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I Shall Wear Midnight (Tiffany Aching Adventure) by Terry Pratchett
Review by Paul Haggerty
HarperCollins Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061433047
Date: 01 October 2010 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Magic practitioners on the Discworld are rather different from what you'll find in most series. While witches and wizards exist, they spend most of their time not using magic. The Unseen University seems to exist for the sole purpose of keeping the wizards so busy subverting each other that they don't have a chance to go out and get into mischief. And the witches have spent generations amongst the common folk, doing acts that are far from spectacular, infinitely more beneficial, and practically devoid of magic. Because to use magic is to stand out as different and scary. And while some different is good and useful, some different will get you burned at the stake. There are those that love a good witch burning. And one of them has set his sights on Tiffany Aching, young witch of the The Chalk, and he won't let anything stop him. Time, space, and even death are mere obstacles to overcome until every witch is dead.

Tiffany Aching is one of the young witches now coming into their own, and the first ever to come from the lands known as The Chalk. But she's certainly not the first one to feel different or alone. It's not easy to be The Witch. The pointy hat commands respect, but also fear and a degree of distrust. And it's not easy to be a teenager. And to be both is just asking for trouble.

I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth and final book in the Tiffany Aching saga, although there's nothing to prevent her from doing guest appearances in other novels, if Pratchett decides he has a use for her. After all, this novel is replete with appearances by characters from a variety of Discworld stories, and it's always nice to see an old friend, even if it's just a cameo. Still, this is a book about Tiffany, and her growing into adulthood, even if that's still only sixteen years old. Tiffany is going to find that maturity and age are not the same thing at all, but then Tiffany has always been mature for her age. It's allowed her to do some fantastic things, make some truly terrible mistakes, and left her standing on the sidelines watching as the rest of her friends move on into a life she will never be allowed to have.

Each of the Tiffany Aching books has been a bit more dark and serious the then one before, although none of them have been light and fluffy. Each has real problems to be solved, real horrors doing really bad things, and Tiffany needs to face real consequences for each of her actions in trying to deal with them. And parallel to the main plot are all the other people living, loving, fighting, and dying on a daily basis, any one of which could step into Tiffany's way at any moment. Pratchett portrays life on the Discworld pretty much like it is here on Earth--filled with nice people, and absolute monsters, boring mornings, and end-of-the-world afternoons. And, being a witch, Tiffany has had to face more than her fair share of slaying the monsters and saving the world, in addition to the normal bone-wearying jobs of dealing with birth, death, and every disease and condition in between from all the people she's know all her life.

The plot of I Shall Wear Midnight is more multilayered as well. Not only is Tiffany expected to stand up to a new supernatural horror, she also has to come to terms with her new place as an adult in local society at the same time. It isn't easy to be seen as the nice young daughter of Mr. Aching, when the first thing anyone sees is the pointy hat. It creates certain assumptions in people's minds. Many of us think we are defined by our jobs, but for the witches on the Discworld, it's even more true. Witches know things people don't want them to know. They can do things that people don't want them to be able to do ... until those same people are in desperate need, and then it's a darn good thing that the witches are around and I've always said that Tiffany is a fine young girl. So how do you deal with what is essentially a societal psychosis of people both needing you and fearing you at the same time?

Tiffany is not alone, however. The Wee Free Men, also known as the Nac Mac Feegle, are still devoted to her cause. In fact, she has to spend half her time trying to get them to stop helping her. The other witches from previous books, chiefly Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are keeping a close eye on her as well. And although they'll probably step in if there's no other way, a witch must be able to stand on her own, or she's no good to her community. And Tiffany is adamant that she'll do what needs doing, or die trying. But times and people change, and those she could count on before become part of the problem.

Roland, the young Baron's son, a good friend of Tiffany's throughout their childhood, is also becoming an adult. He needs to get married and start becoming the Baron himself. Now his childhood friend is The Witch, the one with power and influence, and who doesn't do what she's told. In an instant, Tiffany has gone from a friend to a rival authority figure. And his fiance isn't exactly thrilled with her either, especially when there's lots of talk about just how close Tiffany and Roland use to be.

There are multiple plot lines involving dozens of characters, each with a different point of view and sets of objectives that might aid or obstruct Tiffany. And not a few people that wouldn't mind seeing the young witch gone for good. Several new characters also grace the pages of I Shall Wear Midnight, realistic, flawed people, that even when they're opposing our heroine, you can't help but sympathize. After all, aren't their problems just as real to them?

As with any Discworld book, I highly recommend I Shall Wear Midnight.

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