I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
Published: HarperCollins, 2010
Series: Discworld, Book 4 of the Tiffany Aching Series
Awards Nominated: Locus YA Award
“It starts with whispers. Then someone picks up a stone. Finally, the fires begin. When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .
Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.
But someone-or something-is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root-before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.” ~WWEnd.com
This is currently the final installment of the Tiffany Aching series, set in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I’ve read the four Tiffany Aching books as parts of different read-alongs this year, and the spoiler-filled discussions from I Shall Wear Midnight can be found here, here, and here.
I Shall Wear Midnight takes place when Tiffany is almost 16 years old, and it seems to me that there is more of a noticeable gap to Wintersmith than there is between the previous three novels of the series. It seems clear that Tiffany is not a child anymore, and the issues she has to deal with this time are more complicated and morally difficult. For instance, one of the early cases she has to handle involves child abuse and a potential lynching. Given the content, I think this novel is aimed towards an older audience than the previous novels, though I would still consider it young adult reading.
The villain also seems a little more serious this time around, perhaps because his style of evil is more connected to the non-supernatural world. He is not dangerous because he doesn’t understand humanity, but because he represents the kind of irrational hatred that humans are capable of carrying. His particular prejudice is against witches, and he spreads hatred and distrust of them wherever he goes. It was interesting to see how Tiffany had to adjust to being mistrusted, and how she became much more aware of the possible negative interpretations of her actions. I thought the he was probably the most frightening of the villains Tiffany has faced so far, because he is an incarnation of an especially nasty part of human nature.
In the way she deals with the villain this time around, I found the general message around Tiffany to be somewhat surprising. Instead of stressing the importance of teamwork (a common theme, I think), it was more about how important it is for Tiffany to handle the situation on her own and show that she has confidence in her own abilities. That’s not to say she doesn’t cooperate with anyone, but it is always clear that she’s the one in charge. As a young witch just starting her posting, it is important for her to prove that she’s capable of handling the responsibility and the pressure. I think this is a pretty good message for young adults. Assertiveness and self-confidence can both be very important in life, especially when one is just starting out on a lifelong career.
Of course, I Shall Wear Midnight also has all of the things one would expect in a Pratchett novel: lots of subplots, great humor, and appearances by many different Discworld characters. Tiffany ends up in Ankh-Morpork at one point during the novel, so some of the Night Watch characters and city witches show up as well. There’s also some romance involved for a few of the characters, and I enjoyed how well that part of the story came together. The conclusion rushes by a bit quickly, but I appreciated how well everything ties together in the end. If this is the final novel featuring Tiffany Aching, I think it ends the series on a good note.
My Rating: 4.5/5
In I Shall Wear Midnight Tiffany has grown into a young woman, and the story has matured with her. It has all the usual charm of a Pratchett novel in terms of subplots, characters, and humor, but the story has grown a bit darker and more adult. The villain this time, a representation of human prejudice and hatred, is probably the most unsettling that Tiffany has yet faced. I really enjoyed watching Tiffany Aching mature through these past four books, and I Shall Wear Midnight rounds off the series very nicely.