Review of the Day: Wintersmith
I'm not a fan of the cover (CGI much?) but there's no denying the inner beauty of this l'il number. Would it have killed them to get Chris Gall back for the art, though?
When a new Terry Pratchett book comes out (and I’m talking actually new and not the-republished-old-stuff-he-just-happened-to-have-sitting-around-the-office-Johnny-Maxwell-dribble) you can bet that it’s gonna be good. Now right from the start I was a fan of his Wee Free Men books. “Wee Free Men” was bonny and bright and “A Hat Full of Sky” made me physically guffaw in a very quiet bookstore setting (shaming me into buying it, no less). But I’m no sucker. You can’t just put a blue guy in a kilt on a book’s cover and say that I’ll roll over for it. You can’t just assume I’ll love EVERY title Pratchett pulls out of his neverending Discworld-pocket. You can’t just . . . hey. Is that Daft Wullie saying, “waily waily” on page five? God, I just LOVE this book!
You all remember Tiffany Aching, right? The young witch who would much prefer to spend her days on the Chalk with her villagers and her lambs. Well, Tiffany’s still learning the art of witchery and that means an apprenticeship of sorts. By and large, most of the witches Tiffany’s age have steered clear of Miss Treason. She’s creepy, no doubt (because she’s blind she sometimes uses your eyes to see with . . . while they’re still in your head, no less) but she knows her stuff. Then one day she takes Tiffany to see a Dark Morris Dance in the wood. A dance that Tiffany is told not to join. So, of course, join she does and now there’s a problem. You see, the spirit of winter (known as the Wintersmith) had never really seen a girl before. Now he’s smitten with Tiffany, and smitten hard. So what do you do when winter itself thinks that it’s in love with you? When the snowflakes themselves all look just like little portraits of you? Or how about the frost on the windows? How do you deal with the frost spelling out your name all over the world? Yeah, Tiffany’s hitting puberty and she’s got a massive problem to deal with. Cause winter, for all its charms, has a hard time taking, “No”, for an answer.
If Terry Pratchett makes the Morris Dance something beyond the butt of countless “Black Adder” jokes (to say nothing of Great Britain as a whole) he’ll have done the dancers a great favor indeed. Now if I’m going to be blunt with you, I’d like to confess something. I loved the first two books in this peculiar series, but if truth be told I think “Wintersmith” is the strongest of the bunch. Hear me out, people! Books one and two had their charms, but in general Pratchett is far stronger on his story build-up, characters, language, and plotting than he is his conclusions. Until now I hadn’t read a Pratchett book that ended in such a way that I was able to follow exactly what was going on. “Wintersmith” changes all that. I could follow and appreciate everything that was happening. Add in the wonderful little flourishes that make every Pratchett book a wonder and you’ve got a newly formed classic on your hands.
I think that there may have been an objection voiced by some that “A Hat Full of Sky” didn’t have enough Wee Free Men in it. Well, “Wintersmith” may well have less of a drunken-blue man group presence than its predecessors, I confess. But when the Wee Free Men are active, they burn up the pages. Once again they’re filling out clothing and armor to look like full-grown people (with poor Big Yan forever stationed in the knee). They’re even trying to help Tiffany with her love life (remember Roland?) by getting her trashy romance novels and reading through her diary. As if adolescence wasn’t hard enough, imagine trying to grow up with a pack of attentive tiny blue men watching your every move. It’s amazing Tiffany’s as sane as she is.
Unlike the previous two books, “Wintersmith” doesn’ have much in the way of a villain. How can you hate a guy like the Wintersmith? He’s so sweetly clueless it’s almost endearing. That is, if he wasn’t killing vast numbers of creatures in the midst of his obsession. Pratchett would probably hate to hear this, but I suspect that “Wintersmith” will be overwhelmingly beloved of teenaged girls. I know that when I was a fifteen-year-old dreamy-eyed twit of a gal I would have worshipped this tale like no other. It’s the fact that it’s a romance that does it. Crazed godlike fellow carves ice roses out of the earth for the woman he loves? That’s fabulous! But don’t let anyone tell you it’s not a great book in and of itself. Insane as it sounds, this may well be my favorite Wee Free Men adventure yet.
I’ll confess one other thing to you. I’m a children’s librarian. So it was with the greatest of joy that I read the following portion of this book, “The librarians were mysterious. It was said they could tell what book you needed just by looking at you, and they could take your voice away with a word”. Lord grant me the power this book promises unto me. And grant too that as many people as possible find out about it. I daresay you should probably read the two books that came out first before tackling, “Wintersmith”. But if you didn’t it wouldn’t be the end of the world. A great book that stands up beautifully on its own. Oh, yes. And there’s a sentient blue cheese involved. How on earth can you beat that?
On shelves October 1st.