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Wintersmith    by Terry Pratchett order for
by Terry Pratchett
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Wintersmith follows The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky as the third Discworld adventure for talented, enchanting young witch Tiffany Aching, who's continually followed and protected - usually to her dismay - by the small and contentious Nac Mac Feegle. In the first episode, Tiffany inherited her dead Granny Aching's role as witch of the Chalk downlands, while she became an apprentice in the second and won the interest of powerful Mistress Weatherwax.

The story opens on a Feegle Glossary (explaining colorful terms like Blethers and Mudlin) and a preview for the Feegles of Tiffany (whom they are sworn to protect) in great peril during a terrible snowstorm in which lambs are dying. Then we return to the previous autumn, when Tiffany - apprenticed to eccentric, blind, scary 113-year old Miss Eumenides Treason - visits Granny Weatherwax, who teaches her the importance of keeping the balance in magic. Tiffany leaves her mentor a kitten who gets called You.

One night, Miss Treason - who inadvertently teaches her apprentice about the importance of Boffo - takes Tiffany to witness a dance in the forest, telling her firmly not to 'move until the dance is finished.' Unfortunately, Tiffany's feet have their own ideas, dancing her into all kinds of trouble after she catches the attention of the Wintersmith and inserts herself into the changing of the seasons. She's made the 'story about ice and fire, summer and winter' wrong and now has to set it right again.

The elemental courts Tiffany with snowflakes in her image, writes her name in frost ferns on windows, floats huge icebergs in her image to impress her, and tries to turn itself into a man. Then Miss Treason announces her imminent death and plans must be made for her funeral party (which she attends) and successor - who turns out to be hopeless and helpless, another problem for Tiffany to solve. On top of which she develops Fertile Feet from her role in the dance of seasons, acquires the Horn of Plenty, and earns the ire of the Summer Lady.

Tiffany and Roland - whom she previously saved from the Queen of the Fairies - write regularly, though he doesn't reveal the fact that his father is very ill and he's besieged in his castle tower room by greedy aunts. The Feegle, joined by Horace the cheese, try to make things right for their 'big wee hag'. And Tiffany begins having Third Thoughts, which 'seemed to think for themselves, and didn't usually turn up very often.' Then winter arrives with a vengeance, the Chalk downs freeze hard, and Tiffany heads home.

Third Thoughts and a big dose of courage - from both Tiffany and Roland who has to act the Hero in the Underworld - save the day, as the young witch teaches the powerful Wintersmith what it really means to be human. Let's hope Tiffany Aching soon writes herself into another splendid story for Terry Pratchett!

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