Saturday, 17 May 2008

Wintersmith

I think this is my fourth book for Carl's Once Upon a Time II challenge. Four off my list of nine but I have read two extra books. The problem I find is that other people's books are far more interesting than mine and I keep wanting to buy and read their's instead! Typical ditherer, that's me.

So, anyway, Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett. This is the third of his Tiffany Aching/Wee Free Men trilogy which is a series within his Discworld books.



Tiffany is now almost thirteen years old. She's living with Miss Treason, the oldest living witch (she refers to the quite ancient Granny Weatherwax as, 'the girl, Weatherwax') and quite the scariest one too. Most young witch apprentices staying with her leave within the first day; Tiffany is still there three months later because, 'although Miss Treason looked bad and sounded bad and smelled like old locked wardrobes, she didn't feel bad'.

One night, Miss Treason takes Tiffany off into the forest to witness 'the dance'. Tiffany is given orders not to talk, only to look at the dancers and not to move until the dance is finished. Unfortunately, Tiffany is mesmerised by the beat of the drums and realises that the dance is a Morris dance, the dance that welcomes in the Spring and Summer. She can't keep still and, almost hypnotised, she joins in the dance. A Big Mistake. She comes to the notice of the wintersmith and things go downhill from there. Suddenly it's snowing Tiffany shaped snowflakes and the older witches realise that the wintersmith has fallen for Tiffany. A permanent winter sets in and Tiffany has to keep a very low profile, with the Wee Free Men guarding her, in order to evade the wintersmith, who meanwhile has decided to become human in order to capture Tiffany's heart. Things come to a head when Miss Treason announces her own death, attends her own wake, and then dies, leaving Tiffany with nowhere to go. Which is where Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax come in...

These three books are definitely among my favourite Discworld novels now. I very much like the way in which this is not just a tale about the wintersmith falling for Tiffany but a continuation of 'her' story. You get a lot background information about how the witches live, what motivates them, what little tricks they employ to kid the villagers about their power and so on. 'Universe building' in other words and Pratchett is an absolute master at it. As always it's funny, he slips in lines that take you completely unaware, often in his dialogue:

'Mr Anybody?' said Roland as they glided jerkily along.

'Aye?'

'Why am I sitting next to a blue cheese with a bit of tartan wrapped around it?'

'Ah, that'd be Horace,' said Rob Anybody. 'He's Daft Wullie's pal. He's no' bein' a nuisance, is he?'

'No. But he's trying to sing!'

'Aye, all blue cheeses hum a bit.'

See? Just enough to make you giggle and then admire an author who can slip a little line like that in so nonchalantly that if you're not paying attention, you'll miss it. 'Genius' I call it.

My only complaint about the story is that I did find the ending a bit pat and I'm not really sure if I missed something there. But it didn't spoil my enjoyment of what is an excellent read and I'm only sorry that this is the last of the Tiffany Aching books and of course 'now' there's no knowing whether or not there will be any more.

Other reviews:

Darla D

11 comments:

Nymeth said...

I call it genius, too :)

There were plans for a fourth Tiffany to be called "I Shall Wear Midnight", but who knows :( Let's have hope, though.

Cath said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks Terry Pratchett is a genius.

I saw him on TV on Friday night and he seems very well at the moment. He was saying that it's the people with Alzheimers who are not as well off as him that he feels sorry for. I didn't realise that a fourth Tiffany book was planned. Fingers crossed then. I gather he's still writing all the time, which is great to know, so yes, I think we can have hope.

DesLily said...

I've not read any Pratchett books but I added The Color of Magic to my wish list because it's the closest thing I can find to it being his FIRST Discworld book and I hate beginning in the middle of anything lol... dunno when I'll get it, but it's on the list lol

Nymeth said...

I heard about that TV appearance, and it's great to hear that he looked well! I think he will be well for years still - like he said, being well-off definitely helps. He said somewhere that he felt he had time for two or three more books, but the estimate was more based on the struggle becoming too emotionally consuming to be worth it than on becoming unable to do it anymore. Which is only fair - he has given us so much already. Whatever books he will still write will be more than welcome, and I hope that a Tiffany story is among them.

Carl V. said...

"The problem I find is that other people's books are far more interesting than mine and I keep wanting to buy and read their's instead!"

Boy I sure do understand that! That's how the book pile keeps growing! :)

Cath said...

Pat, if I were you I wouldn't start with The Colour of Magic or The Light Fantastic. Most people leave the first two books and start somewhere else. You can easily do that with Pratchett's books. I started with 'Mort', but you could start with the first Sam Vimes book, (Discworld whodunnits) Guards! Guards! You don't really need much background knowledge with Discworld books and it's so easy to start anywhere with them. You could read these three Tiffany Aching books as stand-alones for instance. It would be interesting to hear what Nymeth thinks as she's probably more knowledgeable about Terry Pratchett than me.

Nymeth: where would you advise Pat to start with the Discworld books? I'm not sure I'm qualified to say as I came late to Pratchett myself.

I agree with everything you said. I really do think he'll go on for years yet and when he can't, well he will be leaving a tremendous legacy behind - and the certain knowledge that he has made so many people's lives happier with his wonderful books.

Carl: Yes indeed, that *is* how the book pile keeps growing and growing. And there are certain 'dangerous' blogs for me where I know that every time I go there I'm going to find a new book that I'm going to want to get. LOL. Oh well. There are worse things...

Darla D said...

I'm so happy that I have this book to read soon. I loved the first two, and just knowing that this one's waiting for me makes me grin. :-) I do love Terry Pratchett's books, and more would be great, but as Nymeth says, he's already given us so many - and we're the richer for it!

Cath said...

Hi Darla! Isn't it nice to have a book waiting for you that you know you'll love? Perfect for the time when you need a reliable and wonderful read. Wintersmith will fit the bill, worry not. I loved it to bits. :-)

Yes, there's no doubt about it, Terry Pratchett has given us his all and we have no cause for complaint. I really hope he keeps well a good long time yet.

Nymeth said...

Cath, I agree with your recommendations. I normally don't recommend that people start with The Colour of Magic because it can give them a wrong impression of the series. Mort is a great starting point - I think it was the book where Discworld really became itself. Plus, it's a Death book!

Guards, Guards would be a good starting point too, as would The Wee Free Men. What's there not to love in the Tiffany books?

Another one I'd recommend is The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents - because it's a brilliant book and because it doesn't demand any previous knowledge of the series whatsoever. He makes more of an effort than usual to contextualize readers, probably because it was the first Discworld YA book.

Cath said...

Nymeth: Thanks so much for your input. I was advised what to read by some friends in Scotland and it's nice to know their advice was correct.

Quixotic said...

I absolutely love the Tiffany Aching books, and Wintersmith is fantastic. It would be lovely if we do get a fourth...here's to hoping!

I'd just like to echo the sentiments about Colour of Magic. It is my least favourite of the Discworld books (although that by no means makes it a bad book...), and I always recommend that people start with a different book. Starting with the Tiffany Aching books would be excellent, and Mort is definitely another good one to start with. Amazing Maurice is another great recommendation. Can't go wrong with those.

Pratchett is indeed a genius. The man is a legend. :) Nymeth is right, he has given us so much. Problem is, what he has given just makes us greedy for more!