If you haven't read Terry Pratchett, you're missing out--he's one of the most humorous, creative, and profound fantasy writers I've come across. This book is a nice, self-contained story about a young girl, Tiffany Aching, who lives out in the countryside in Pratchett's fantasy world, the Discworld. The story itself is about faeries, but not exactly twinkly sparkly happy faeries. Tiffany Aching is intensely curious and loves to both think and question everything around her, including the simple fairy stories she has been told. It's an issue that has come up in her village. Ever since the Baron's son disappeared while hunting in the woods, everyone has been (violently) opposed to any form of magic. But Tiffany can't help but wonder: why are the witches considered the evil ones? After all, Hansel and Gretel were busy destroying and vandalizing the poor woman's home, and why would she even have an oven that large? She decides that she wants to be in a fairy tale, but that she wants to be the witch rather than the vapid princess.
But even as Tiffany is coming to her own conclusions, she is forced to step up and take action. Something is stirring in the land of fairy. When her rather unloveable baby brother is taken by the Fairy Queen, Tiffany decides to fight back. Armed only with a frying pan (cold iron!) and advised only by a talking toad and a bunch of wode-painted, Scots-speaking, cheerfully homicidal Pictsies who call themselves the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must venture into fairyland, where all her dreams might come true...and would you like to be in a place where your nightmares can become corporeal?The story weaves together elements from old Celtic legends and Scottish folk ballads, most memorably, Tam Lin, The Wee Wee Man, and Childe Roland--especially Tam Lin. Tiffany is a strong, intelligent, and sympathetic lead, and the story itself is the antidote to "believe in true love" or "wish upon a star" style fantasy.To quote the book:
"If you trust in yourself...and believe in your dreams...and follow your star...you’ll still be beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”