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The Illustrated Wee Free Men: A Story of Discworld    by Terry Pratchett order for
Illustrated Wee Free Men
by Terry Pratchett
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Of all the weird and wonderful characters that spring out of Terry Pratchett's ferociously fertile imagination, his Wee Free Men, famous for 'Stealin' an' drinkin' an' fightin'', are my favorites by far. These Nac Mac Feegle almost stole the show from young witch-in-training Tiffany Aching in The Wee Free Men, and continued to bedevil (and occasionally protect) their hag in A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith.

Now Pratchett's multitude of fans can delight in this new edition of the first story, beautifully illustrated by Stephen Player. His small blue Nac Mac Feegle look ready to leap out and berate the reader; his landscapes of the Chalk make me want to go there; and his drawings in general - and of the Wee Free Men especially (I love the Feegle Family Tree) - emphasize Discworld's magic, mystery and general madness. As a bonus, this gift edition includes new material as well as several revelatory fold-out illustrations.

This is a remarkable tale, told by a master storyteller. As dreams and nightmares come to life in the Chalk, Pratchett weaves in family and community relationships, and shows an untried young witch, Tiffany Aching, taking responsibility to do what is needed and what is right. And though the storyline is absorbing and sheer fun, it's deft and witty touches like Miss Tick's toad familiar saying 'I'm not familiar ... I'm just slightly presumptuous' that keep me reading anything that Terry Pratchett writes.

When she meets other witches at the end (including stern but admirable Mistress Weatherwax) - and is given the pointy hat she's earned - Tiffany (who had asked Miss Tick where to find a school for witches) tells them what she's learned: 'This is the school, isn't it? The magic place? The world. Here. And you don't realize it until you look.' Terry Pratchett always makes us look hard at the magic around us and I'm thrilled to add The Illustrated Wee Free Men to my Discworld collection.

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