Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Wee Free Men (Audio CD)

I recently took a long car trip and needed something wonderful to hurry the tedious miles away. Of course, I had my wonderful children needing something every other minute, but that's not exactly what I mean. When I wasn't attending to my children (and when they would let me and not try to compete for volume), my husband and I listened to The Wee Free Men, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. If you've ever read any Terry Pratchett, then you know this was a perfect choice. If you haven't read him, stay tuned.

The Wee Free Men stars a little girl of nine years of age, a much younger protagonist for once in Pratchett's fantastical Discworld. Tiffany is the youngest daughter of a shepherd, but she wants to be a heroine in a novel, or if she can't be that (because her hair and eyes aren't the right color), she wants to be a witch. Witches are always misunderstood in books, she thinks. Why are they so wicked? Just because they look old and funny and do odd things? The thing is, Tiffany is a witch, and she's about to find out. When her brother is kidnapped by an evil queen, Tiffany discovers she is the only one who can do anything about it...well, she and the little blue warrior men with brilliantly funny names who speak in a deep brogue and fear only anything written on paper.

As my sister-in-law who lent me the audio book pointed out, The Wee Free Men may be better listened to than read. The narrator, Stephen Briggs, has a delightful accent, both for the normal narration and for the dialect of the Wee Free Men, called Nac Mac Feegles. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, you can't even understand the Nac Mac Feegles, but then again, neither can Tiffany. An interesting voice always helps an audio book and adds something regular reading can't. I prefer to read books, but if you have to listen, you need a good narrator.

Unfortunately, this is another story with witches. I'm just not fond of witches. I'd be more comfortable if they were called something else and especially didn't have the trappings of real-world witches: pointy hats, broomsticks, etc. But from what I know of Pratchett, he enjoys taking real-world things and turning them on their heads, whether it's evil or good, witches or religion. Not much is sacred or out of bounds to him. This makes him a good comedian but not a good conversationalist on theology.

(Very minor SPOILERS in this paragraph.) Other than the witches, the only thing I had trouble with in the book was the muddled dream-like world Tiffany goes to for the climax. I won't say more than that, but let me just tell you, when it's midnight and you've been sitting in a car all day and your eyes keep falling shut (my husband was driving!), it's particularly odd to listen to a book about a dream. You don't know if you've missed something because the book's jumping around like a dream does anyway. So, I can't say for sure that I actually listened to every word of this book, though I desperately tried. And perhaps that's why I liked that portion of the book less than the rest.

However, as far as good storytelling and humor goes, this audio book gets a solid three stars. The reading level is for middle schoolers though this novel takes place in Pratchett's established Discworld and will appeal to anyone familiar with Discworld.

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