Friday, January 7, 2011

I Shall Wear Midnight

by Terry Pratchett
Publisher HarperCollins Publishers

Terry Pratchett should need no introduction. He is a knighted author of Fantasy, most famous for his Discworld series, which has inspired everything from cartoons, BBC movies, figurines, t-shirts, postage stamps, street names in a Somerset city, their own convention, and even a line of beer. I Shall Wear Midnight concludes his Discworld based young adult series focused on the adventures of Tiffany Aching in a dark and thrilling novel.

Tiffany Aching is now a fifteen-year-old witch on the Chalk, an area known for soft soil and sheep. She is treated with respect, as any witch ought to be, but also with suspicion. Things get worse for her when the Baron, who owns most of the land, dies under her care and his nurse accuses her of black magic. She is sent on a mission to find the Baron's son, whom she saved in The Wee Free Men from the Queen of the Fairies. She was rumored to have feelings for the Baron’s son, even going so far as to use the necklace which he gave her to ensnare the Hiver in A Hat Full of Sky, and his fiancĂ©, Letitia, and her mother, who is a Dutchess and makes it clear to everyone in the vicinity that this is her rank.

On the coach ride to Ankh-Morpork, the Discworld equivalent to London or New York, she meets The Cunning Man, a conjured spirit of a murdered Omnian witch hunter who is occasionally resurrected throughout the history of Discworld to hunt and pursue witches, fueled by the deep seeded fear and mistrust of the members of their communities.

Tiffany is helped by a few of the witches in Ankh Morpork, including the famous Mrs. Proust, who runs Boffo’s joke shop, and Eskarina Smith, who is the first ever woman bequeathed a wizard’s staff, and thus lives on the borders between witch magic and wizard magic. All of them are aware of The Cunning Man’s presence, but it pursues only Tiffany, who must ultimately battle him to the death in the final chapters.

As with many young adult series, as the characters grow and mature, so to do their worlds and the problems they must face. Tiffany Aching deals, within the first few chapters of the book, with alcoholism, domestic violence, infanticide and suicide, which is a far cry from slamming a river goblin in the face with a frying pan. Readers who have grown with the series will not be shocked, and indeed may champion Tiffany on these new adventures, but readers uninitiated may want to start with The Wee Free Men and work their way up through Tiffany’s life. Still, this book certainly could stand alone, and deals readers a more realistic version of young adult life than many novels currently available. Though the themes are occasionally dark and mature, this is still a very entertaining and thrilling read, heavily spiced with Pratchett’s trademark humor.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Joshua Gage.

Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland. His first full-length collection, "breaths", is available from VanZeno Press. Intrinsic Night, a collaborative project he wrote with J. E. Stanley, was recently published by Sam’s Dot Publishing. He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts, rye whiskey and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs. He stomps around Cleveland in a purple bathrobe where he hosts the monthly Deep Cleveland Poetry hour and enjoys the beer at Brew Kettle.

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