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Terry Pratchett – I Shall Wear MidnightDo I need to introduce Terry Pratchett? Thought so. Do I need to introduce his bestselling Discworld series, now running to 38 books? Nope, neither. I Shall Wear Midnight is the latest instalment in said series, and is also the 4th Tiffany Aching novel. These are, according to the publisher, aimed at the YA market (hey, that’s where the money is these days, apparently), but are in my opinion just as readable for older adults who are young at heart. But enough about me …

I Shall Wear Midnight is a bit of a coming-of-age novel. Yes, that was exactly my reaction, too, but do come back please, it’s not that bad. Whilst the book contains teenage romance, alienation, loneliness, and other standard tropes which could have become very very tiresome indeed it – eventually – manages to raise beyond the usual sludge which is published under these pretences.
So Tiffany has ‘grown apart’ from Ronald, who is about to marry his Letitia, the daughter of the formidable Duchess of Keepsake. Tiffany is lonely – no real friends, no other witches on the chalk, and no love interest (no, it’s not phrased as such, but it transpires clearly enough). And people are starting to become hostile to witches, as her deed in sending back the Wintersmith in the book of the same name has wakened some ancient evil, known to witches as the ‘cunning man’ (some kind of metaphysical, archetypal witchfinder general who turns people’s minds against witches). Cue another battle of wits and skills…

I found this to be a book of two halves – the first half struck me as slow, tedious, and strained (hey, I didn’t deal well with teenage romance when I was a teenager, don’t expect me to have changed, ok?); but eventually the story picks up the pace, the pieces fall into place, and the readability as well as my enjoyment greatly improved in the latter half.
There are some proper laugh-out-loud moments and quips (sorry, I don’t want to spoil your fun, so won’t repeat them here). Overall I found the story and execution not as inspired as some/most of Sir Terry’s earlier efforts in the (sub) series. The monster/adversary really is a bit of a mix of the last two (Hiver, Wintersmith), and some of the turnarounds and resolutions appear rather cheap, or happen without any real motivations I could see.
But on the upshot we get some interesting titbits about witches and magic, we (finally!) catch up with a very special character from one of the earlier Discworld books that I always wanted to hear more of (sorry, no names here, go read the book!), and we get another look into the world/lore of the Nac Mac Feegles (incidentally, I never checked with my Scottish friends if they find the Wee Free Men as endearing as I do, or if their clichéd colorit is simply offending or annoying. Anyone with an opinion?).

So, not exactly a turkey, but definitely a book of two halves; and not the high point in the series for me. And no, I don't follow why theSFWA gave this an Andre Norton Award - either the field was seriously weak, or their tastes are significantly different to mine (and yes, taste is a very individual thing indeed). Either way, I'd suggest you don’t read it on its own, you’d lose too much background on Tiffany Aching; start at least with that sub-series.

Soundtrack? Apocalyptica – unsettled, sad, minor, but also a tad threatening and angry. Hm. I never had their music down as adolescent…

More Terry Pratchett


Title: I Shall Wear Midnight
Series: Discworld/Tiffany Aching
Series Number: 38/4
Author: Terry Pratchett
Reviewer: Markus Thierstein
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher:  Doubleday
Publisher URL: http://www.kidsatrandomhouse.co.uk
Publication Date: 2010
Review Date: 110825
ISBN: 9780385611077
Price: UKP 18.99 PRRP
Pages: 400
Format: Hardback
Topic: Fantasy
Topic: Humour

 

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