Thursday, June 6, 2013

I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett

So I've finally reached the very last of the Tiffany Aching novels, and while it's a little sad to say farewell to a character I have come to consider to be a friend, at the same time I'm very happy for Tiffany and wish her all the best. (And really that speaks to the strength of Pratchett's writing that I can consider Tiffany to be incredibly real.) Like all Pratchett novels it comes bundled with his bountiful wit and excellent writing, while artfully handling serious topics that many of us deal with in our lives.  I Shall Wear Midnight is definitely a book that adults can read with their children and, hopefully, have a very serious discussion about grief, evil, hatred, and jealousy. 

As much as I enjoyed this book, I have to be completely honest in saying that the plot in this book isn't terribly different from the other three. There is a very powerful and very dangerous magical being which is out on the hunt for Tiffany and she has to face it more or less alone, but with a generous dose of help from other witches and the ever reliable Nac Mac Feegle. I did have a little doubt as to if Tiffany would make it out okay in this book, considering it's the (so-far) last one, but she's a really tough girl so I was pretty confident she'd make it through okay. And honestly, if all that was going on in this book I'd probably have a far lower recommendation for this novel like I did with Wintersmith. Fortunately, I Shall Wear Midnight explores new material and explores the very human emotions of jealousy and grief, as well as at least looking into what makes people do evil things in the name of righteousness. 

As I mentioned in my Wintersmith review, it felt a lot like a retread of A Hat Full of Sky, where it covered the same ideas of taking responsibility and doing things because no one else will because that's what witches do. What I liked about I Shall Wear Midnight was that I got to see Tiffany Aching develop as a character and deal with her jealousy regarding Roland and his fiancee. Granted, as a reader I generally do not care for all that romantic nonsense, especially with teenage characters who tend to be petty, but Pratchett managed to write it in a manner I found rather palatable. I think one of Pratchett's greatest strengths is creating characters that feel incredibly real, and he made the envy of Tiffany very believable to me as a reader. I really think teenage readers would be able to connect with Tiffany because she's a very well-written and it's very easy to get inside her head and have a look around. 

I'm kind of on the fence regarding the other plot that kind of addresses where evil comes from. Pratchett kind of slips in a bit at the end that the evil is always there inside of us just looking for an excuse to come out, but at the same time I got the impression that evil is a something....else out there that looks for a way to corrupt us. I take issue with this because in other books Pratchett is really good about saying that evil comes from within. To quote Pratchett's earlier work, Small Gods, "There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot be easily duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes into work every day and has a job to do." And that's just one example of many other quotes from Discworld where Pratchett admits that there is the potential for evil in all of us if we just let the barriers that hold us back fall away. To suggest that part of it is something...other than us, a magical force beyond our control that makes us behave that way and it isn't our fault is just contrary to everything that Pratchett has said previously, even within the Tiffany Aching series. I'd hate to give people the impression that we're occasionally not responsible for our actions because that leads down a very dark path. 

I thought this was a very good conclusion to the Tiffany Aching series and liked to see her develop as a character across the books. The reading level is simple enough that most young adults would be able to understand the concepts, but not so watered down that it's unbearable for adults. I think they would all be great books to share with your teenage children and hopefully spark some discussion about serious topics. 

- Kalpar 

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