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Terry Pratchett - WintersmithWintersmith is the 3rd book in the Tiffany Aching arc, and the 31st overall Discworld book by Terry Pratchett. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the suspicion that there would have been a 2nd book in the story. And no, I'm not tired of Tiffany Aching yet, and neither seems Terry; to the contrary, he seems to enjoy himself writing more of her story!

 The story starts with a bang, in the form of a flash-forward. Tiffany Aching takes on the Wintersmith, who endangers her Lambs (“Granny Aching never lost any lamb!”) with his late-Spring snowfall, and loses. The impression given is that Tiffany dies… or is it?

The story then takes a big step back in time, but stays as fascinating as the introduction promises. Tiffany is an understudy of Miss Treason now, who is deaf, blind, and uses Ravens and small furry animals as eyes and ears. Where other witches take the biscuit for being weird, Miss Treason takes the cake, too, and the tin, and…   Most understudy witches run away from hers after the first night. If they make it that far. Tiffany has been here for 3 months. She has, unwittingly, learned Miss Treason’s secret of ‘Boffo’ – her own, psychology-based, take on Granny Weatherwax’s ‘headology’.

 During the story Miss Treason dies. No surprise, she saw it coming, and had time to put her things in order, and have a grave dug…! What she could not settle, would not settle, was the matter of her successor on her ‘stead’ (more than a cottage… we’re learning more about how witches are working and are organized… except they are not, of course! Just ask Granny Weatherwax!). There is a contest over who should take over – and the task is given to Annagramma, the understudy of Mrs Earwig, who specializes in ‘Magick’, and is the bane of Granny’s life. This is the first time this new, wizardy, booky, strand of Witchdom is put to the test. Or was this what Granny wanted?

 

In another strand, more central to the book, shortly before Miss Treason dies, we find Tiffany visiting the dark Morris dance with her. The dark dance is like the normal one, except it’s danced in black only, at midnight, without bells, and half a seasons-wheel away from the ‘normal’ one. What comes must go, and vice versa! Tiffany is drawn to the silent dance which follows only a pounding drum beat, and joins in. The Wintersmith, who is called to replace summer with this dance, falls in love with Tiffany, a mortal. And so the trouble begins…

The usual, well loved cast of the Tiffany Aching (who is now 13 years old) stories is found in this latest instalment in the series – we have the old witches, their politics and power plays, and we have the young understudy witches with their politics, power plays, and coven. We also find, as always around Tiffany (more than she’d love them to…) the Mac Nac Feegles (Crivens!), and, also getting older, Roland, the local Baron’s son, who has his own troubles to look after.

Newcomers to this landscape are Miss Treason (who, sadly, also disappears again. Great figure.), and the antropomorphications of Summer and Winter (‘Wintersmith’), who are Gods (but not really, or only very lowly, as they basically are elementals; as Anoia, goddess of things stuck in drawers puts it. But nevertheless, when one of them falls in love with a Mortal then the Gods pay attention. It hasn’t happened in a long time).

Other interesting concepts are the matter of successions, the Weatherwax/Earwig conflict, played out at a remote; and the shifting relationships between the junior witches.

This is a very readable book with a great drive, and, if I could mention a negative side to this, very absorbing and hard to put down. I missed my stop on the way to work, repeatedly. I’m definitely not tiring of Tiffany Aching, and neither seems Terry, to the contrary, the book gives the impression that he enjoys himself writing these stories with a slightly younger audience in mind. This is the 31st Discworld book (if my count is correct?), and the 3rd in the Tiffany Aching story arc. A 4th book is mooted, with a working title (rumour has it) of ‘I shall wear Midnight’. Dramatic, and potentially the closing chapter on this story… something to look forward to indeed! No, the next book, of course, not the end of the story.

The book can be read without any previous knowledge of what went before, but I think, to increase understanding of the background situation as well as the interplay between the characters, that reading the first two Tiffany Aching books (A Hat full of Stars, and The Wee Free Men) are definitely recommended. If you have the leisure, read all 30 earlier book from the Discworld beforehand, it’s worth doing so – even if it won’t make a huge difference to this book, you will enjoy getting there!

Ok, let’s stop gushing, and engage our critical organ. The book contains a forced, stunted strand containing the Feegles (always a pleasure, but nevertheless) and Roland, with very little bearing on the actual story. Integrating this better, and playing it out would be beyond the scope of this book, so either we have something which could have been cut with very little consequence, or, much better, we’d have had the makings for another book by fleshing this out to Terry’s usual standard, and integrating it with the story more. Definitely my preferred solution… but besides this (minor) gripe I can only give one recommendation:

Get the book, now. Top Stuff. And a great present for any (potential) Pratchett fan around you!

 

More Terry Pratchett

 

Title: Wintersmith

Series: Discworld

Series Number: 31

Author: Terry Pratchett

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net

Publisher:  Doubleday/Random House

Publisher URL: randomhouse.co.uk

Publication Date: 2006

Review Date: 22 November 2006

ISBN: 0385609841

Price: UKP8.99 on Amazon

Author URL: http://www.terrypratchett.info

Pages: 399

Format: Hardback

Topic: Fantasy

Topic: Humour

Topic: Discworld

 

 

 

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