I promised myself some real fantasy escape time this holiday season, and I got it with the help of Terry Pratchett and his 4-book series that starts with The Wee Free Men. Tiffany Aching is our heroine who becomes the witch of the chalk after a series of adventures that have her defeat enemies ranging from the fairy queen to winter himself. Her last battle is with with a long dead sorcerer whose hatred for witches seethes out in vile stench across the ages. Pratchett is at his best when he's most inventive, and pairing of the peculiarly verbally intelligent Tiffany Aching with her hilarious little blue defenders, the Nac Mac Feegle--whose curses are as blue as their tattoos--is highly inventive and leavened with humor throughout. Don't tell the Feegles they're hilarious, though, or they're liable to drink and fight you to death. Although they're easily defeated by the Pursing of the Lips and the Tapping of the Feet, at least if you're their kelda.
Personally, I find that Pratchett is less successful when he falls back on Discworld tropes, encouraging insider-y jokes rather than inventing anew. That's part of why my favorite book remains Nation, where he starts entirely from scratch. But these Tiffany Aching books are darn good too. Rather than give full-forced recaps, mustering up the energy for which would surely put a damper on my holiday relaxation, here are my favorite quotable moments from each title (in series order):
The Wee Free Men
--Tiffany Aching: "Yes, I'm me! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don't understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That's the kind of person I am!" (p. 217)
--Tiffany Aching, speaking to the Fairy Queen: "The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder. I have woken up and I am real. I know where I come from and I know where I'm going. You cannot fool me anymore. Or touch me. Or anything that is mine." (p. 240)
A Hat Full of Sky
--The hiver: "What power! What wondrous power! You can take a billion trillion tons of flaming matters, a furnace of unimaginable strength, and turn it into a little song for children! You build little worlds, little stories, little shells around your minds, and that keeps infinity at bay and allows you to wake up in the morning without screaming!" (238)
--The teacher has been a little bit crazy, even for a teacher, but what he'd said had seemed to make absolute sense. One of the most amazing things about the universe, he had said, was that, sooner or later, everything is made of everything else, although it'll probably take millions and millions of years for this to happen. The other children had giggled or argued, but Tiffany knew that what had once been tiny living creatures was not the chalk of the hills. Everything went around, even stars. (243)
--Nanny Ogg changed the way people thought, even if it was only fro a few minutes. Shel left people thinking they were slightly better people. They weren't, but as Nanny said, it gave them something to live up to. (p. 215)
--About jealousy, Lucy explaining Annagramma to Tiffany:
"You can do stuff she can't even attempt! Like that thing where you go invisible... you do it and you make it look easy! But you come along to the meetings and act like the rest of us and help clear up afterward, and that drives her mad!"
"Look, I don't understand what you're going on about."
Lucy picked up another towel. "She can't stand the ideal that someone's better than her but doesn't crow about it."
"Why should I do that?" said Tiffany, bewildered.
"Because that's what she'd do, if she was you," said Lucy carefully, pushing the knife and fork back into her piled-up hair. "She thinks you're laughing at her. And now, oh my word, she's got to depend on you. You might as well have pushed pins up her nose." (p. 224)
--There are times when everything that you can do has been done and there's nothing for it now but to curl up and wait for the thunder to die down. (p. 310)
I Shall Wear Midnight
--There's always something, she thought, and then there's another something on top of the something, and then there is no end to the somethings. (p. 93)
--About taking away grief: "I'm sorry," she replied quietly. "Everyone asks me. And I would no do so even if I knew how. It belongs to you. Only time and tears take away grief; that is what they are for." (p. 187)
--Granny Weatherwax on pride: "If you have let pride get the better of you, then you have already lost, but if you grab pride by the scruff of the neck and ride it like a stallion, then you may have already won." (p. 311)