I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett. ★★★★★
I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth book following Tiffany Aching, a young witch. While the plot of I Shall Wear Midnight is completely separate, I would suggest reading the earlier books, which start with The Wee Free Men, so you can see how Tiffany ages over the course of the series (so far it’s 9 to 15).
Unless The Shepherd’s Crown tops it, this is the darkest of the Tiffany books. Just to illustrate, in the beginning Tiffany is called out to deal with a situation where a thirteen year old girl who was pregnant was beaten so badly by her father that she lost the baby. In I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany has finished her training with the older witches and has taken over her own steading in the Chalk, which means dealing the messes and the people who fall through the cracks.
“And there’s always an excuse, isn’t there, to throw a stone at the old lady who looks funny. It’s always easier to blame somebody. And once you’ve called someone a witch, then you’d be amazed how many things you can blame her for.”
In the past, Tiffany has faced off against creatures like the Hiver or the Fairy Queen, but now she faces the Cunning Man, who is a very different sort of antagonist. For one, the Cunning Man is mostly dangerous in what he represents – the darkness in ordinary people, all the ugly emotions that lead to the witch hunts in our own world. But don’t be mistaken – “Poison goes where poison’s welcome.” The Cunning Man isn’t putting thoughts into people, he’s just bringing them to the surface.
“I ken well that witches looks after everybody but theirselves.”
Tiffany herself feels tired. It’s the natural result of the last three books. This series has been about Tiffany taking on ever more responsibility, and in I Shall Wear Midnight you can really feel how she’s straining under the weight of it. She’s really grown since the last book, and she feels older than her years. Also, she needs to remember to be a person first and a witch second.
“There have been times, lately, when I dearly wished that I could change the past. Well, I can’t, but I can change the present, so that when it becomes the past it will turn out to be a past worth having.”
I love Tiffany so much. This is the girl who chose to be a witch. No one chose her, and she wasn’t born with any natural ability. She saw an injustice, and she decided to become a witch so nothing like that would happen ever again. Tiffany’s smart and brave, and I love how she can use character traits like selfishness and pride to her advantage. Of course, she’s also flawed and makes mistakes. One, which is also an example of how generally amazing this series is with female characters, is that she was so judgmental of Letitia. Tiffany was so immediately scornful of the soppy blond girl in the frilly dress that she didn’t look closer. Tiffany, who’s always rejected the narrative the storybooks foisted on her, fell into the trap of applying “fairy tale thinking” to another girl.
I strongly recommend the Tiffany Aching books. Please, please don’t avoid them because they’re not one of Pratchett’s “adult” books. These are magnificent books with so much to say about what it is to be human.