The Wee Free Men (Discworld #30, Tiffany Aching #1)

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30; Tiffany Aching, #1)The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Chalk is a place of sheep and shepherds but never a witch was known to be there, however that might have been incorrect. Terry Pratchett’s 30th Discworld novel, The Wee Free Men, is the second time he’s written for young adults but his writing and humor are top notch as well follow a nine-year witch Tiffany Aching going up against the Queen of Elves with only a horde of six-inch blue little men.

Tiffany Aching finds her family farm being invaded by monsters from dreams as well as a horde of little blue men, the titular Wee Free Men. Tiffany is very smart for her age and sees things as they are just like her grandmother, so when strange things pop up she uses an iron pan to beat them back. Although she later figures out that her grandmother was a witch, Tiffany has her first encounter with one in the form of Ms. Lick who tells her to be careful but not to tackle the problem on her own but when her brother is kidnapped by the Fairie Queen, Tiffany knows she’s going to need help while not sounding desperate. Tiffany’s help comes to her when the local clan of the Wee Free Men shows up looking for the new “hag ol’ the hills” because of the invasion of the Queen. Tiffany and the Wee Free Men invade ‘Fairyland’ and manage to return with her brother, a feat that Granny Weatherwax finds impressive for someone so young and untrained.

The Wee Free Men features Tiffany as the only point-of-view character, save from a narrator, which keeps the book fairly orderly when reading as well as being in line for a book for younger readers. The story itself is somewhat familiar for long time Discworld fans with the antagonist being the Queen of the Elves invading, but Pratchett changes things up with the use of dreams and the conflict as seen from a nine-year old. The cameo appearance of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg at the end, sets up further adventures of Tiffany and connects her subseries with the Witches subseries with the hopes of seeing favorite characters in future books.

The second young adult and first Tiffany subseries book of the Discworld canon is a fantastic book; The Wee Free Men gives someone new for long time fans while introducing older characters for younger new readers. While it’s intended for a younger audience, older fans will appreciate Pratchett’s humorous fantasy writing with his twists and turns.

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Night Watch (Discworld #29, Watch #6)

Night Watch (Discworld, #29)Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The past and future of Ankh-Morpork revolve around the efforts of His Grace Sir Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Night Watch, the sixth book focusing on the City Watch and twenty-ninth overall book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series finds Vimes dealing with his wife about to give birth, the deaths of two of his two officers and chasing the man responsible, then finding himself in the past playing the mentor to his younger self during a time of revolution.

Sam Vimes loves being a copper, but not so much His Grace when things have to be official, but after a magical “accident” caused by the Monks of History to send him 30 years into the past Vimes must make sure history happens like it did when he was a 17-year old newbie. Becoming his mentor Sergeant John Keel and second-in-command at his old Watch House, Vimes attempts to bring about the past he remembers so his “present” remains the same. Unfortunately for Vimes, a genius yet insane killer Carcer was brought back with him and has his own agenda—chaos and murder. Add in a revolution hitting Ankh-Morpork and Vimes is in for some very stressful days.

This isn’t the first time that Pratchett has done a little time travel in a Discworld novel, but it was the first in which it was the primary element in one. Vimes becoming the heroic mentor to his younger self, is somewhat cliché but Pratchett uses Vimes own grim view of the world to an advantage as starts to become imprinted on young Sam. Yet, Vimes existential fretting about messing up his future does get tiresome after him doing it so many times in the book that it almost seems that Pratchett was finding ways to take up page space.

Night Watch is an action-packed installment in the Discworld series that Pratchett writes fantastically with Sam Vimes as the protagonist, even with the overused existential fretting. Once again I’ve found a Watch book bringing out the best of Pratchett and the entire Discworld setting, I can only hope the other two books of the subseries will be the same.

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The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Discworld #28)

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Discworld, #28)The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The piped piper comes to a town in Uberwald, but finds that he’s late to the show that features cats, rats, and stupid-looking kids talking to one another. The twenty-eighth and first young adult entry of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents finds the residents—new and old, human and nonhuman—town of Bad Blintz figuring out the fine line between real life and a story. The aim to bring the same Pratchett humor that adults love to a younger audience is on target.

A mixed troupe of “rat piper” con-artists arrive just outside the town of Bad Blintz lead by a streetwise tomcat, who a clan of talking rats and a stupid-looking kid named Keith on the streets of Ankh-Morpork. But everyone is getting fed up with just going around and doing the same old thing, the rats want to find a home to build their society and the kid would like to play more music. Maurice is just interest in money and hiding the guilty for how he gained the ability to speak, but he found more than he’s bargaining for in Bad Blintz because something weird is going on even his talkative rat associate find disturbing. Soon the troupe find out that they have stumbled into a long running conspiratorial plan hatched from a surprising source.

As always, Pratchett connects his humor around a well-known fairy tale or story then completely turns it on its head when the same circumstances happen on Discworld even as the characters fight their own preconceptions when comparing “stories” to “real life”. The fact that he ably brought his unique style to a young adult market without losing any of the punch from the jokes makes this a very good book. Although some of the sections of the book were somewhat familiar to a long-time Pratchett reader does take a little away from the book, it doesn’t necessarily ruin the book for first time readers.

Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld foray into the young adult genre is classic Pratchett through targeted at a younger audience. I found it as funny as the rest of his series, but some of the plot points were simpler than his usual work for obvious reasons. However this minor fact doesn’t ruin a very good book.

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The Last Hero (Discworld #27, Rincewind #7)

The Last Hero (Discworld, #27; Rincewind #7)The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Gods are on notice as the greatest heroes of the Disc are headed for their heavenly abode on a quest to return the fire stolen by the first hero, except there’s a catch. The illustrated Discworld novella The Last Hero is the twenty-seventh in the humorous fantasy series written by Terry Pratchett and assisted by artist Paul Kirby. And once again Pratchett follows his first protagonist Rincewind racing to save the world.

Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde have left their imperial possessions on the Counterweight continent and are heading for the home of the Disc’s Gods with the gift of fire first stolen by the legendary First Hero, unfortunately the old men are planning to blow the place to smithereens which would have the unfortunate side effect of destroying the Disc. To the rescue is Leonardo da Quirm, Captain Carrot, and a reluctant Rincewind—who only joins because if he didn’t he’d find himself on the journey by some horrible twist of fate—traveling the quickest way they can get to the abode of the Gods, over the Rim and through space. This short story is given a remarkable boost with the illustrations of Paul Kirby who brings to life so many great characters from all over the Disc, as well as two new secondary characters. Yet not only do characters get a stunning portrayal but so does the geography of the Disc as well in stunning pictures that makes you just want to stop reading and stare at them to take in all the details.

The novella itself is pretty straight forward unlike a regular Discworld novel in which little sidebars populate the narrative to humorous effect, but with The Last Hero the illustrations more than make up for that. While considered a part of the Rincewind series, the Disc’s worst wizard is more a tag along character in a story dominated by usually secondary characters. However for longtime fans this won’t be a problem given the story and the amazing illustrations.

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Thief of Time (Discworld #26, Death #5)

Thief of Time (Discworld, #26; Death, #5)Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The rules of the universe are once again being bent to endanger life, but this time it is really Time itself that is being used as the weapon of choice. The 26th installment of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series finds many characters quite literally being a Thief of Time from certain points of view, yet only one can truly change history.

The Auditors of Reality attempt once again to organize the universe by getting rid of life by literally stopping everything by having a clockmaker construct the perfect clock. Unfortunately for the Auditors, Death catches wind of their scheming and once against enlists his granddaughter Susan to track down someone who might be able to correct their actions. Meanwhile the Monks of Time catch wind of the construction of the perfect clock as warning sign pop up like they did the first time such a clock was constructed. While Death and Susan take their own paths towards battling the Auditors, the famous Lu-Tse and his apprentice race to stop the clockmaker. And while these heroes race to save Time, the Auditors of Reality begin to learn about what it means to be human and that sudden immersion probably wasn’t the best way to do so.

Thief of Time follows a new pattern by Pratchett in which he focused more on plot and story structure, instead of jokes that string along the story. In fact while there is humor in this book it isn’t paramount to anything connected with the plot, it’s just that some funny things happen along the way towards the climax. This isn’t to say that the book isn’t good, in fact it continues Pratchett’s string of great work but the early sophomoric humor or plain repetitiveness of some jokes are thing of the past in the series. However while the events in this book clear up various timeline anomalies created earlier in the series, it also marks the ending of the Death subseries (though he continues to make appearances) and the last appearance of Susan Sto Helit which for their fans is a major disappointment as the series would continue for 15 more books.

Yet while Thief of Time does turns out to represent the last appearance for some fan favorites, it continues Pratchett’s string of great installments of the Discworld series. For anyone who is a fan of Pratchett you’ll love this book and if you’re new to the Discworld after reading this book you’ll be interested about his earlier installments.

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The Truth (Discworld #25, Industrial #2)

The Truth (Discworld, #25)The Truth by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The city of Ankh-Morpork is a vast multicultural and multispecies metropolis with a strong economy and police force, so what happens when Discworld’s biggest city gets a newspaper? The twenty-fifth installment of Terry Pratchett’s fantasy-humor series, The Truth once more finds the flat world taking another step into an Industrial Revolution while a conspiracy looks led Ankh-Morpork into the future by looking back.

William de Worde, scion of one of Ankh-Morpork’s oldest families, is a scribe making his way in life by writing a newsletter for foreign consumption between regular scribe duties. Then suddenly William’s life gets changed forever when he runs into dwarves looking to make gold out of lead, well in fairness he actually gets run over by a moveable type printing press. Within a day, William finds himself running a newspaper and while still figuring out how it all happened, Lord Vetinari appears to have committed serious crimes that could result in a change of city leadership. But as the staff of the Ankh-Morpork Times looks into the political controversy, they find themselves being looked over by the Watch, two new criminals in town, and a sinister cabal (is there any other kind).

Unlike Moving Pictures, the previous “Industrial” story, The Truth doesn’t need the crutch of clichés to bring a laugh while also having a fantastic plot and numerous new characters that keep the book a great read. While focusing on new characters, several members of the City Watch come into the plot and interact with the main character but don’t take the focus on the primary protagonists and the major antagonists. Also Pratchett fills this book with a nice little mystery and the always entertaining Gaspode and his band of human beggars.

For the second straight book, Pratchett invests in plot that he builds jokes around and not the other way around. As a result, The Truth is a wonderful read for both longtime fans and first time readers.

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The Fifth Elephant (Discworld #24, Watch #5)

The Fifth Elephant (Discworld, #24)The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

With Ankh-Morpork’s trade with Uberwald in possible danger Lord Ventari sends his most reliable diplomat and expert in political intrigue, Sam Vimes. The Commander of Ankh-Morpork’s Watch finds himself in a potential international incident with interspecies disputes and conspiracies mixed in with the fabulous riches of The Fifth Elephant mines in this installment of Terry Pratchett’s fantastic Discworld series.

Uberwald is a mineral rich principality governed over by dwarfs, werewolves, and vampires in an uneasy peace with one another and amongst their own species then add to this mix Sam Vimes as ambassador from Ankh-Morpork to coronation of the new dwarf king. Vimes’ diplomatic style and his natural detective instincts strain international, as well as interspecies, relations as the copper investigates a robbery and murder in Ankh-Morpork connected to events in Uberwald. But as Vimes works out a conspiracy in Uberwald he’s faces Angua’s own family, the reigning werewolf barony and they aren’t particularly a close family. And as events unfold, Colon and Nobby are left in charge of the Watch in Ankh-Morpork resulting in crime disappearing from the city as every criminal fears what will happen once Vimes returns to the mess.

Unlike the majority of his previous installments, Pratchett built this book around a plot and threw in some gags that never got tired out because they weren’t the focus. For the first time, a Discworld book seemed more in the fantasy genre—leaning a lot towards adventure—than the humor genre. This change of approach was both a surprise and a welcome to a series now on its 24th book, especially as it was a part of the Watch subseries which benefited with a more structured approach to the book. The Fifth Elephant was fun to read and a book I’m looking forward to rereading in the future.

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