Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Shall Wear Midnight - Book Review

Fyrefly's Book Blog

There is an outcrop of land called the Chalk. This land, and all the villages along it, are called a steading. This steading belongs to Tiffany Aching.

And Tiffany is a witch. steadings went, this one was pretty good. Not many witches got a whole geological outcrop to themselves, even if this one was mostly covered in grass, and the grass was mostly covered in sheep.

Tiffany has spent years studying her craft under senior witches such as Granny Weatherwax, Annagramma, and Nanny Ogg, and now has charge of the Chalk. As witch of the Chalk, Tiffany performs all sorts of odd jobs; assisting at births, attending weddings, tending to the needy, mixing healthful potions. All of it very needful and quite unglamourous.

"I’m a witch. It’s what we do. When it’s nobody else’s business, it’s my business."

But there is something evil afoot in the world. Tiffany begins to notice an increasing distrust among the people of the Chalk, a distrust aimed against her and all witches in general. When the old ailing Baron of the Chalklands, (a kindly man who Tiffany has been tending, easing the pain of his last days,) dies, Tiffany is accused of murder. Tiffany refutes this charge impatiently, but it is a sign of the rapidly growing distrust that few of the folk believe her.

"Poison goes where poison's welcome."

In order to discover the source of this mistrust, Tiffany must set off on a quest, armed only with her courage, her broom, and her friends from an earlier book, THE WEE FREE MEN... little blue men with Scottish brogues and a penchant for brawling, drinking, and stealing.

The Nac Mac Feegle (Wee Free Men) could be pretty worrying to those who did not know them very well, although now she thought about it, they could be pretty worrying however long you had known them.


On her way to the city of Ankh-Morpork, where she is going to inform the Baron's son Roland (introduced previously in THE WEE FREE MEN, and one of Tiffany's truest friends) about his father's death, Tiffany is accosted by a frightening, ghost-like figure with an evil aura and holes in his face where his eyes should be.

A man with no eyes. No eyes at all. Two tunnels in his head...

Tiffany escapes the nightmarish figure, and in Ankh-Morpork (where she meets fellow witch Mrs. Proust, has an unexpected altercation with Roland and his fiancee Letitia Keepsake, is arrested after the Nac Mac Feegle destroy a pub, and escapes next day with the Nac Mac Feegle's help), she learns about the eyeless man from a legendary witch named Eskarina Smith.

[Eskarina] had learned secrets that made the mightiest of magics look like nothing more than conjuring tricks.

This ghostly figure haunting Tiffany is something called the Cunning Man. Long ago, he fell in love with a witch who had been condemned to death. However, she, knowing the evil in his heart, contrived to trap the Cunning Man in the same fires that devoured her, killing him as well.

She remembered the screaming figure on the road, shadowless in full sunlight, delivering abuse as if it was vomit and leaving her with a sick feeling that she would never be able to get clean again.

But not entirely. The Cunning Man returned as a demonic spirit of hatred. His very presence brings out the darkest emotions in a person's heart, and since his hatred is directed against witches this explains the hostility Tiffany has notices in the Chalk, and indeed in the world beyond the Chalk. He returns every couple hundred years, seeking a young witch whom he can successfully possess. For, if he were able to do such a thing, he would be able to destroy all the witches.

And he has chosen Tiffany for his next victim.

“One day all of us will die but - and this is the important thing - we are not dead yet.”

Tiffany has to find a way to confront - and defeat - the Cunning Man. If she doesn't - if she fails - then all of Chalk will fall with her.

“It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, then you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.”



I have been a bit hesitant about reading Terry Pratchett. I'm not sure why. Probably because I'm never sure if there's going to be "junk" in his books or not.

This book - I think #38 in the Discworld series, and the final book in the Tiffany Aching quartet - did contain a few moments of adult-ish content, and some almost-but-not-quite descriptive moments regarding inappropriate matter, but it was all handled in a way that was nearly discreet and not in-your-face blatant, which I appreciated. I didn't care for some of the religious sarcasm, but that's just me. I tend to get uppity when people treat religion like a joke. There was also some language, but since the author is British I tended to overlook many, if not all, the bad words. (Shame on me! :)


That being said, this book was well-written, was humourous, and I didn't feel lost at all, despite the fact it was the FINAL book about Tiffany Aching, and a good ways into the actual Discworld saga. I liked Terry Pratchett's descriptions, his word usage, and the liberal amounts of humour sprinkled throughout the entire story. I even liked the dark element of the Cunning Man, who was sufficiently eerie enough to make me shudder, even though I read this book during the day.

I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT was a fun read, an enjoyable book, and a great relief to find, after spending an entire week of opening new library books, reading the first couple pages, and tossing the book aside in disgust. I recommend it for anyone who's in the mood for a light fantasy and isn't expecting something incredibly epic. Tiffany Aching is a great character, the side characters provide lots of laughs, and the Nac Mac Feegle are well worth the time.

I give this book four and a half stars.


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