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Friday, May 05, 2017

Early Morning Reading In Bed! Terry Pratchett...

The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke by Richard Dadd. Public Domain

It's Saturday morning and I'm rereading the Tiffany Aching books - on my phone! Comfort reading is what I need in bed.

Terry Pratchett's last novel, The Shepherd's Crown, is a Tiffany Aching story, and I refuse to read it till I've reread the series. It's the very last, you see, so I'm going slow. I used to devour them as they came out, knowing there would be more. I'd borrow the hardcover from the library while waiting for the paperback, though I do have a few in hardcover, because sometimes they were discounted and sometimes I just had to have it - now! These days I buy them in ebook, because my paperback copies are wearing out.

So this morning I have been curled up with The Wee Free Men, the first novel in this particular Discworld sub-series, although we first met the title characters in Carpe Jugulum, in which they help  King Verence of Lancre, who has been hypnotised by the vampires. In return they are given a home.

But this is the first novel in which you get to know them properly, as individual characters, and the story isn't set in Lancre, a tiny kingdom in the Ramtop Mountains, but in the Chalk country, which is basically the south of England, where the White Horse of Uffington is carved into the chalk. There's a some chalk carving here too, and a White Horse. And sheep. Lots of sheep, and Tiffany Aching, the granddaughter of Granny Aching, the shepherd all shepherds want to emulate. Granny Aching was almost certainly a witch, of the Discworld variety, who are respected, in Lancre at least, but she is dead, and nine-year-old smart-alec Tiffany, who makes the best cheese in the district and has read the dictionary cover to cover, wants to be a witch, to make sure nobody ever again mistreats old ladies whom they think are witches.

When Tiffany's little brother is kidnapped by the Queen of Faerie, she needs help. And there are these tiny red-headed men who wear kilts and would rather fight than eat, who were kicked out of Faerie for being drunk and disorderly, who know the way back in... And Tiffany has her iron frying pan...

I just love Terry Pratchett's gentle humour and his wisdom. I do remember the first time I read this thinking that I had never come across a nine-year-old who was quite as advanced in speech and thought as Tiffany, but in the end, you just accept Terry Pratchett's characters for who and what they are, sit back and enjoy the ride.  

And what a ride it is! I can almost feel sorry for the Queen - defeated not only by a nine year old with a frying pan but by Magrat Garlick! Magrat! Wimpy Magrat who has sung too many folk songs...

But that's another novel, Lords And Ladies

And right now, I'm delighting in Tiffany's first encounters with the Nac Mac Feegles, a tiny race of men who live in a sort of hive colony with a Queen, the kelda, who is the mother of most of them, since Feegle females are few and far between and all of them become keldas, so have to leave home with some brothers as a guard. The Feegles are about six inches high, covered in blue tattoos and think they're dead and this is the heavenly afterlife, because it's so full of great stuff - things to steal, booze to drink and things to fight. They carry swords, but mostly fight by grabbing the victim's ears and head butting them. When they die, they believe, they are reborn elsewhere and have to be good to return here. 

I know how it will all pan out, but it's a bit like going back to the first Harry Potter book, where Harry is young and innocent and the wizarding world is new and exciting. Tiffany grows up in the course of the novels. By the end of I Shall Wear Midnight, which I thought was the last novel, she is a young woman who is the village's witch, with a witch's responsibilities, and has fallen in love with an intelligent and brave young man. If you've read the fifth book, by the way, please don't tell me about it in the comments! I want to discover it and before that I'm rereading the others. 

I love that the centrepiece of this one is a real painting that Terry Pratchett had seen - was it, perhaps, the inspiration? See above. I got it from Wikipedia, where it has its own entry. 

In some ways, this is my favourite of the Tiffany Aching books, though I love all four of them. 

Have you read them? What us your favourite? 


Jazz K said...

I like your idea of rereading the other novels. I think I'll do this too. I am so sorry that there will be no other novels by Terry. He was one in a million.

Sue Bursztynski said...

He was unique! Usually you can say, "If you like this author, you will also enjoy that one. " Not Terry Pratchett. He was at one stage compared to Douglas Adams, but no. They were both funny, but that's about it. And DA was also unique.

Lexa Cain said...

What a joy to have a great series to re-read slooowly. "Disc-world" sounded familiar, but as I read your summary of the book, I knew I had no memory of it. I believe I read "Ringworld" by Larry Niven. I was always a SF not a Fantasy reader. Enjoy your penultimate book and then on to the new (and last) one!

Sue Bursztynski said...

You should consider making an exception for Discworld. It's a world that is flat - a bit like Ringworld, in that respect - and carried on the backs of four elephañts that ride on the back of a turtle. Fantasy or not, Pratchett sent up real-world issues in the series, and they were very, very funny.