Tiffany is now almost thirteen years old. She's living with Miss Treason, the oldest living witch (she refers to the quite ancient Granny Weatherwax as, 'the girl, Weatherwax') and quite the scariest one too. Most young witch apprentices staying with her leave within the first day; Tiffany is still there three months later because, 'although Miss Treason looked bad and sounded bad and smelled like old locked wardrobes, she didn't feel bad'.
One night, Miss Treason takes Tiffany off into the forest to witness 'the dance'. Tiffany is given orders not to talk, only to look at the dancers and not to move until the dance is finished. Unfortunately, Tiffany is mesmerised by the beat of the drums and realises that the dance is a Morris dance, the dance that welcomes in the Spring and Summer. She can't keep still and, almost hypnotised, she joins in the dance. A Big Mistake. She comes to the notice of the wintersmith and things go downhill from there. Suddenly it's snowing Tiffany shaped snowflakes and the older witches realise that the wintersmith has fallen for Tiffany. A permanent winter sets in and Tiffany has to keep a very low profile, with the Wee Free Men guarding her, in order to evade the wintersmith, who meanwhile has decided to become human in order to capture Tiffany's heart. Things come to a head when Miss Treason announces her own death, attends her own wake, and then dies, leaving Tiffany with nowhere to go. Which is where Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax come in...
These three books are definitely among my favourite Discworld novels now. I very much like the way in which this is not just a tale about the wintersmith falling for Tiffany but a continuation of 'her' story. You get a lot background information about how the witches live, what motivates them, what little tricks they employ to kid the villagers about their power and so on. 'Universe building' in other words and Pratchett is an absolute master at it. As always it's funny, he slips in lines that take you completely unaware, often in his dialogue:
'Mr Anybody?' said Roland as they glided jerkily along.
'Why am I sitting next to a blue cheese with a bit of tartan wrapped around it?'
'Ah, that'd be Horace,' said Rob Anybody. 'He's Daft Wullie's pal. He's no' bein' a nuisance, is he?'
'No. But he's trying to sing!'
'Aye, all blue cheeses hum a bit.'
See? Just enough to make you giggle and then admire an author who can slip a little line like that in so nonchalantly that if you're not paying attention, you'll miss it. 'Genius' I call it.
My only complaint about the story is that I did find the ending a bit pat and I'm not really sure if I missed something there. But it didn't spoil my enjoyment of what is an excellent read and I'm only sorry that this is the last of the Tiffany Aching books and of course 'now' there's no knowing whether or not there will be any more.