I Shall Wear Midnight
by Terry Pratchett
Rating: 5+ Stars
‘As the witch of the Chalk, Tiffany Aching performs the distinctly unglamorous work of caring for the needy. But someone – or something – is inciting fear, generating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches.
Tiffany must find the source of unrest and defeat the evil at its root. Aided by the tiny-but-tough Wee Free Men, Tiffany faces a dire challenge, for if she falls, the whole Chalk falls with her . . .’
This is a review of the fourth book in a series and therefore contains mild spoilers for the first three books.
I Shall Wear Midnight is by far my favourite book in the Tiffany Aching arc. In fact, it’s one of my favourite books full stop. I’ve read it more times than I care to admit and will no doubt continue to re-read it in future.
Aged 16, Tiffany is now a trained witch back on her own ground, her own Chalk, but despite her recent exploits she’s still struggling to gain respect. After all, she’s living amongst people who knew her as a toddler and a witch is still a foreign idea to the people of the Chalk. I love the opening of this book – Tiffany wandering amongst the folk of her steading, being alone amongst the crowd.
Tiffany is no longer just Granny Aching’s granddaughter- She is a fully qualified witch. She’s done the rounds of apprenticing to the older witches and now she is able to make her own way. But all is not well at home. She’s run off her feet trying to serve as the only witch to such a large steading, she’s struggling to settle back into her family’s expectations, things are tense with the Feegles (Jeannie sees all) and to top it all Roland, her childhood friend, is due to marry a girl who she finds ‘soggy’ and is in possession of a horrific perspective mother in law. But the true problem is something far worse, in kissing the winter Tiffany has awoken something old and dangerous. There is a foul taste in the air and people are beginning to turn against witches…
I love that Pratchett doesn’t shy away from the darkness in this book. In fact the whole book feels like a lesson in how to learn to live with it and how to find a way to hold a light against it. Tiffany has to deal with the ‘rough music’ surrounding the Petty family and to try and find a balance where there is often no right thing to do. Pratchett has an astonishing talent for getting inside of people’s heads and exposing our flaw with incredible delicacy.
There are elements in this book – the dying Baron and Tiffany’s attitude towards death, where you can really feel that this is from the perspective of a writer facing his end. The scene where the Baron finally dies is both wonderful and utterly crushing. Pratchett’s writing is often noted for his wry humour and canny eye for human nature, but it is astonishingly moving in parts.
Characters turn up from previous books in unexpected and highly wonderful ways and we also welcome new additions. Roland’s wife-to-be is a wonderful surprise, as are the city witches, Preston the guard is also an absolute pleasure and I’m not just saying that because he’s named after my hometown.
I love that the Tiffany Aching arc in particular links so well together. Tiffany’s character remains consistent whilst continuing to grow and develop as she gets older. It’s a real pleasure to follow her journey and this book is definitely her finest hour.