The Wee Free Men: A humorous quest with serious themes

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Terry Pratchett The Wee Free Men DiscworldThe Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Tiffany Aching is a young witch-in-the-making on the DISCWORLD, Terry Pratchett’s flat world which is carried along by four giant elephants who ride on the back of the Great Star Turtle A’Tuin. Tiffany’s young brother has been kidnapped by the Queen of the Fairies. In her quest to save him, Tiffany ends up with some odd allies. The Nac Mac Feegle (six-inch-high tattooed blue guys who self-style themselves as “The Wee Free Men,” and who could give the Fremen of Arrakis from Frank Herbert ’s Dune a run for their money in a fight) are with her in her quest, along with her familiar on loan, a toad who, in a previous life, seems to have been a lawyer who helped folks find grounds to sue. Tiffany’s adventure while trying to rescue her bothersome little brother from Fairyland (which is not a particularly enchanting or safe place) is quite an entertaining young adult story that will appeal to older readers too.

Terry Pratchett is a master of subtle humorous writing and satire; he has said he idolizes P. G. Wodehouse, the British humorist, and it shows. Pratchett’s sense of humor shines throughout The Wee Free Men, but there are also serious undertones for both younger and older readers to ponder in the context of Tiffany’s adventure — characters have hard choices to make and must deal with the consequences of these choices, and they must consider which things in life are truly valuable, real and important.

This marvelous little book was the first DISCWORLD novel I ever read and I fell in love with the denizens of Discworld about half way through reading The Wee Free Men. Friends had been recommending Mr. Pratchett’s work to me for years, and I must say that I’m sorry I took as long as I did to start reading his books. Once I read The Wee Free Men though, I had to read more DISCWORLD!fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

The Wee Free Men is the 30th book in the series (39 novels have been published as of 2012, along with some short stories and numerous miscellany, such as cookbooks and “Science of Discworld” books, to name just a few) and though it’s probably best to read the series in something close to the publication order, it wasn’t necessary in this case and I had no problem going back to the earlier books later.

I recommend The Wee Free Men to anyone who loves fantasy, young adult literature, humor, adventure, strong female characters and good reads in general.
~Steven Harbin

fantasy book review Terry Pratchett The Wee Free Men Discworld Fun story. I love the Wee Free Men. I listened to the audiobook version read by Stephen Briggs which was really excellent.
~Kat Hooper

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Guest reviewer STEVEN HARBIN is an educator who is currently a counselor at an alternative school. He was formerly a world history and literature teacher. He lives with several cats and dogs, two children, a loyal saint of a spouse, and a large number of books scattered all about his house. He discovered science fiction and fantasy in the 1960′s when his school librarian suggested he read the works of Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. Steven, is my 10 year old daughter too young for this?

    • I don’t think so Kat. I gave it to my daughter when she was 12. Some of the humor is probably too subtle for a 10 year old, but then the original Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny cartoons were that way as well. As Tiffany grows in the series, things get a little more complicated (kind of like the way the Harry Potter novels progressed) and by book 4 “I Shall Wear Midnight” 16 year old Tiffany deals with a case of child abuse, but nothing is graphic or inappropriate even in that novel. I’ll go back through the book this night if I can, but I don’t remember any reason not to suggest it to a 10 year old.

  2. Our library has the Tiffany Aching books in the children’s section, though if I remember rightly, some of the verbal humour may not be immediately evident to a youngster.

    • Brad Hawley /

      I was wondering the same thing, since a student of mine just gave this to our family with our ten-year-old daughter in mind.

      I will certainly add it to MY list of must-reads, and I’ll let you know, Kat, if I feel willing to pass it down to her to read or if I’m gonna wait until she is older.

  3. Brad Hawley /

    Don’t forget the Discworld Graphic Novels! (Have you read these yet? I’ve got the collection on my shelf and haven’t read it yet.)

    By the way, I taught The Truth in my classes and had fun with it, so I’m ready to read more books in this series. We used it for a research paper on journalism and ethics along with Anthony Trollope’s searing comments on journalism in The Warden.

    I got stopped briefly in my reading of the Discworld novels because I read the first one in the series and didn’t like it at all for some reason. Is that a normal reaction to that book?

    • I haven’t read the Discworld graphic novels yet. I was actually glad I DIDN’T read the first book “The Colour of Magic” as my first Discworld read, because I think Pratchett’s skill as a storyteller and his conception of the Discworld and it’s potential improved vastly after the first 2 novels. I’ll also say that Rincewind is probably my least favorite of his characters, although he grows a little more likeable as the books go on. The books tend to usually center around one of the following major characters/settings: Sam Vimes/the Guards, Granny Weatherwax/the Witches, Death/and later Death’s adopted daughter, and the Wizards/with Rincewind sometimes being a major character in a book and sometimes not. Later books center around some other characters. Please please don’t give up on the series just because the original doesn’t “grab” you. I find your reaction to it fairly common, and would probably have felt the same way myself had I not already read some of the other later books.

  4. I enjoyed “The Truth” as well. I wouldn’t mind seeing a film adaptation of it, much as was done with “Going Postal” or “Hogfather” or “Wyrd Sisters.”

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