Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Wee Free Men

by Terry Pratchett


The Wee Free Men is Terry Pratchett's 49th book, and the 31st Discworld novel. It's hard to get excited about one more Discworld book, because after a while they start to seem samey. We are introduced to Tiffany Aching, a smart girl with clumpy boots and a talent for making cheese. She finds much to annoy her in her younger brother, Wentworth, who is a sticky, sweet-demanding toddler.

When monsters start appearing in the vicinity Tiffany arms herself with a frying pan and an egg's worth of education. On the chalk wolds where she lives witches are frowned on, but Tiffany knows she needs to learn some witchcraft if she is to stop the nightmarish creatures encroaching on her land. The Nac Mac Feegle, rowdy little blue pictsies (sic) fond of stealing, fighting and drinking, attempt to make off with Tiffany's sheep. Then Wentworth is abducted by the Queen of the fairies, and Tiffany decides to fetch him back. The Nac Mac Feegle are renegades from fairyland, so they help her. They have no love for the Queen, and will not accept being the subjects of any ruler.

Dreams and stories are the Queen's weapons, and Tiffany crosses over into a world of unreality where eating the food will trap you in a dream forever. It's all very fanciful, and like dreams the story lurches from one part to another without necessarily making much sense. It's not a satire or a commentary on anything in particular in the way that The Truth was about newspapers, or Maskerade was about the opera. Unless you count witchcraft, which is a recurring theme running through all the Discworld books. Tiffany is a lot like a younger version of Granny Weatherwax, with a very similar style of working things out. In fact we've heard it all before, but it was funnier the last time.

Tiffany has a talking toad to advise her, although it's clear he was something else before he became a toad. In fairyland they also come across Roland, the baron's son and another spoilt brat who has been abducted and needs rescuing. Tiffany also has the memory of Granny Aching to sustain her, a formidable and respected witch, although on the surface she was simply a sheperdess of few words.

Even though Tiffany is only nine she's an old head on young shoulders. It's not as though this book is simply too childish. It just lacks a certain something that grips the reader by the eyeballs and demands that you read on. The Wee Free Men isn't bad, it's entertaining and it comes to a satisfying conclusion. But it isn't the best of the Discworld stories.

Book Details

Year: 2003

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
  Female Protagonist  

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
More about Terry Pratchett


George Anketell     27th November, 2004 03:04am

Possibly one of the best children's novels I have ever read - despite Rosalind Jackson's PC review.

Graham     2nd August, 2005 16:21pm

I've only read half the book, but so far it's been briliant! Your a great author!