Book Review: Sir Terry Pratchett’s Wintersmith

Posted April 14, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Young Adult readers

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Sir Terry Pratchett’s Wintersmith



Sir Terry Pratchett

It is part of the , series and is a fantasy in eBook edition that was published by HarperTempest on October 1, 2006 and has 323 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Wee Free Men, The Color of Magic, A Hat Full of Sky, I Shall Wear Midnight, The Light Fantastic, Sourcery, Eric, Equal Rites, Mort, The Shepherd's Crown, Wyrd Sisters, Pyramids, Guards! Guards!, Moving Pictures, Small Gods, A Blink of the Screen, Reaper Man

While I went a bit nuts with the quotes, I was actually quite restrained. There is so much that is funny in this third installment in the Tiffany Aching fantasy series about an apprentice witch (it’s thirty-fifth in the overall Discworld fantasy series).

In 2007, Wintersmith won a Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel and was nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Tiffany Aching books at KD Did It Takes on Books.

My Take

How to use witchcraft to do housework.

ROFLMAO. I am so glad I discovered Pratchett’s Discworld. Yes, I know that the rest of the world knew about it, and that I’m the slowpoke, and that’s okay. At least now I’ll have a couple of books to read…eeek!…41 of ’em and that’s not including the short stories! I also suspect this is a series one needs to read in small doses.

“Of course they talked to their cats. After three weeks without an intelligent conversation that wasn’t about cows, you’d talk to the wall. … it’s an early sign of cackling…”

The Wintersmith was fun with Pratchett coopting myths, fairytales, the Tin Man from Oz, and Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next stories with all the chat about building the Story, and it fires up Tiffany’s encounters and flight from the Wintersmith.

It’s better to be “too clever by half than bein’ too stupid by three quarters”.

It was confusing after the initial start (it’s Tiffany battling the Wintersmith on the Chalk after the events that come later in the book — yes, I’m serious about that wording) as I didn’t understand the importance of the Dark Dance and how it would influence later events. I think Pratchett could have made this more clear.

“‘Ach, people’re always tellin’ us not tae do things,’ said Rob Anybody. ‘That’s how we ken what’s the most interestin’ things tae do!'”

Don’t worry about the odd words if you don’t enjoy made-up words, as Pratchett has a dictionary at the start of Wintersmith. The Wee Free Men’s dialog does crack me up. Crivens! You may want to read your way through it, if only to warm up the laughter box for the actual story.

“…breeze through green corn on a spring day, to ripen an apple, to make the salmon leap the rapids … and merged into one great big, listening golden-yellow feeling…”

This is a confidence-building battle for Tiffany as well as a lesson on the importance of listening and following the rules AND the essential nature of appearances, ROFLMAO. Although I do think that Miss Treason should have been more explicit about why Tiffany shouldn’t join the dance. I do know I couldn’t be as decent as Tiffany. She goes out of her way to help out, even with her worst enemy. I do understand her reasoning, that regular people need to be helped and not hurt, but still…

As much as I adore Tiffany, my heart belongs to the Feegles. They so crack me up. Rob’s reasons for coming up with all his “stories” are too funny, and I love reading on to find out what he’ll fabricate next. It’s all in their attitude! Well, an’ ye know, Rob likes to give “real value for the money”. It’s so much less boring, lol. It may be an honor to be a kelda however temporary, but you’ll lose all privacy and be forever protected *giggle*. On second thought, it’s not such a bad thing.

Oh, aye, “the art o’ readin’ is all aboot understandin’ whut the wurds is tryin’ tae say…”

Well, when you think about it, this is what editors are for, to make the words say what the author means them to say, lol.

Witches are so funny — don’t miss the true reason for a coven! They’re quite clever and practical. Look at how Miss Tick gets around for two ten pence stamps, lol. I know, I know, I keep cracking up throughout the story, but this one is a pip. I love the argument Miss Tick has for that poor coachman.

“Witches preferred to cut enemies dead with a look. There was no sense in killing your enemy. How would she know you’d won?”

For all the fun Wintersmith has and is, there are serious subthemes revolving around Tiffany. That represented by the Boffo. It’s a crack-up and yet very important in life. To give the necessary impression that you know what you’re doing. To understand a person’s underlying character and how to bring out the best in a person. To teach a person without teaching them. Wanting to be acknowledged for what you’ve accomplished.

There are the Wintersmith’s emotional dilemmas about a situation he’s never encountered before: thinking and feeling. It does give you a different perspective about the human body and its emotions. You can’t help but feel for the “guy” even though you want to run in the other direction! An excellent example of an antagonist for whom you feel sympathy!

So true…

“…you get the same amount of youth as everyone else, but a great big extra helping of being very old and deaf and creak.”

It’s all Boffo in the end, and your first tip-off are the two skulls at Miss Treason’s.

And now I’m boggin’ for another Tiffany Aching story! …and jam is available in the afterlife. No mustard though.

The Story

It’s a bad sign as well when the folk of Dogbend tie a witch up and throw her in the river. A good thing they’re following the Magavenatio Obtusis.

What’s worse though is the Wintersmith. Ach, and now the Wintersmith has found the big wee hag, and it’s snowin’ fit to burst. The land will freeze, people will starve, and Tiffany will lose it all. Because it’s all her fault.

Aye, it’s gettin’ so bad that Deputy Librarian Grizzler is talking about making soup from their own toes, although Senior Librarian Swinsley isn’t sure about the recipe.

The Characters

The thirteen-year-old Tiffany Aching, a.k.a., the big wee hag, is learning how to be a witch from Miss Treason. A tiny part of a Dr. Sensibility Bustle is caught in Tiffany’s head. He’s quite useful, being as he’s a D.M. Phil., B. El L., Patricius Professor of Magic at Unseen University. Mr. Aching, her father, is a sheep farmer, and the survival of the lambs is all too important. Granny Aching was Tiffany’s amazing grandmother with her own magic. And she never lost a lamb. Wentworth is her missing younger brother. Horace is, um, an animate Lancre Blue cheese.

The Nac Mac Feegles are…
Pictsies and blue with very red hair and very wee with a preference for impossible odds. This particular group is the Chalk Hill clan. Rob Anybody is the Big Man, well, after his wife, the kelda — ‘er name’s Jeannie. Daft Wullie is soft in the head and Rob’s brother. Wee Dangerous Spike was assigned to watch Tiffany while she’s at the farm. Big Yan is ‘sposed to be teaching the Hero Heroing lessons. The gonnagle is Awf’ly Wee Billy Bigchin. Slightly Mad Agnus. They also be needin’ lessons on romance which they hope the librarian, Miss Jenkins, can provide. Hamish drives the bird, Morag.

The Feegles’ primary fears include the Explainin’, the Pursin’ o’ the Lips, the Foldin’ o’ the Arms, and ooh, waily, waily, waily, the Tappin’ o’ the Feets!

The witches are…
…quite varied. Granny Esme Weatherwax is the most powerful witch in the mountains with a DIY approach to magic. You is the kitten Tiffany brings Granny.

The 113-year-old Miss Eumenides Treason is a terrifying witch with an obsession for black — most apprentice witches don’t last more one night. As Tiffany puts it, she “didn’t just take the cake, but a packet of biscuits too”. She’s also blind and deaf, but it’s not a problem. She simply “borrows” the eyes and ears of anyone or anything around.

“…Tiffany distrusted black cheeses. They always looked as though they were plotting something.”

Miss Level has two bodies; Mistress Pullunder breeds worms; Old Mother Dismass has temporal issues; Miss Perspicacia Tick is a witch finder and teacher; Old Mother Blackcap is about to miss some of her potash; there’s something about Miss Tumult‘s frog and Unlucky Charlie; and, Mrs. Gytha “Nanny” Ogg always “carries a string bag up her knicker leg” and has a cat named Greebo. She also has a son, Shawn, who is the postman.

Mrs. Letice Earwig is quite a different sort of witch — she writes books!. She’s all about appearances as well and quite puffed up about herself. Her best (and most clueless, untrained) student is Annagramma Hawkin.

The apprentices include Dimity Hubbub; Petulia Gristle has a way with pigs (and she’s seeing Davey Lummock and Makky Weaver); Lucy Warbeck; Lulu Darling; and, Gertruder Tiring.

Villagers in the care of witches include:
Mr. Armbinder, Mr. Easy owes the Widow Langley, Mrs. Frumment has a beef with Mr. Plenty, Mistress Fullsome can’t fence that pasture off, Mr. Tissot is about to die, Joe Broomsocket and Shifty Adams own the same cow, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Stumper loves her pig, Mrs Owslick, Mrs. Obble who is an ignorant peasant, and the Dogelley family who have the right of passage are all Miss Treason’s. Bill Hogparsley and Mrs. Dowser are Nanny Ogg’s responsibility.

On the Chalk
Roland de Chumsfanleigh is the Hero and the Baron‘s son whom Tiffany rescued in Wee Free Men, 1. Aunts Danuta and Araminta are embezzling like mad and determined to order everyone around. Old Robbins is the sleepy night watchman. Mr. Gamely is willing to stable his horse. Lord Diver is a neighbor and has a daughter, Iodine. Abe Swindell is a neighbor of the Achings.

The Wintersmith is the snow elemental who switches with the Summer Lady as the seasons change. Only, the Wintersmith is intrigued, and the Summer Lady is ticked. Anoia is the Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers.

First Sight is seeing what’s really there while Second Thoughts watch the First Thoughts to be sure they’re thinking right. Third Thoughts seemed to think for themselves. The Fool in a Morris dance mostly collects money for beer, but sometimes he whirls off into the dancers, dodging and leaping and twirling. The Magavenatio Obtusis (Witch Hunting for Dumb People) is a book about dealing with witches. A shamble is a witch’s Swiss army knife. An argument is a group of witches.

Don Weizen de Yoyo is an amazing artist and a lousy speller. Zakzak Stronginthearm has a Magical Emporium with a huge assortment of witchy toys. The Jolly Sailor sails in and out again. Marjory J. Boddice is a romance writer who doesn’t know anything. Mr. Fusel Johnson suddenly misses handfuls of white lime powder. Assistant Postmaster Groat loses a bit of his sock sulfur. Miss Dymphnia Stoot, the innkeeper’s daughter, served an odd human. Mrs. Umbridge is witch friendly and has a barn. Bogles eat your memories.

The Cover and Title

The cover is misleading. It’s that white shift Tiffany is wearing. With her long brown hair flowing aorund her shoulders and covering her arms, it looks as though she’s wearing a T-shirt with black sleeves. I do like the big white snowflakes drifting down. I’m not too sure about that purple Feegle in his woolly kilt walking across her overlapped hands. I must confess I was expecting it to be more of a plaid than a solid and for this Pictsie to be friendlier, funnier looking.

The title is a misunderstood and confused elemental, the Wintersmith whose world has been turned upside down.