|The Wee Free Men|
Date: 25 May, 2004 — $6.99 — Book
Fiction, Fantasy, Juvenile
This is a book for children, but only if you love them.
Pratchett's approach to writing for children is to write a standard story, then "add more blood and violence." (This book does not, in fact, have more blood and violence than a standard Discworld novel, even though "It's not a proper fairy story unless somebody's feet get chopped off at the ankle." Both quotes are from Pratchett himself, at the 2002 World Science Fiction Convention.) The heroine of this novel is twelve, which means this book is aimed at those children of about ten.
Tiffany Aching is an incipient witch, a person who sees things as they actually are. Her encounter with the Nac Mac Feegle, little men made blue by their tatoos ("Pictsies"*) is inspired by the matter-of-fact way she deals with a fairytale creature in the water. The Nac Mac Feegle respect "hags"— their term for witches— and when their female ruler, the kelda, dies and leaves Tiffany in charge until the new kelda comes, they help her as best they can in their bloody-minded independent way.
And they have to help her a lot, because the Queen of Fairies is coming... and she's not exactly sweetness and light.
*One suspects that, far back in the weird mental soup that passes for a writer's inspirational process, Pratchett crossed the idea of gnomes with that of the Smurfs, and came up with something Scottish.