Wintersmith (by Terry Pratchett)

I do like Terry Pratchett's books! It's strange, really, because I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, or science fiction, and his books have been classed as both. I tend to think of them more as satire of the human race, with its strange cultures and customs, that just happens to be set in a distant (and unlikely) world.

'Wintersmith', although set in the Discworld, is the third book intended for a younger audience than the regular Discworld series. It features Tiffany Aching, a young witch, and the Nac Mac Feegles, a bunch of small (six inches high) blue, kilted, hard-drinking, violent, but very loyal men. The Feegles consider Tiffany their 'big wee hag', and try to look after her, with mixed results. Their earlier adventures together are found in 'The Wee Free Men' and 'A Hat Full of Sky'.

Tiffany is thirteen when this story starts. She takes an impulsive and foolish step - or several steps - and finds herself courted by the Wintersmith. He is an elemental spirit responsible for the winter on the Discworld. Tiffany is somewhat flattered.. but also very worried, as are her older and wiser counsellors. The Feegles both help and hinder her...

Some good moments of Pratchett humour, and a good story overall, with Tiffany's character being much more developed than most. There are cameo roles for Discworld favourites Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax, although it's not necessary to have come across them before reading this book. Oh, and there are also two cats, a cornucopea, and a trick joke shop.

It's not the greatest of literature; not even one of the best of the Discworld books, but a good way to introduce children to the concept. Complete in itself, but all the more enjoyable for having read the first two books beforehand. Entirely suitable for older children or young teenagers with a sense of humour, so long as they don't mind a bit of bawdiness, as well as older teenagers and adults. My sons are now 21 and 19, and they enjoyed this as much as I did.

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