Lizzie's Reviews > The Wee Free Men: The Beginning

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
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's review
Dec 29, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, own
Recommended to Lizzie by: Got a copy of this from Evan.

This was a fantastic surprise. I totally underestimated this one. I've never read Pratchett before, and I had some doubt that I would like it, pre-judging the genre Discworld sits in. I knew to expect a style most British, most silly, wit and wordplay and traditional magic, and a dash of zany action. It's a little like I've never outright read Douglas Adams -- he's very very funny (and I like his work a lot when there's people making it as funny as it is) -- but would I want to rest a whole reading experience on this style? I'm not really sure.

Anyway, what do I know, because I was all, all wrong.

Truthfully, indeed, the elements here are not immensely far out of the box. So it's hard to know in advance. It's entirely the work of what Pratchett's thought and style brings to the ingredients that sets them to life, and it's wonderful.

Tiffany is fantastic, of course, an awesome little girl to hang a story upon. I really like that she is more smart than sass -- she outthinks most of those around her, and has to subvert authority plenty, but also she's often rather silly, as she is 9. (And later, 11. Which as she points out, is completely different.) Her feelings are thoughtful and complexly drawn. Her world on her farm, her shepherding culture, comes greatly to life instead of being a pat setting. I enjoyed being there so much, right away. Her love and memories of her tough grandmother, taking strength in retrospect from the things she learned from her. How she keeps remembering the day she gave Granny the china shepherdess, with such regret.

And I just gotta say somewhere, Granny's dogs named Thunder and Lightning, are you kidding me, they're so cool.

I loved Tiffany's journey through dreamland to rescue the baby brother she otherwise can't stand for another second. (He's been taken, and that's wrong -- when she uses him for monster bait, that's different! He's her brother!) Everyone I talked to about the books told me they liked this book less than the second book, but I actually disagreed. I was impressed that something as frankly unoriginal as "this is a land where dreams are real" came alive so well. Because of what happens in the second book, in a way it's Tiffany that goes missing, and I like her so much more in action as herself.

Also. This one is important. I loved the Feegles. The little magic people who help Tiffany, essentially leprechauns, who speak in a ridiculous brogue and are mostly men and are mostly there for madcap antics and, man. I CAN'T BELIEVE I LOVED THOSE GUYS. Because if I were explaining them to myself two months ago, I would say to myself, "I am going to hate those guys." Wrong, Liz! Own the facts! As much as they love kebabs, I loved the Feegles. I cracked up aloud on the subway every day at something they said. They are so funny, it's incredible. (Also particularly liked when Tiffany had to pause and take the toad out of her pocket to check if whatever they'd just said was an insult or not.)

(And once, they claim to be "bigger on the inside.")

The narration is just a total pleasure to read. It's funny, but sharp. He's not just constructing jokes, he's setting up a way to say the most excellent things. Such as an incredibly brilliant funny paragraph that culminates, "With balloons, as with life itself, it is important to know when not to let go of the string."

And more personally, Tiffany's lessons in both these books are beautiful. She learns so much from the witches she meets, about being smart and doing hard things. Probably the best thing about the entire book is the fact that being a witch has almost nothing to do with doing magic, and entirely everything to do with just being incredibly smart. Seeing the truth, keeping your head, knowing how to think, being patient with the innumerable mistakes of others, taking responsibility when it isn't anyone's. And how that sometimes prevents you from belonging, too. "She wasn't being brave or noble or kind. She was doing this because it had to be done, because there was no way that she could not do it." It's perfect.

Plus there's opportunities for really small beautiful moments that are mostly magic but not entirely, like Tiffany starting the dance with the swarm of bees. And I like when she gets to save everyone both times with some Bad Wolfin', as I like to call it. A girl taking in surprising new power and using it for good, in a great surge. That often makes a good story I like. Tiffany is learning that this power exists when it has to.

I can't wait to read more about it.


I am trying to make zen with the fact that Goodreads will show this as reading one book instead of two. Sigh. I can do it. I'll be ok.

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