Review: The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

‘Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.’

So I’ve finally started the Tiffany Aching books and my heart isn’t ready. Welcome back to the Discworld project friends! Now as many might know, or many don’t possibly, I started this project with the intent to read all of the Discworld books and also chose to follow them in publication order. This is my first departure from that order and I think it’s the best decision I have made so far.

Up on the chalk downs they call The Wold, witches are banned – ever since the Baron’s son vanished in the woods. Anyway, as all witches know, chalk’s no good for magic. Nine-year-old Tiffany Aching thinks her Granny Aching – a wise shepherd – might have been a witch, but now Granny Aching is dead and it’s up to Tiffany to work it all out when strange things begin happening: a fairy-tale monster in the stream, a headless horseman and, strangest of all, the tiny blue men in kilts, the Wee Free Men, who have come looking for the new ‘hag’. These are the Nac Mac Feegles, the pictsies, who like nothing better than thievin’, fightin’ and drinkin’. Then Tiffany’s young brother goes missing and Tiffany and the Wee Free Men must join forces to save him from the Queen of the Fairies-

So I’m no stranger to witches in the Discworld series at this stage. At this point some of my favourite stories of the Discworld are those with the witches and their adventures. Granny Weatherwax exudes that hard, reliable energy that makes me genuinely nostalgic and if I had aunts like Nanny Ogg? Well I’d be far more foul mouthed and drunk than I already am. But this book takes us to not only a different witch, but a new witch. A young witch starting her journey into the craft.

We follow Tiffany Aching, second youngest in a long line of Aching’s. It’s a routine joke in the family that they’re name is often the pun of jokes relating to family members after working long days in the fields. This part of the Disc is called the Chalk, a community of mostly shepherds and farmers living off the soft, chalky stone. Along comes Miss Tick, a witch touring around with a sentient toad. She sees Tiffany’s potential but dismisses her chances of being a witch. A witch can’t be raised on chalk, it’s too soft, it’s not hard and solid. It’s not possible. I like them odds though.

This is the 30th book in the Discworld series overall but it still manages to add to what is a very well established world. Tiffany is the first witch we meet who is still a child and on the first steps to becoming one and it’s the first time meeting the Nan Mac Feegles, the titular Wee Free Men. I love how seamlessly this blended into the story with Tiffany’s journey to save her brother. The Nan Mace Feegles are this wonderful blend of hilarious and wholesome.

Something I think this book deals with is grief, particularly how children manage it and sometimes have to step up as a result. Over the course of her journey as we as readers get to know Tiffany, we learn there is a lot more to her serious and practical nature. The relationship between Tiffany and Granny Aching, her legendary grandmother, is something very deep and actually very easy to relate to. Her death has clearly affected Tiffany, as well as her legacy, to the point she has a lot of unspoken feelings she has had to work through in how this has affected her, as well as several other factors in her life she is processing as a young girl. I’ve seen Pratchett add this nuance to the likes of Death, Rincewind, Vimes and Granny Weatherwax but it’s just even more impressive to see it in younger characters as well.

I could ramble on and on about aspects of this book and how much I loved it. The way the Wee Free men have their own society and beliefs structured, the potential of the parallels between Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany when it comes to the Queen of the Faeries, and so much more. But I do want this to be a review over all and just sum up how much I have loved this entry of the Discworld project.

Next entry should be back in chronological order but I will be continuing Tiffany’s story as well until I reach The Shepherds Crown, the last book in the series overall and the last for Tiffany too. Have you read The Wee Free Men? I’m so glad to have finally gotten to it. Thanks for checking in guys and happy reading to you all.

★★★★★/5

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