I know I said I was going to read the sequel to Goblin Moon next, but when I said that, I didn’t know that there was a new Terry Pratchett novel out, namely The Wee Free Men—and I drop everything for a new Pratchett book.
I hadn’t realized this had already been published, and came across it by accident while browsing the YA section of my local Borders. (It was running a “buy two, get a third for 50% off” sale. New Westlake, new Pratchett, Teresa Edgerton’s latest, present for someone else, Michael Chabon-edited anthology, and a relatively non-offensive edition of I Capture the Castle. And elsewhere, Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel. Yay, books.) It didn’t appear in the SF section at all, so if you have trouble finding this, check the YA section. (And then buy Sorcery and Cecilia while you’re there—but that’s another post.)
As I’ve said before, Pratchett’s YAs are basically the same as his adult novels except that they’re shorter, darker, and have chapters. I think of The Wee Free Men as Lords and Ladies II: The Next Generation. The Queen of Faerie is still trying to push her way into reality, because, well, that’s what she does; this time the witch facing her down is not Granny Weatherwax of Lancre, but nine-year-old Tiffany Aching of the Chalk. The title refers to her allies, a clan of the Nac Mac Feegle (pictsies; they’re six inches high, paint themselves blue, and spent all their time drinking, swearing, stealing, or fighting).
One of the things I particularly like about this book is Tiffany’s relationship with her grandmother, recently deceased and one of the two former witches of the Chalk. (The other is dying as the book opens, which is why the Chalk is vulnerable to the Queen’s incursions.) The book uses flashbacks heavily to portray this relationship, which is comforting, loving, and yet filled with awkward moments and unspoken regrets; I found the portrayal realistic and refreshing.
It’s that relationship, and the sense of place and history that are bound up in it, that keep this book from being just a rehash of Lords and Ladies. Yes, much of the action takes place in Fairyland, which is a first for the Discworld, and the Nac Mac Feegle have a somewhat more prominent role—but the natures of witchcraft and the Queen are themes that have already been done in the Discworld books, and without this additional dimension, I think I would find this book somewhat stale.
Okay, except for the Nac Mac Feegle, who I can’t help but find amusing no matter what the context (even if they’d run away from me because I’m a lawyer).
[Tiffany and the clan are going after the Queen, who has stolen Tiffany’s brother.]
“Why’re we stopping? Why’re we stopping here? We’ve got to catch her!”
“Got to wait for Hamish, mistress,” said Rob Anybody.
“Why? Who’s Hamish?”
“He might have the knowin’ of where the Quin went with your wee laddie,” said Rob Anybody soothingly. “We canna just rush in, ye ken.”
A big, bearded Feegle raised his hand. “Point ‘o order, Big Man. Ye can just rush in. We always just rush in.”
“Aye, Big Yan, point well made. But ye gotta know where ye’re just gonna rush in. Ye canna just rush in anywhere. It looks bad, havin’ to rush oout again straight awa’.”
Words of wisdom, indeed.
If you like prior Pratchett novels, I recommend picking up this one as well.
[ Also posted to rec.arts.sf.written; the post should show up here in a few hours. ]