Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
Review by Joshua S Hill
One of the things that I have found as I have read fantasy book after fantasy book, is that life is different in those books. Of course it is, ya daftie, I hear you cry, but bear with me. I obviously know that life is different, that’s why I read them: when you are a freelance writer, you look for any chance possible to jump out of the real world. But you have to remember that if a bit of the book is different, then it is all different from your reality.
By this I mean that if a 13 year old girl is fearing being married off to a prospective husband in a book, you look at the rest of the book to see if that is likely, not your own life.
All of this is to say that, when a writer manages to successfully communicate to me that a 13 year old girl can very well assume the role of someone who, in our day and age, would be a decade or so older, I am exceedingly happy. And that is what happens time and time again throughout Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, the third book in the Tiffany Aching series of books.
Things were a little better when Tiffany had warmed up. She wondered how much brandy Nanny had added to the milk. Nanny had done one for herself, with probably some milk added to the brandy.
“Isn’t this nice and cozy,” said Nanny after a while.
“Is this going to be the talk about sex?” said Tiffany.
“Did anyone say there was going to be one?” said Nanny innocently.
“I kind of got the feeling,” said Tiffany. “And I know where babies come from, Mrs. Ogg.”
“I should hope so.”
“I know how they get there, too. I live on a farm and I’ve got a lot of older sisters.”
“Ah, right,” said Nanny. “Well, I see you’re pretty well prepared for life, then. Not much left for me to tell you, I expect. And I’ve never had a god pay any attention to me, as far as I can recall. Flattered, are you?”
“No!” Tiffany looked into Nanny’s smile. “Well, a bit,” she admitted.
It is another two years on since A Hat Full of Sky, and this time Tiffany has gone and put her foot in it; literally. The elemental embodiment of winter has fallen in love with her, and it’s going to end badly for somebody. Meanwhile, Annagramma unwittingly becomes the pawn of Granny Weatherwax in her continuing struggle to remind the world that witching has nothing at all to do with magick.
I am sometimes fascinated by the ease with which Pratchett manages to so completely and utterly draw me into the life of a 13 year old girl. It is enough to make me worry: about him or me, I don’t really know. But Tiffany Aching very quickly pervades your life, and you end up finding yourself calling those you’re in love with Tiffany without really realizing what has happened. Tiffany becomes someone that you fall in love with all by yourself, and you ache (teehehe) for her.
Wintersmith is very much the book that, so far, makes you ache for this girl. In the past she has encountered hardships, trials that she must overcome, but they have been of the adventurous sort. This time around, it is her life that is coming under threat, and in a way, it is all her fault.
Her father’s hand caught her chin and gently turned her head around. How soft his hands are, Tiffany thought. Big man’s hands but soft as a baby’s, because of the grease on the sheep’s fleeces.
“We shouldn’t have asked you, should we…” he said.
Yes, you should have asked me, Tiffany thought. The lambs are dying under the dreadful snow. And I should have said no, I should have said I’m not that good yet. But the lambs are dying under the dreadful snow!
The book starts off with a chapter that, chronologically, is set much deeper into the book. This is quickly followed by the obligatory “few months earlier” equivalent. But it works well, because there is known impending doom, and the question is “how did Tiffany get to such a place?” So when it comes time to read over that journey, the lessons learnt, the mistakes made, and the hastily avoided discussions about sex with Nanny Ogg are all part of the dire straits that started us off, and will finish us off as well.
There are beautiful scenes in this book that once again give you an insight into the lives of real shepherds. These scenes make you wonder whether Pratchett himself was a shepherd in another life, or whether his research skills are just top notch. Regardless of how they were formed though, the imagery presented adds gravitas to the actions that Tiffany must take to save the day.
Truly these three books – The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith – are some of Pratchett’s greatest works. As such, they are some of fantasy’s greatest works. Much more than just humorous stories for teenagers, these books tell a tale so rich in depth and so full of hidden jewels that they are easily mistaken for works of high literature.
Bob from Romford, Essex
This was a great read. It was so good I got a copy of it on cd audio book, narrated by tony robinson of time team fame. His reading of the book only made it better.
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