Terry Pratchett,
The Wee Free Men
(HarperCollins, 2003)

Tiffany Aching is only 9 years old, but she's already showing signs of being a first-class future witch. It's not so much the magic, but her state of mind -- Tiffany sees, she thinks and, unlike most people, she often understands.

When a monster appears in a local stream, Tiffany uses her baby brother as bait and wallops it with a frying pan. When traveling scholars set up camp in her neighborhood, she opts for an egg's worth of education -- and she wisely chooses Miss Tick, an elder witch who ventures onto the Chalk when she senses Tiffany's potential.

Soon, Tiffany is pitted against an evil, fairytale queen to rescue her brother and protect the world from being overrun by dreams. But she isn't alone -- she has as allies a tribe of Nac Mac Feegle, the wee free men of the title. These blue-skinned pictsies are a wonderful caricature of Scotsmen, hard drinking, hard fighting, sheep thievin' and brave to a fault -- despite their diminutive size.

Wee Free Men is a refreshing new story in Terry Pratchett's long-running Discworld series. Written for a younger audience, it is equally entertaining for adult fans of Pratchett's fantastic world. The pictsies are particularly hilarious, but the entire novel, from conception to denouement, is classic Pratchett ingenuity.

Because the novel introduces entirely new characters (with the exception of a few brief, but pointed cameo appearances), this is the perfect launching point for Discworld novices to pay a visit to Pratchett's world.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 26 July 2003

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