Mark Reads ‘Wintersmith’: Chapter 1

In the first chapter of Wintersmith, this was DESIGNED so that I would not be prepared. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

This chapter is one huge example of that feeling you get when you know there’s more to a story, but you’re not quite sure if that’s the case, and maybe you just didn’t pay attention to one crucial detail, but then you are VERY certain that this all new information and THIS IS THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THIS BOOK.

Hello, Discworld friends! Today, I start book #35 in this series, bringing me ever close to the end. (Which is still some ways away, but Y’ALL. Thirty-five of these? Remember when I wouldn’t read a series if it had like more than four books in it? L M A O. ) I’m so, so happy that I’m getting yet another Tiffany Aching book, as I’m a huge fan of the way that Pratchett writes young adult lit. I have read a LOT of it this year—I’m still counting how many books I read in 2018 that weren’t for this site for a Patreon thing, and I’m up to somewhere between 100-120, but I read from my Kindle, PDFs, and physical copies, soooooo. Maybe I should have kept track along the way. The point I’m trying to make: sometimes, YA authors can be either condescending to kids, believing they need after-school special type lectures in order to understand the world, or they write books that feel like… well, adults writing children. It’s subjective, I know that, but I respect that the Tiffany books flow so perfectly in between all the “adult” books. There’s not that much difference in tone; just some tweaks in his writing style from a craft perspective.

And that’s a great way to talk about this introduction, because this would have enraged me as a kid in all the best ways. Even as an adult, I’m FURIOUS because HOW ARE YOU GONNA OPEN YOUR BOOK WITH A HUGE SCENE LIKE THIS. Pratchett routinely teases the future or the big twist at the start; it’s one of his staples in these books. But he generally does that with tiny details, with small scenes or snippets of the truth before settling into the narrative. He casually reminds you along the way about The Thing, but often—or at least in my case—it’s hard to piece together everything because so many details are still missing. 

This, however? IT’S A WHOLE CHAPTER. A whole scene of thousands of words of Tiffany ready to face the Wintersmith because she knows it is her fault the Wintersmith has arrived at her home. And I know that means something, but WHAT THE HELL DOES IT MEAN. 

Let me try and make a guess.

“‘Tis the work o’ the Wintersmith! Noo there’s a scunner that willna tak’ ‘no’ fra’ an answer!”

So… why is it important that the Wintersmith doesn’t like being told no? Did this being want something or demand something? Or is this just a random thing that Rob Anybody said? 

“He’s found the big wee hag again!”

Okay! Then this chapter is clearly not the first time Tiffany and the Wintersmith have met! Sooooo… what happened when they did meet? 

“We canna fight the Wintersmith for her! That’s her road! We canna walk it for her!”

Okay, fair. And this might be a reference to some logistical thing—maybe only Tiffany has the power to stop or defeat the Wintersmith?—but Tiffany also doesn’t like it when other people solve her problems for her. Now 13—four years after the events of The Wee Free Men—she’s got to be even more independent. And I think the text in this chapter alone supports that! Look at the way she’s risen to be the center of this community, which is something she was worried about in the previous book. How was she supposed to fulfill this role when her Granny was so, so good at it? How do you step into shoes like that?

“But the hag o’ hags has set us on another path! It’s a dark one, and dangerous!”

A subplot! With… something! I don’t know! DON’T LAUGH, I HAVE NOTHING TO GO ON. 

My father’s face is gray with worry and he’s begging. My father is begging me.

Pratchett makes it very clear at the start of this book that there’s a new dynamic at hand. At some point, the people of the Chalk accepted Tiffany as their witch in a big way, and as far as I can remember, we haven’t actually seen that on the page. Tiffany’s father is VERY open about her being a witch, and the imbalance is unnerving to her. Isn’t a child supposed to rely on their parent in a time of terror and fear? Instead, it’s the other way around. All the adults are relying on Tiffany to counter the devastating effects of the Wintersmith on the lambs, who are dying due to the snow.

And this is my fault. I: I started all this. I must finish it.

So… not really a logistical thing? This is a pervasive motif across this chapter. Tiffany repeatedly blames herself for what’s happening. Why is that? Why is she so sure that she’s at fault? WHAT HAPPENED? 

That was the magic of the pointy hat. It was what Miss Treason called “Boffo.”

Ooooh, a new witch??? Perhaps a new teacher for Tiffany???

She held out a hand, caught a snowflake, and took a good look at it. It wasn’t one of the normal ones, oh no. It was one of his special snowflakes. That was nasty. He was taunting her. Now she could hate him. She’d never hated him before. But he was killing the lambs.

Hi, what are the special snowflakes? What makes them “nasty”??? How can snowflakes taunt???? Also, let’s laugh at me using the term “special snowflake” in a context that isn’t mortifying in the way we expect?

“This I choose to do. If there is a price, this I choose to pay. If it is my death, then I choose to die. Where this takes me, there I choose to go. I choose. This I choose to do.”

I feel like I don’t have the context to appreciate this, and yet, I STILL FULLY APPRECIATE IT. There is such a powerful intention in this, one that feels like the culmination of all the things Tiffany has learned about being a witch or has lived through. You have to mean what you say. What you believe. What you want to do! And she does so right before SHE BASICALLY BECOMES WALKING FIRE. 

Wait, one other part of this before I move on:

“So that if this… doesn’t work, it’s no one fault but mine.”


“I… haven’t told your mother this yet,” said her father very slowly, as if the words required enormous care, “but I can’t find your brother.”

So, is this just Wentworth’s thing? Wandering off and getting lost and kidnapped or buried in snow? Does he ever get tired of having to be saved, like, ever? 

She wasn’t the Summer Lady…

WHO IS THAT. The opposite of the Wintersmith, I’m guessing???

She should have practiced more. She should have listened to people. She should have listened to herself.

Oh no, why is she thinking this? Listened to who about WHAT? Listened to herself? What happened? 

Frost to fire! 

Holy shit, y’all, this is just…. a whole lot??? This is magic done out in the open that’s undeniable magic in every traditional sense, and it’s such an intense scene. Like, I wasn’t sure Tiffany was actually going to do magic in front of her father? NOPE. She turns the frost to fire with the help of a bonfire that burns up anything thrown into it in seconds. And just as soon as Wentworth is found, as soon as a ton of lambs are saved, the fire dies, and Tiffany is face-to-face with the Wintersmith.

Maybe. Because then Pratchett pulls us away at the last second, and it’s possible the story unfolds differently. What the HELL!!!! What is all this? Who is the Wintersmith? What happened???

Mark Links Stuff

The paperback edition of my debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now up for pre-order! It comes out on May 7, 2019. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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