In the rush and excitement to start reading The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett’s final Tiffany Aching book, and Discworld novel for that matter, we managed to miss writing up our review of the fourth book in the series, I Shall Wear Midnight. It’s by far the most serious of all of the five outings for the teenage witch and with an incredibly sinister enemy in the Charming Man it makes for a gripping read that sets the whole series alight ahead of its final outing.
It was released on hardback, ebook and digital download on the 2nd September 2010, before eventually arriving on paperback on the 7th June 2012 and it makes for a very strong mid-way entry in the coming of age story of Tiffany Aching’s witch-hood. We’ll be surprised if the series isn’t eventually adapted for either stage or screen, because there’s something very visual about them. There’s also a hell of a lot of action crammed into their confines, which is matched by a nonstop barrage of comedy genius from the great fantasy fiction writer.
I Shall Wear Midnight sees Tiffany taking on her own steading on the Chalk, but opinions have been getting progressively worse for witch’s since she dealt with the Wintersmith’s frosty affections in Wintersmith. To add to her problems, her love life has taken a turn for the worse with the Baron’s son, Roland, who has managed to get himself betrothed to a slightly wet girl called Leticia, who also comes with the baggage of her mean spirited and domineering mum, the Dutchess.
Things come to a head when dark news descends on the Chalk and Tiffany is forced to travel to Ahnk Morpork with a fair few Feagle friends in toe. Her plan is ruined by the eventual reveal of a sinister force in the Cunning Man, the source of all the bad feeling that has started to build throughout the land. Seemingly unstoppable malevolent, he’s been attracted by the power Tiffany has used in the past and he’s set soulless, empty eyes on her as his next instrument of death and destruction.
He makes for a very good new baddy for the young witch to face now that she’s approaching her later teens and Terry Pratchett does a very good job of showing how the hardship of real life become more acute as you approach a adulthood. This is particularly true in the opening third of the book, which starts off with a terrible family atrocity for Tiffany to deal with, which goes a long way to shatter the niceties of your average fairy story.
It’s a dark and serious start to the story, which takes a little time to get used to. Discworld novels aren’t really well known for their intense, real-life drama, but that’s definitely what you get, albeit intermingled with magic, folklore and the Wee Free Men. However, it does give Tiffany a lot of substance and gravitas, building up to the showdown with the twisted and evil mouthed Charming Man, especially as his back story gets revealed.
There are a fair few cameos and re-appearances to look out for too, which helps to steep the book in the long and incredible history of the Discworld. As well as the witches of Lacre, Nanny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Queen Magrat, there’s also a brief encounter with Captains Carrot and Angua, along with a few other members of the City Watch to look forward to. We also get to catch up with Eskarina Smith, the first female wizard and former pupil of Nanny Westherwax, who hasn’t been seen since her first appearance in the third ever Discworld novel, Equal Rights.
I Shall Wear Midnight is an exceptional book for fans of the Discworld series of all ages, despite the fact that it’s talked about as one of Terry Pratchett’s young adult fiction. It further develops a host of much loved characters, not least of all Tiffany Aching herself, has a devilishly riveting plot and a whole lot of creative smarts, making it another excellent story in the series, which began with the 9-year-old witch in The Wee Free Men.
Terry Pratchett’s I Shall Wear Midnight review: 4.7/5