What’s New for the 12th of May: a Terry Pratchett edition: Discworld and other worlds, adult fantasy, YA stories, and lit-crit; new Karelian, Canadian and Big Band music; and Smithfield Fair from the archives

Cats have a way of always having been there even if they’ve only just arrived.  They move in their own personal time.  They act as if the human world is one they just happened to have stopped off in, on their way to somewhere that is possibly a whole lot more interesting. — Terry Pratchett in “The Unadulterated Cat”


The Kitchen followed through on their promise to Béla to cook choucroute garnie, a hearty pork and cabbage dish… Actually it’s even better than usual as it’s garnished with homemade kraut that we did last year with cabbages we grew and cider we made here.

I’ve got a whisky that I think you should try, it’s Toiteach which is a wonderfully peaty single malt from the Bunnahabhain brewery. Served neat with neither water nor ice is how we do it as there’s no single malts here that shouldn’t be appreciated that way. If you’re interested in knowing more about Scots whiskeys, take a look at the review by Stephen of the late Iain Bank’s Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single drams ever done.

It’s our usually grey beginning to December here in the Scottish Highlands: rainy, cold and blustery winds to boot. Even the most diehard of Estate staff find going outside unless their duties require to do so are quite willing to stay inside. Iain’s has been keeping to his hiding spot and I myself are spending time off duty in the Kitchen quite content to play tunes and nosh on whatever the staff there feels we should be eating such as blackberry cobbler, the very last of the fresh fruits here.

So there’s no theme this edition, but rather is whatever the Editors found interesting with our usual mix of new materiel along with some older material from the Archivesinvluding all our book reviews being on works by Terry Pratchett. So let’s get started.


Christine got a big surprise when she read Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch after taking a break from Discworld for several years. ‘Discworld has changed since last I visited. There are still plenty of laughs to be had here, but they are almost overshadowed by the sheer darkness of this story, and by the remarkably sympathetic, shockingly un-bumbling lead character Sam Vimes. The man is actually deep. He’s sensitive, conflicted, intelligent, and I’ll be damned if he’s not a do-gooder! What’s going on here?’

Gary reviewed several Discworld books, including Thief of Time. ‘The book’s plot centers on one Miss Susan, a beloved school teacher in Ankh-Morpork who ignites her young students’ passion for learning. She also happens to be a human-immortal hybrid, the granddaughter of Death — you know, the skeleton guy in the hooded cape who sometimes carries a scythe? Her grandfather enlists her in a quest to stop a plot by The Auditors to halt time, thus ending the disturbances caused in their orderly universe by the pesky presence of people.’

He also read Pratchett’s first YA Discworld title: ‘The Amazing Maurice is a retelling of the Pied Piper legend (in fact the subtitle is The Pied Piper of  … Discworld?), told in Pratchett’s typically skewed way.’

Gary got a kick out of The Last Hero, the story of Discworld’s Cohen The Barbarian. ‘This one is special, since it’s illustrated by Paul Kidby, who has previously collaborated with Pratchett on book covers and calendars. It’s a big coffee-table book, loaded with gorgeous paintings of Discworld, drawings, sketches and hilarious renderings of the story’s characters and situations.’

And he especially enjoyed the 25th installment of Discworld in which the Printing Press is invented. ‘As a former newspaperman myself, I got a real kick out of a lot of the gags in The Truth. As a former journalist, Pratchett got a lot of details right. He also takes every opportunity to draw on many 20th century forms, from the detective novel to the newspaper movie about bumbling reporters and hardbitten editors.’

Kathleen found the U.S. publication of a facsimile edition of Pratchett’s first Discworld novel to be revelatory. Of The Colour of Magic, she says, ‘I first read this book in my callow 20s, and I dismissed it as a light piece of fluff, funnier than most fantasy (a definite plus) but derivative. I was wrong.’

She also reviewed one of Pratchett’s non-Discworld YA books, Nation. ‘This is a story of worlds ending. Everyone’s world ends differently, but sometimes those endings overlap, forcing the survivors to join forces. Eventually, too, new worlds begin. They are seldom what we expect them to be, and the world’s ending usually reveals that that world wasn’t what we thought it was, either.’

Kathleen beat the drum for Wintersmith, the third installment of Pratchett’s YA series that began with The Wee Free Men. ‘Wintersmith is a wonderful book, and I advise all adult fans of Pratchett to get it and read it. Give it to your children to read. Better yet, read it with your children. This is a story you can all happily share.’

Rachel had some thoughts about Pratchett’s YA novel The Wee Free Men: ‘…this review is mainly going to be of interest to two groups: those who have never read anything by him and are wondering if The Wee Free Men is a good starting point; and those doubtful fans who are wondering if the cutesy title and the fact that it’s marketed as a young adult novel mean that it’s dumbed down or less good than or different from his recent Discworld novels for adults. In order: yes, it’s a great introduction to Pratchett; no, it’s not dumbed down …’

She also reviewed the follow-up, A Hat Full of Sky. ‘Tiffany Aching is back. So are Granny Weatherwax and the Nac Mac Feegle. If that means nothing to you, be aware that I’m writing about the sequel to The Wee Free Men, in which young Tiffany Aching and a band of rowdy fairies rescued her sticky little brother from the Fairy Queen. A Hat Full of Sky stands on its own, but you should read the first book anyway; it’s good.’

She also found Monstrous Regiment unexpectedly weighty. ‘It’s funny as hell, especially if you’ve watched a lot of war movies or had slogans like “One blow, one kill” yelled at you by a sergeant or sensei. But it’s more a serious novel that also makes you laugh a lot than a comedy that has serious bits. Reading it is an enjoyable experience, but not a comforting one.’

Richard Dansky has been our most prolific Pratchett reviewer. He went in-depth on The Fifth Elephant when it was part of a campaign to release early Discworld books in the U.S. ‘As much as the dedicated Pratchettian (such as myself) may wish to rush into reading the story, the book itself demands attention, and causes consternation as well.’

He definitely enjoyed the book in which “music with rocks in it” comes Discworld. ‘Soul Music – the novel – rests pretty much in the middle of the Discworld canon. The story of a young druid named Imp Y Celyn who heads off to the big city to seek his fortune playing music, the novel is certainly enjoyable, but it lacks the marvelous inventiveness of The Colour of Magic or the emotional clout of Reaper Man. It is, however, funny as hell… ‘

He says there’s a lot going on in Hogfather. ‘That’s because the book is really the Disc’s take on all things Christmas, thinly disguised here as “Hogswatchnight.” Pratchett’s not about to let such a juicy target go by without peppering it from every angle he can. That’s not to say that Pratchett is anti-Christmas, indeed, far from it. But he clearly differentiates the spirit of the holiday from the way it is celebrated in some circles, and finds those celebrants wanting.’

Richard says it took a while for Pratchett to get around to skewering vampires. ‘One gets the suspicion that Pratchett’s been looking forward to this one, though, as Carpe Jugulum isn’t just a book about vampires on Discworld. It’s also a meditation on tradition, knowing your place, modernity, Goths, Highlander, parenthood, faith, religious crises, identity and most important of all, keeping your Igor happy. Got all that? No? Then read the book.’

Finally, Richard reviewed Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, a book of literary criticism which he found mostly unsuccessful. ‘In their attempt to expose as many critical takes on Pratchett as possible, Andrew M. Butler, Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn have gathered together what can only be described as an encircling barrage of approaches. In some instances, the writing is incisive, insightful and useful in opening new approaches to reading Pratchett’s work. In others, it’s turgid, self-righteous and poorly supported, making one long for a good Edmund Wilson-style smackdown.

And then there’s Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett … Kathleen rejoiced when their early joint project Good Omens was put back in print. ‘Good Omens is a very funny, very serious book about the end of the world. The Antichrist has been born and is now 11 years old, and all manner of classically predicted phenomena are manifesting. Naturally, most of them are being ignored, misinterpreted or missed altogether. And since this is the work of Gaiman and Pratchett, there is a darkly comic twist to the action.’

Kelley then enjoyed the audio version of Pratchett and Gaiman’s (or Gaiman and Pratchett’s) Good Omens, though not without a few quibbles. ‘Despite my criticism of a few accents, I thoroughly enjoyed Martin Jarvis’s rendition of Good Omens. He met the challenge of a massive number of voices head on, always sounding as though he had a sly grin hidden away in the pit of his stomach.’

And Cat thoroughly enjoyed Gaiman’s screenplay for … well, not exactly Good Omens, although it’s related. It’s rare, and it’s actually called just A Screenplay. ‘It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, it reads like Neil at his very best. Stylistically, it’s similar to both Coraline and Wolves in the Walls. Unlike the War for the Oaks treatment where it really helps if you”ve read the novel, it stands on its own very nicely.’


Zina has a story for us about something quite wonderful: ‘For me, the inky little cups of Turkish coffee are exactly that — it’s not so much the coffee itself that’s so wonderful, but what tends to happen over the cups of it, even if I’m drinking it alone. I was in a tiny, tiny village in the pastoral English countryside visiting friends a bit ago, and after dinner we had Turkish coffee, some tunes, and a great deal of talking and laughing, in the lovely, warm, hospitable dining room of that unbelievably old house.’


Richard reviewed one of the animated adaptations of a Discworld story. ‘Wyrd Sisters is not a masterpiece. The animation is far too clunky for that. It is, however, a faithful, enjoyable rendition of the book, and neither Pratchett fans nor newcomers will find much cause to complain.’


In new music, Daryana gives us a fresh review of Mua, the second full-length release from the Karelian band Ilmu. ‘The album’s 13 tracks delve into the essence of primordial Earth, capturing the magic of nature’s dance and the raw beauty of life and death. Collaborations with artists like Saylyk Ommun and Tuomas Rounakari add depth to the sonic landscape, infusing traditional folk songs with a contemporary arrangements.’

Gary reviews some new Quebecois music: ‘Guitarist and singer Yann Falquet steps outside the familiar confines of Genticorum, the Quebecois folk trio in which he has recorded and toured for more than two decades, with a set of traditional songs on Les Secrets Du Ciel. Though it represents a slightly different direction than usually followed by Genticorum, his warm baritone vocals and textured guitar playing still feel familiar and comforting.’

Gary also enthusiastically reviews Canadian singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Abigail Lapell’s latest. ‘Anniversary is an album full of love songs and a certain amount of introspection as Lapell hits her 40s and ponders time, the past and the future, the present, and loved ones alive and ghostly.’

He also enjoyed the aptly titled Exuberance by Christopher Zuar Orchestra. ‘Exuberance is a sprawling, need I say exuberant chronicle of his relationship with the woman who’s now his wife, animation filmmaker Anne Beal. But don’t expect lush slow dances and waltzes; this is a clear eyed romp through the highs and lows (but mostly highs) of a relationship between two, as they say, “creatives.” ‘

From the Archives, our Jayme Lynn Blaschke turned in reviews of several releases by the prolific Louisiana-based Scottish folk band Smithfield Fair. We’ve pulled several from the archives including Cairdeas (Kinship), Highland Call, The Winter Kirk, Jacobites By Name, and Winds of Time. ‘Smithfield Fair is a band that has adopted a rustic, rugged sound that eschews glossy adornments or slick production and, for the most part, succeeds admirably,’ he says.

Jayme also enthused about Across the Water by the American Celtic band SixMileBridge. ‘Altogether, this former Houston band (now based on the U.S. East Coast) puts out a confident, vibrant sound that at times hints at a wide range of influences that include such notables as the Cranberries and Ashley MacIsaac. You can’t really say that there is a “SixMileBridge sound”; they’re all over the place, picking and choosing from a wide variety of musical traditions, with one song sounding nothing at all like the one preceeding it. And that, for what it’s worth, is a good thing.’

John O’Regan turned in an omnibus review of Celtic music with an international twist. ‘This omnibus review features bands from the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA [including Smithfield Fair] whose basic approach would be to buck the obvious ideologies associated with Celtic music. Some have mixed lineups nationality wise, and others just like taking chances with the music and adding their own personal flavours to the brew. The fact that the bulk of the material on 90% of the seven CDs under review contains mostly all original material says enough for the personalised viewpoint expressed on things Celtic.’

Mike Stiles got into the Smithfield Fair act as well, reviewing their disc Burns Night Out! ‘For this CD they put on their best Broad Scots in homage to the immortal Robbie Burns. They pack 18 of his pieces into three-quarters of an hour, but nothing is rushed or short-changed as they put their unique stamp on the old familiar material.’


So lets us finish off with some choice music from Nightnoise, to wit ‘Toys, Not Ties’ which was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain, some thirty years ago. For more on this superb sort of Celtic band, go read our career retrospective here. Nightnoise had its origins in members of the Bothy Band and Skara Brae, august bands indeed, and also included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.


I'm the Pub Manager for the Green Man Pub which is located at the KInrowan Estate. I'm married to Ingrid, our Steward who's also the Estate Buyer. If I'm off duty and in a mood for a drink, it'll be a single malt, either Irish or Scottish, no water or ice, or possibly an Estate ale or cider. I'm a concertina player, and unlike my wife who has a fine singing voice, I do not have anything of a singing voice anyone want to hear!

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About Reynard

I'm the Pub Manager for the Green Man Pub which is located at the KInrowan Estate. I'm married to Ingrid, our Steward who's also the Estate Buyer. If I'm off duty and in a mood for a drink, it'll be a single malt, either Irish or Scottish, no water or ice, or possibly an Estate ale or cider. I'm a concertina player, and unlike my wife who has a fine singing voice, I do not have anything of a singing voice anyone want to hear!
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