Continuing our bid to catch up on the Tiffany Aching series of the Discworld in a reasonable time to read the most recent release, The Shepherd’s Crown, we’ve made it through the half way point with the third novel, Wintersmith. That makes it sound like it’s a mammoth task that we’re struggling with, but the reality is that it’s been an absolute pleasure and there’s still two books to go.
Continuing on with the young witch’s ongoing coming-of-age saga in a very crazy world, it makes a great sequel to A Hat Full Of Sky and The Wee Free Men. It adds in a bit more of the young love aspect of the series storyline, with ongoing interest from the Baron’s son Roland and a new entrant in the eponymous Wintersmith. All of this is strung together with a free wheeling frost-bitten adventure and it makes for a whole lot of fun in the process.
It’s yet another anti-fairy tale that parodies the genre, poking fun at its antiquated rigidities, and playing around with the historical precedents set within them. Sometimes it glides along with them and at other times it shatters them into shards and reconstructs them to its own merry dance, so you can never really second guess what’s going to happen.
It delivers all of this within a frosty whirlwind of a story that whips straight into action right from the very beginning and doesn’t let up until the tale is told. Where The Wee Free Men stumbles into action and A Hat Full Of Sky meanders in its general direction, Wintersmith jumps straight into the fray with headlong force as it kicks off after the build up before returning to the past to fill in the gaps.
In it, Tiffany finds herself wrapped up in the story of the transition from summer to winter, picking up the confused and wayward affections of the Wintersmith, the elemental power behind the colder seasons, as a result. His attempts to win her over spell trouble for the rest of the Disc as the character unleashes the full force of his powers to win his iron made heart’s desire.
It makes for a fast and relentless read and while it’s been written for the young adult market it will definitely go down well with any Discworld or fantasy fiction fan. In and among all of the subtle parody and action packed adventure is more than a few nuggets of wisdom that remind you just how great a writer Terry Pratchett has been over the years, and how much he’ll be missed following his death in March 2015.
Tiffany is a little bit older and wiser at the tender age of 13, but she’s still got an uncanny ability to wind up in trouble and this time it’s a single dance that that seals her fate. Continuing her witch apprenticeship she’s been placed to live with the oldest hag on the Disc, Miss Treason, and she gets the lessons of a lifetime by the end of the book.
In addition to the poles apart brilliance of Nanny Weatherwax and the Nac Mac Feagle, the book also sees Nanny Ogg getting in on the wintry action, which is always a welcome development for us. As with every Discworld novel, there are a lot of great characters in Wintersmith and the title character makes a strong nemesis for Tiffany to face; not least of all because his primary relentless goal is impressing her and making her his bride, which is a very dangerous thing for an entity that controls the freezing cold, blizzards and snow.
With such a perfect combination of fairy tale tomfoolery, a whirlwind storyline, brilliant characters and Pratchett’s unconventional, comic style it’s another big entry in the series from the master of fantasy fiction.
Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith review: 4.5/5