Two years and three books after A Hat Full of Sky came Wintersmith, the thirty-fifth Discworld novel and the third in the Tiffany Aching storyline. Once again jumping forward in time it picks up the story with thirteen year-old Tiffany sharing the cottage of one hundred and thirteen year-old Miss Treason, who on the face of things appears to be the very picture of the typical witch – old, creepy and surrounded by tall tales. When Tiffany accidentally draws the attention of the spirit of Winter onto herself, her already busy life becomes a whole lot more interesting.
This time around Tiffany is beginning to come to terms with the realities of life as a witch – she understands what it means, but she’s still young and rash, and liable to make mistakes. When she makes a really big mistake, setting events in motion that she quickly realises she can’t escape, the only thing for her to do is accept responsibility and make amends as best she can. Once again harking back to the first few novels to feature the Witches, Pratchett draws upon one of his favourite concepts, that of the importance of stories – Tiffany has accidentally taken the place of a character in one of the biggest, most important stories of all, and with a little help from Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg she’s going to have to see the story through to its conclusion if she’s to survive.
From the opening chapter on it’s clear that this is starting to take the series into slightly darker territory – it’s still very much a book for younger readers, but it tackles some tough issues and contains much more of a sense of danger and threat than the first two books. Accordingly, Tiffany’s starting to feel properly grown up (despite only being thirteen), taking on responsibilities that she shouldn’t have to, simply because there’s nobody else who can. It also feels strongly connected to A Hat Full of Sky, much more so than that did to The Wee Free Men, both through a continuation of some of the themes as well as the return of familiar characters like Annagramma and Petulia who help tie the two novels together.
As expected it’s another triumph of a novel, full of all the usual Pratchett hallmarks and proving once again just how powerful young adult fiction can be. It marks the point at which Tiffany’s storyline starts to really tie in with the wider Discworld series, while still retaining the character of this particular arc, and also marks the end of a chapter in her life. There’s a sense that things are only going to get harder for her after this point, but also that she’s reached the point where she’s exactly where, and who, she needs to be. A delight to read, and a sign of things to come.