Book Review: I Shall Wear Midnight by Sir Terry Pratchett

Posted May 25, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: I Shall Wear Midnight by Sir Terry Pratchett

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I Shall Wear Midnight by Sir Terry Pratchett
Series: ,
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, YA
Published by Harper Collins on September 28, 2010
Pages: 349
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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It starts with whispers.

Then someone picks up a stone.

Finally, the fires begin.

When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . .

Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren't sparkly, aren't fun, don't involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.

But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

Also by this author: The Light Fantastic, Sourcery, Mort, The Shepherd's Crown, Guards! Guards!, Moving Pictures, Small Gods, A Blink of the Screen, Reaper Man

Fourth in the Tiffany Aching fantasy series — and technically for middle-grade readers and I found this extremely appropriate for adults! — and thirty-eighth in the overall Discworld series. The series order can be confusing as there are a number of mini series within it. If you’re curious, there is a chronological listing of the Discworld books on my website.

Tiffany is a young witch who has responsibility for the Chalk, its people, and the Nac Mac Feegles. The last and fifth book in the Tiffany Aching series will be The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld, 41; it will also be the last book in the overall Discworld series as Sir Terry has died), and it is scheduled for release September 2015.

In 2010, I Shall Wear Midnight won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and was nominated for the Fantasy, Goodreads Choice for Young Adult Fantasy. In 2011, it won the SFX Award for Best Novel and was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature.

My Take

If I could give this a “7”, I would do it in a heartbeat!

I do adore Tiffany and her Nac Mac Feegles. Oh, lordy. Be prepared to laugh and howl as Pratchett pokes fun at society’s shibboleths and makes you think on human behavior.

“‘Have you boys got no shame?’

Rob Anybody matched him grin for grin. ‘I couldna say,’ he replied, ‘but if we have, it probably belonged tae somebody else.'”

I don’t know if you’re the type to skip footnotes. You must not skip these lest you miss some of the fun.

“…as noise went, it was sticky: you got the feeling that if you let it, it would try to follow you home.”

It’s a story of being aware of what’s around you. See not only the beauty and the surface, but see when someone is hurting and needs a less attractive sort of help.

I do adore how the Nac Mac Feegles can turn anything around, the tall tales they create, and their terrible fright of the shakin’ of the head, the tappin’ o’ the feets, the need for Explainin’…

“Weel, I think I did hear that maybe a piece of sheep kind of accidentally fell intae the pan when it was cooking and we tried to drag it oot but — well, ye ken what sheep is like — it panicked and fought back.”

Ach, well, tisn’t farmin’ so much as “livestock herding” those snails. Although Wee Honeymouth Jock says the “stampedes can be a wee bit embarrassing”.

That nurse. She’s so very religious, quick to accuse Tiffany, and a gossipy old besom. She’s too much like those “good” Christians who stir up trouble. It’s not surprising that she’s a thief as well.

Pratchett takes a proverb and words it literally. He’ll have you up and cackling, and then let you down easy. Ooh, suspenders. Yep, yep, nothing worse when those suspenders don’t work right on a coach.

I love it! Seems the Baron had been sweet on Granny Aching all those years ago, and part of what he loved about her was that she wasn’t afraid to argue with him. Now, he’s sweet as he lies dying and thinking about his actions in the past, about Tiffany’s aid.

Oh, I do love the end, and I think Tiffany is turning out to be a very good witch with a practical mind.

It’s a moral story pointing out human failings and requiring that we look to ourselves, our innermost thoughts and feelings, to the realities that others are facing — not making up fears about others to calm yourself. Of not giving in to bigotry and prejudice. It’s a situation that forces Tiffany to realize that simply being a witch does not make one wise, and that knowing people, developing wisdom, is better than knowledge.

“You try to make plans for people, and the people make other plans.”

The Story

It’s a dreadful time on the Chalk with the Cunning Man spreading hatred, fear, and poisonous bigotry, a miasma Tiffany first notices at the scouring fair. Matters are only worsened when even Roland turns against her and plots to undermine everything and everyone Tiffany loves.

The Characters

Tiffany Aching is the witch for her steading, the area a witch thought of as her own, and it encompasses the whole of the Chalk (she makes good cheese, too). Her parents are good people even if they are a bit confused about their young daughter being even more respected than them. Wentworth is her younger brother who’s getting in too many fights. Granny Aching had been Tiffany’s role model. Still was, if you want to know. Not a witch, but she was a wise woman.

The Nac Mac Feelges are…
…also known as the Wee Free Men. Rob Anybody is the leader of the clan in the Chalk, and it’s their sworn duty to protect Tiffany, their wee big hag (see Wee Free Men, 1). Rob is married to Jeannie, the kelda of the clan. Daft Wullie “dinna have enough brains to blow his nose” and frequently puts his foot in it. Wee Honeymouth Jock is the spokesfeegle. Slightly-more-wee-than-Wee-Jock-Jock is a good fighter and one of Jeannie and Rob’s children. Big Yan is a giant among Feegles. Wee Jock ‘o the White Head talks of the Battle o’ the Middens. Slightly-thinner-than-Fat-Jock-Jock says it’s the troosers. Toad used to be a lawyer before he insulted the wrong person (Wee Free Men), and the Feegles consider him the brains of the clan.

Tiffany’s fellow witches include…
…her friends: Petulia is a witch who specializes in pig magic and was very good at pig boring, and Annagramma is a know-it-all witch who knew nothing until she learned better in Wintersmith, 3. The older witches who have been teaching Tiffany include Nanny Ogg who knows the old magic of people and the earth (Wee Free Men); Granny Weatherwax (Wee Free Men) and her kitten, You; Miss Level (A Hat Full of Sky, 2); Miss Treason is the witch from whom Tiffany learned how useful Boffo’s was (Wintersmith); and, Miss Tick is the witch who looks for new young witches (Wee Free Men).

The Chalk is…

…named for the soil. It’s local ruler is the ailing Baron. His son is
Roland who had been Tiffany’s sweetheart. Miss Spruce is the horror of a nurse who is supposed to be caring for him. Brian Roberts is the castle sergeant. Lance Private Preston is one of the new guards and quite bright too. He’d like to apprentice to a doctor, but it takes quite a bit of silver to get all those letters after your name. Mrs. Coble is the suddenly nasty cook. Pastor Egg is of the modern Omnian sect, and he will officiate.

Keepsake Hall is…
…the home of Letitia, the daughter of the Duchess, a mean, spiteful, bullying woman, a.k.a., Deirdre Parsley. Mavis is one of the Hall’s ghosts. Uncle Charlie ran away with all the books on Erotica, and Letitia simply cannot find it on the map. Mr. Tyler is the very ancient night watchman.

“‘Well, child? Aren’t you going to try to turn me into some kind of unspeakable creature?’

‘I don’t think I shall bother, madam, seeing as you are making such a good job of it yourself!'”

Mr. Seth Petty is a bully of a man, and his wife, Molly, is a “mouse of a woman”. Amber is their thirteen-year-old, unwed, and pregnant daughter. Well, maybe. William is thirteen and wanted to become apprentice to a tailor. Mrs. Snapperly was an old retired woman with an interest in books. A victim of the rough music. Billy Teller is one of those nasty boys. William Glottal Carpetlayer is the coachman.

At the scouring fair…
…most of the Chalk was there to shop, to socialize, to find a spouse. Becky Pardon and Nancy Upright are two little girls who are only some of those who remind Tiffany of her aching heart.

The city of Ankh-Morpork features…
…throughout the Discworld. And I have a hard time reconciling what I’ve read in the Tiffany Aching series with what I’ve read in the first three stories in Discworld. Doesn’t seem the same at all. Boffo’s Joke Emporium is the witch’s go-to store for everything needed to appear to be a true witch. It’s on Egg Street, if you need to know. Mrs. Proust runs Boffo’s with the help of Derek, her son. Her father was the hangman. Mr. Trooper is the current hangman and not as good. Long Tall Short Fat Sally, a.k.a., Miss Cambric, is allergic to the tides. She’s learning how to be a witch from Mrs. Happenstance. Mr. Wilkin is the landlord of the King’s Head, er, it’s now the King’s, um, Back. Miss Cripslock is with The Times.

Wee Mad Arthur and Corporal Nobbs are policeman in the City Watch. Captain Carrot is his superior; Captain Angua is his fellow officer. And a werewolf. Lance Constable Hopkins has a wee problem. Constable Haddock lets them go. Commander Vimes wants the Feegles out of his city. Macintosh is the prisoner who broke out of D wing. Frank is one of the warders.

“…the truth is so precious that it shouldn’t be waved about too much.”

Miss Eskarina Smith is a different kind of cunning — the only woman to become a wizard and the first witch ever trained by Granny Weatherwax — and lives in the Unreal Estate.

Queen Magrat of Lancre is a witch. She and her husband, King Verence, are coming to Roland’s wedding.

The Cunning Man is an idea that appears wherever, whenever, whispering evil into a crowd, into a man’s ear, sowing discord everywhere. He is a part of all of us, and he hates witches.

“Poison goes where poison’s welcome.”

Witches are women and usually don’t get married. There’s just too much to do. Their basic standbys include First Sight (you see what is really there) and Second Thoughts (thinking about what you are thinking; I wonder? Does it apply to thinking about what you’re reading as you’re reading?). Witches are needed, but they are not wanted. The traveling now is tame time, time that is on your side.

A bigjob is a Feegle word for humans. Wizards are found in universities and big cities and may not marry either. Spill words are those words that someone almost says. An Omnian priest wrote The Bonfire of the Witches. The Lady Sybil Free Hospital will be taking on an apprentice.

The Cover and Title

The cover is the dark charcoal gray of a “proper” witch’s clothing with Tiffany presenting us with a handful of flames as the blue-skinned and orange hairy haloed Nac Mac Feegles look on with skepticism and trepidation.

“When I am old, I Shall Wear Midnight” is Tiffany’s response to Granny Weatherwax and Pastor Egg. She’s determined…until she receives her gift from William and Amber.

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6 responses to “Book Review: I Shall Wear Midnight by Sir Terry Pratchett

  1. Hi Kathy!
    Yay! A Terry Pratchett fan!
    I have only read the first of the Tiffany Aching series, but I will read this and the others.
    Have you reviewed other Discworld books?
    ~Icky. 🙂

    • Yes, I have, although I’ve only started reading the series. So far, I’ve read and reviewed The Color of Magic and the first three Tiffany Achings (already posted) with Light Fantastic, Sourcery, and Eric reviewed and scheduled for publication. Next up, I’ll be reading Equal Rights. I think I read one of his books years ago and didn’t understand what his writing was about and never wanted to go back to him. I’m glad I’ve changed my mind (!) because he’s hilarious. I absolutely adore his “slings and arrows” at our beliefs and expectations in our world.

      • Yay! Equal Rites! Go, Kathy! The early Granny Weatherwax books are my favourites!

        I love that Sir Terry is an equal opportunity arrow slinger. No-one is safe!

        My first Terry Pratchett book was ‘Reaper Man’. This was not the best introduction to Terry Pratchett, but I enjoyed it and kept reading the rest of his titles. I think there are only a small few of his later books that I am behind on.

        That is a good conversation topic for some enterprising blogger. {I don’t have a blog, so you are welcome to it!} What was your introduction to, and first impression of Terry Pratchett? Since few people read them in order as opposed to most series, that might be an interesting thread.

        Cheers Kathy!
        I am glad I found your blog and a topic on which I could comment.
        Your pal,
        ~Icky. 🙂

        • Thanks, Icky, lol. Does that mean Granny is in Equal Rites? I love Granny! Hmmm, Reaper Man, Death #2…? Looks like Mort will be up after Equal Rites, and it’s the beginning of the DEATH subseries, so I’ll be finding out fairly soon what you mean about the reaper. So readers know, the Discworld is composed of some five or so subseries. It’s not necessary to read the overall series in order, but I would recommend reading the particular subseries in their order, as it will make more sense. For that subseries. I can’t imagine reading the Tiffany Aching series out of order. It wouldn’t have been as much fun!

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