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I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

I finally finished reading I Shall Wear Midnight before (a much-delayed) bedtime last night. It's the fourth Tiffany Aching book set in Discworld. Tiffany is now 16, meaning that this book is set almost 3 years after Wintersmith, the book in which Tiffany kissed the winter.

It took me a while to really become hooked by this book. Some of it is undoubtedly me, but some of it is the story, which is darker than the earlier books. Even though each of the prior three had terrible things take place in them (abduction of people by fairies and rescue by Tiffany in The Wee Free Men, possession by a Hiver in A Hat Full of Sky, and pursuit by the Winter in Wintersmith, which is more perilous than it sounds), this one begins in dark times, and the darkness and fear that pervade the novel were a bit off-putting, I think. Could be just me.

See the book starts with Tiffany in a funk because Roland (set up to be her potential love interest in the previous books) is engaged to a wealthy young woman named Letitia. (Truefact: my mother's father wanted to name her Letitia. It did not happen.) In the second chapter, a very young girl is nearly beaten to death by her father, causing her to miscarry. And the old Baron is dying. And suddenly everyone in the wide world is starking to look askance at witches. Yeah, it's dark days indeed on the Chalk and elsewhere in Discworld.

Turns out, though, that the book still has plenty of humor in it. For one thing, there are the Nac Mac Feegle (aka the Wee Free Men), but they aren't around all that much until Chapter Six, which is, by the way, where I started becoming invested in the book. Not just for the Feegles, but because the scene-setting stops and the real action starts. Not that we don't need all the stuff that came before it, because we do, and it's all fine and it turns out well enough in the end, but it wasn't until Chapter Six that the book started to become unputdownable for me.

My favorite new character is probably Preston, a clever young man who works for the Baron and shares Tiffany's love of words, although it's a tough call - Mrs. Proust, a witch from Ankh-Morpork, is pretty great, as is the wizard Eskarina Smith (who has been mentioned in a prior Tiffany Aching book as well as in another Discworld novel), and Wee Mad Arthur, a very small, very blue policeman from the City, is funny. In the end, even Letitia proves fascinating, despite her rather inauspicious start. And there's another witch in the book, one we only catch glimpses of much of the time, who proves very interesting indeed.

A must-read for fans of Feegles and of Tiffany Aching, of course. And for people who are interested in string theory.

Based on the way the book concludes, I rather expect it is the last of the YA Tiffany Aching novels. Once again Pratchett has made me laugh and cry, made me think and hope and wish, and made me aspire to be a better writer. And I leave you with these words of Terry Pratchett's, pulled from the Author's Note at the back of the book:

It is important that we know where we come from, because if you don 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.


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Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
jbknowles
Jan. 3rd, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
E and I adored this book. However, I cried reading the final pages and he said I ruined it for him. So I had to gather myself together and read the last page again. I thought it was beautiful and such a perfect way to leave her.

What is the sound of love?

*sniff*

xo
kellyrfineman
Jan. 3rd, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC)
That is EXACTLY what I did - I hit "What is the sound of love" and burst into sniffly tears.
dampscribbler
Jan. 3rd, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC)
I have no Pratchett icons? What?
Loved that book! I love Tiffany, but if this should be the last we see her in print, then I am hoping we at least get to see the Witches again. And I'd love another Susan Sto Helit book, too.

I was glad to see Wee Mad Arthur explained. I'd never got it before, about him.

I'm impressed that you managed to go this long before reading it. "I Shall Wear Midnight" came out right before my birthday and I clearly informed the hubby that I would not wait to receive it as a gift, though I do think I managed to not buy it until it had been on the shelves two days or so.

Eric special ordered the Discworld calendar for me for Christmas. :-)
dampscribbler
Jan. 3rd, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
Re: I have no Pratchett icons? What?
*Chuckle*
Got one.
kellyrfineman
Jan. 3rd, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
Re: I have no Pratchett icons? What?
Good one!
kellyrfineman
Jan. 3rd, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
Re: I have no Pratchett icons? What?
I bought it the day it came out. I read the first chapter that night and put it down for well over a month. I read the second chapter and put it down for a few weeks. Put it down again after chapter four, then after chapter five. And then, I read the rest of the book in two great gulps - one two days ago, and then last night. And then I sniffled and cried at the ending. Preston is perfect for her. And that last question and answer did me in. *sniff*
dampscribbler
Jan. 3rd, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
Re: I have no Pratchett icons? What?
Yes, I sniffled mightily at that ending, too.

I did think it started somehow differently from the others, but I wasn't in a place to put it down. I do understand that, though, as I've done that with a couple of his books, most recently "Pyramids."
kellyrfineman
Jan. 3rd, 2011 11:25 pm (UTC)
Re: I have no Pratchett icons? What?
I think it was just my mood/state of mind. I was in the mood for lighter fare before Christmas, and this book starts in a rather oppressive place, actually. Not surprising given his current struggle with Alzheimers, and not surprising in the land of Discworld either, but Tiffany was out of sorts and I therefore found it hard to glom onto her for some reason. Now that I've seen at least some of what comes of poor Amber Petty, I'm a bit abashed that I was loath to dive into this book, but that was one very grim opening.
robinellen
Jan. 4th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
I (dare I admit it?) have never read any Terry Pratchett. I have to also admit that reading about little blue men doesn't appeal to me (ha). However, I love that quote!
patty1943
Jan. 4th, 2011 12:11 am (UTC)
Oh what you are missing! I need some Nac Mac Feegles!
Tiffany is unforgettable and original and wonderful, but start with the Wee Free Men, so you know her history.
I have read most of Pratchett and have had several episodes of nearly falling out of my chair laughing, but he also has a spirit of goodness and rightness, not conventional but human, that shines through. My favorite is Night Watch, but I love the witches, too, especially Mistress Weatherwax.
kellyrfineman
Jan. 4th, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
Seconded. Of course. Although I am more coordinated than you when it comes to staying in my chair, I have an occasional bladder issue when reading Pratchett.
kellyrfineman
Jan. 4th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
The Wee Free Men are not actually blue, but are instead covered head to toe with blue tattoos. They wear kilts or at least a spodge to cover their Feegle bits, and they love to lie, steal, cheat, and fight. And they are 100% made of win.

The Wee Free Men completely blew my mind. It made me laugh hard enough to nearly pee myself (I am less discreet than Patty, I guess, who merely fell over) and it made me cry at least twice. The humor and the joy and the beauty of the writing will blow you away, as will the things that he says about story in the middle of his texts - like, say, this "Somewhere, all stories are real and all dreams come true" from The Wee Free Men or "Change the story, change the world" from A Hat Full of Sky. (Both of those quotes are in my commonplace book, and I'm about to add more Pratchett in there. He's completely brilliant.)

I hope you'll at least give the first book a go - it's phenomenal. (And the audiobook is complete WIN as well!)
lizjonesbooks
Jan. 4th, 2011 01:03 am (UTC)
Oh, you need to!!! So wonderful. Try Night Watch... or Reaper Man(my first Pratchett... or Small Gods. Lovely stuff.
lizjonesbooks
Jan. 4th, 2011 01:01 am (UTC)
Cannot wait to read this. Sounds like my cuppa tea...Pratchett on string theory?
kellyrfineman
Jan. 4th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
You've read the other Tiffany Aching books, yes? If not, take them in order.
beckylevine
Jan. 4th, 2011 03:46 am (UTC)
I see what you mean about the opening--it did feel like maybe more of a wind-up than the other Wee Free Men book, but, yes, it was okay. And by the end--I, my son, and my husband (in sequence!) were all stunned again by the man's brilliance. Laugh and cry--that says it.
kellyrfineman
Jan. 4th, 2011 04:20 am (UTC)
By the time Tiffany figured out that Letitia wasn't just a crying wreck of a fiancée, the book had the magic I was used to. And although I didn't like the beginning when I was reading it, by the time I was approaching the end I didn't mind the beginning at all, since all that set-up was necessary.

The man is a genius.
midnightblooms
Jan. 4th, 2011 02:58 pm (UTC)
Crivens! I have some Christmas money burning my bank account until I get out to the bookstore this month and this one is on the TO BUY list. I'm glad to hear this one is as good as the others.
kellyrfineman
Jan. 4th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)
I would have read it even if it weren't as good as the others, just to see what became of Tiffany. But I can freely recommend it as quite good indeed!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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