Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett. ★★★★★
Tiffany Aching, the protagonist of The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky, is now almost thirteen and working for Miss Treason, a hundred and seventeen year old witch. When Miss Treason and Tiffany go to watch the dark Morris dance, where summer gives way to winter, the unprecedented happens: Tiffany, for reasons she cannot explain, joins the dance. Now she’s attracted the attention of the personification of Winter himself, and she’s risked a winter that never leaves…
“You danced into a story, girl, one that tells itself to the world every year. It’s the Story about ice and fire, Summer and Winter. You’ve made it wrong. You’ve got to stay to the end and make sure it turns out right.”
Wintersmith, like so many of Pratchett’s other witch books, is about the power of stories. Humans shape the world into stories we tell ourselves, but the witch stands outside the story. She shapes it, she changes it. The witch is the master of the story.
“People wanted the world to be a story, because stories had to sound right and they had to make sense. People wanted the world to make sense.”
In Wintersmith, Tiffany Aching, being so closely connected to the Chalk and the land, cannot help but dance to the changing of the seasons, and thus stumbles into a story she does not belong in. She made a mistake, and now she has to take responsibility for it.
I love Tiffany so much, and it’s a pleasure to see her grow up through the series. Terry Pratchett has a remarkable ability to get inside a young girl’s head. I recall reading Wintersmith when I was about fourteen, not so different in age from Tiffany, and I was absolutely amazed that Pratchett was able to capture so much of what I was thinking and feeling.
And there’s so much compassion towards all the characters. Just look at Annagramma – it would be so easy for Annagramma to fall into the “mean girl” stereotype, but instead she gets character development and sympathy. It’s so marvelous to find a series that has so many well written women, who work together and support each other.
“I’m the wicked ol’ witch, girl. They feared me, and did what they were told! They feared joke skulls and silly stories. I chose fear. I knew they’d never love me for telling ‘em the truth, so I made certain of their fear. No, they’ll be relieved to hear the witch is dead.”
There’s so much morality in the witch novels, so much on the importance of helping other people, even when they’re stupid or ungrateful. And it’s never written in a condescending or preachy way, it’s just embedded into the core of who Tiffany and the other witches are. They’re women who guard the boundaries and help those who cannot help themselves. They’re women who make choices and take responsibility.
“We make happy endings, child, day to day. But you see, for the witch there are no happy endings. There are just endings.”
I recommend Wintersmith to everyone, but if I could choose only one book to give a thirteen year old girl, it would be this one. This is truly a fantastic book.