The bottom line – decent ‘young adult’ fantasy, but doesn’t quite reach the old glory days of the Discworld.
Tiffany Aching is not a lucky girl. She’s caught the eyes, and heart, of the Wintersmith, the spirit of Winter himself. And now, he gives her roses and icebergs, says it with avalanches and showers her with snowflakes, at least according to the blurb on the front cover of the book.
A part of Tiffany thinks its kinda cool. Another part of Tiffany is horrified at all the people who are dying as a result of the Wintersmith’s attentions. And a third part is just plain struggling with her training to become a witch.
Whilst set in the Discworld, and featuring some well known favourites from Pratchett’s previous novels, the Tiffany Aching books are strictly supposed to be young adult fantasy. He’s done it before; there are two other books in the Tiffany Aching sequence, and he’s also written a stand-alone novel (nothing to do with Tiffany, but also set in the Discworld) called The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents, which deservedly won the 2001 Carnegie Medal.
While the Tiffany books were a bit of a change for Pratchett after thirty odd full fledged Discworld novels, he seems to be running out of ideas with this last one. The plot meanders all over the place, before Tiffany finally deals with the Wintersmith in quite an annoying deus ex machina. It doesn’t help that Tiffany just comes across as a young Granny Weatherwax, and although she’s likeable enough its difficult to empathise with her.
As anyone who’s a fan of Pratchett will tell you, his writing style’s evolved over the years. Gone is the outright slapstick of The Colour Of Magic or The Light Fantastic. His later books have tended to become far more serious in tone, with the humor taking a back seat to the sometimes stealth social commentary and human insight. Wintersmith is no exception – there is the occasional bit of comic relief in the form of the Nac Mac Feegle, and Nanny Ogg’s always good for a laugh or two, but you get the overall feeling that this is serious stuff.
Its the same feeling that makes me doubt whether this book will have much of an appeal to young children. The setting is alien and the characters don’t quite build up the rapport of a Harry Potter or a Hermione Granger. On the other hand, if you’re a Pratchett fan its worth picking just to see a bit more of the Discworld in action.