I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth (and final?) of Terry Pratchett’s novels about Tiffany Aching, the young witch of the Chalk who is also the wee great hag of the diminutive Nac Mac Feegles. In this volume, Tiffany must deal with the greatest threat of her life, the Cunning Man, the spirit of an ancient witch hunter whose hatred keeps him going through the centuries.
This novel may be one of the darkest Pratchett has written. It opens with Tiffany dealing with Amber, a young girl who was beaten so badly by her father that she miscarried. This also introduces the theme carried throughout the novel of vigilantism, as villagers police their own and mete out swift justice to promote the peace of their community. In Pratchett’s world, however, vigilantism, which is also a form of mob mentality, is not always the right thing to do, and as a witch, Tiffany must stand for the right thing, making sure that the people who are under her protection do not destroy their own souls.
Pratchett’s solution to the mob mentality is almost like the idea of “steam engine time.” When it is time to burn witches, witches will burn. However, Pratchett is more nuanced than that. While he acknowledges that the mob mentality is a powerful thing, he also demonstrates that the individual must take responsibility for their own actions, whether it is the new baron mourning the death of his father, the young girl with the domineering mother, of the faceless crowd being urged on by an almost primordial force.
Tiffany is joined in the novel by a mix of old and new characters, from the leader of the Feegles, Ron Anybody, to the haughty Duchess, who is scheduled to become the new baron’s mother-in-law. Many of these characters are created with a few deft strokes, but become as real as the more established characters, like the guardsman Preston, who demonstrates a strange interest in “doctrine.”
At the core of the novel, however, is Tiffany, who in many ways must come of age. Only a couple of year’s older than Amber, she must be an adult for Amber as well as the rest of the community. When she finds herself facing the Cunning Man, a greater threat than any she has previously faced, she realizes that despite offers of help, she needs to achieve success on her own, almost as if she’s passing a final exam. Tossed into this is the personal relationship Tiffany has with many of the people on the Chalk, most notably with Roland, the new Baron as he takes over a new position of authority and also looks to take a bride.I Shall Wear Midnight forms a suitable ending for the Tiffany Aching books if Pratchett does end this series with the novel as the publicity for the book states. However, just as he has carried on the stories of so many of his characters, additional books about Tiffany, or cameo appearances in other books, are a distinct possibility. And at only sixteen years old, Tiffany seems hardly ready to retire.
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