better than to grab their foe by the ears and with a shout of ‘Here’s a face full o’ dandruff for yer!’ head butt them with more force than a stampede of rhino’s.
This is an excellent book, and a great introduction to the fantastic world of the Discworld and Pratchett’s wonderful sense of humor. The only complaint that I have is I simply wanted more, which is no bad thing. The book is definitely one that you will not want to put down till you've read it, and then you'll want to read it again. Simply brilliant.
You certainly will be fooled by this book. It is described as a childrens Discworld novel, and that may put some people off, but read this book and I promiase you you'll find it as rich with plot and humour, and as engaging as any of the other Discworld books. In this book we are introduced to the Nac Mac Feegle (Wee Free Men), who are very different to any kind of fairies you may have encountered before. This book will give you a whole eggs worth, and maybe even a carrots worth of education (read the book). Do you know what a susurrus is? Well know you can find out!
Seriously, this is a funny book and everyone should read it. It contains Pratchett's traditional blend of wit and humour, with an assortment of values and issues such as bravery, loyalty, and a desire to steal, fight, and steal.
So grab a packetof Jolly Sailor, pour yourself a glass of special sheep linament, and read this book! *****
on 6 December 2006
I really enjoyed this book. I can't remember where I was, but I first read it on holiday. One thing I do remember is reading out bits to my brother. The Nac-Mac-Feegle are some of the most origonal and hilarious characters I have met, stuff J.K.R's coppied creatures, the brawling, theiving, loyal, drunk, rowdy, headbutting, drunk, impossible to argue with, feegles, who would headbutt you if you left them a saucer of milk are a completely different take on faries. And a welcome one. They aren't exactly stupid, they just think that discworld, with it's pubs, creatures to fight and stuff to steal, is heaven and therefore are not afraid of 'dying' which is pretty impossible anyway.
Tiffany Aching, wise beyond her nine years, sets out to find her missing brother, Wentworth. Like all older siblings, she feels displaced by the younger boy. She feels resentment for his presence, his demands, his constantly runny nose. She's already defended Wentworth against a mysterious attacker who rose from the local river to snatch him away. Still, he mysteriously disappears and Tiffany sets off on a self-assigned quest to bring him home. He is, for all his faults, hers.
A nine-year-old girl on a quest is vulnerable. Tiffany, however, doesn't lack allies and support. The first is inexplicable, the second is indefinable. Her allies are a horde of small, blue-tattooed warriors - the Pictsies, the Nac Mac Feegle. Their traditions run to brawling, sheep-stealing and taking a "wee nip" when opportunity presents itself. They're expressive - in Pratchett's hands that means hilarious bits of dialogue, reasoning, philosophy and common sense. Above all, is their insistence on freedom. They've known a monarch, and they detest her. They also fear the power of the written word and lawyers. They're not alone in that.
Tiffany's support is in the memory of her gran. Granny Aching lived alone on the Chalk. She was quiet, but powerful. As a shepherdess, she knew the ways of sheep and nature. She confronted powerful people, achieving success with minimal effort. No curse can match the potency of a quietly spoken expression: "There'll be a reckoning". Granny's at the edge of much of Tiffany's thinking. She instills in Tiffany a sense of value: "Speak out for those with no voice". Is her memory enough to give Tiffany strength against the Pictsies' arch enemy, the "Quin"?
As usual, Pratchett delivers more than he promises. This is sold as a "children's book", but memories of The Who's great song will be running through adults' heads as they read the Nac Mac Feegle's fervent chant. Like any Pratchett book, The Wee, Free Men contains many strata of ideas beckoning your further inquiry. The first time you read this book, it will be for the adventure, the novelty and the fun. The second time will be to delve more deeply into Pictsish. See how deftly Pratchett confronts us with "real world" issues seeking resolution. Pratchett is almost unique in his incorporating science in his stories, and is unmatched in this ability. His depiction of the origins of chalk is a wondrous read. Not limited to physical science, he cogently probes human questions. Buy this for your children, but when they've put it aside for the first time [and they will return to it later], steal away with it to a quiet corner. You'll discover both a place to escape and a rigorous reality confronting you. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
on 10 May 2003
Although the Wee Free Men is aimed towards children, adults need not be put off from reading it themselves and the story is still of the excellent standard that readers of Pratchett have come to expect. Be cautious when telling children that you'll read to the end of the chapter, as you probably won't be able to put the book down yourself!
This is Pratchett's second story for children set on the Discworld and should be just as successful as the first. It tells the story of Tiffany, a young girl, who meets the Nac Mac Feegle, a tribe of tiny blue pictsies who were thrown out of Fairyland for being Drunk and Disorderly, and what happens to a Queen who gets more than she bargains for...
on 27 March 2003
The Wee Free Men is Terry's second children's novel set on the Discworld. The story is about Tiffany Aching, a nine year old who lives and works with her family on a sheep farm located in a place know locally as 'The Chalk'.
Once a lonely old lady with no teeth was wrongly accused of being a witch and of cooking and eating the Baron's son. The old lady was turned out of her house and left to die in the winter. Tiffany knew the old lady was innocent because she only had a small oven (so couldn't possibly cook a person in it) and unexpectedly decided to become a witch to prevent this sort of thing happening again.
Being the youngest of the girls in the family Tiffany spends a lot of time looking after Wentworth, her little brother. When Wentworth is taken by an evil Queen, Tiffany decides to get him back. Armed only with her wits and the Nac Mac Feegle, Tiffany enters Fairyland on a quest to rescue her brother.
Being "a story of Discworld" Fairyland is not a very nice place. It is full of nasty creatures and is very difficult to get out of.
With this book Terry gets the opportunity to develop the background and culture of the Nac Mac Feegle (the titular Wee Free Men) to whom we were introduced in Carpe Jugulum. We discover that the Nac Mac Feegle used to live in Fairyland but were thrown out for being too rowdy and that they have a hatred of lawyers.
Tiffany is a very strong character and acts much older than her age. I imagine that Granny Weatherwax was probably like Tiffany as a child. She is sensible, intelligent and always carries a piece of string in case it may come in handy.
The Wee Free Men follows a single storyline and therefore doesn't
have the complexity of some of the Discworld novels. This makes the book much easier to read. On first reading I didn't want to put the book down.
The UK edition sports a Paul Kidby cover featuring the Nac Mac
Feegle and a small china shepherdess Tiffany won at a fete. The US edition features a highly stylised version of the Nac Mac Feegle attacking a sheep.
Each chapter in the UK book includes a small picture relevant to the chapter whilst the US version I saw didn't. I am unsure whether this will change for the final book.
I found The Wee Free Men to be highly entertaining and well worth a place on your bookshelf.