30/11/2011

I Shall Wear Midnight (by Terry Pratchett)

Having very much enjoyed the children's Discworld books by Terry Pratchett about Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegle, I looked forward eagerly to the fourth in the series. Not quite enough to buy it in hardback, however, so I was pleased when an inexpensive paperback edition was published earlier in the year, and bought it immediately.

'I shall wear midnight' is a coming-of-age kind of book, nicely combined with a classic good vs evil story. Tiffany is sixteen now, and is working as the 'hag' of the Chalk. Most of her duties involve medical care of some kind, from binding up wounds and delivering babies, to sitting with the dying, and easing their pain. At sixteen, she has seen far more of the world than most girls her age.

I think this must be intended for rather older teenagers than the other books about Tiffany. Perhaps, like the later Harry Potter books, it is intended for people who were nine or ten when the first book in the series was published. Whereas 'The Wee Free Men' could be enjoyed by children of around eight or older, this latest book starts in rather a disturbing way with an episode about extreme domestic violence. There aren't too many gory details - it's not horrific - but equally, it's not the kind of subject matter that is appropriate for children.

This unpleasant episode is symptomatic of a change that seems to be coming over Tiffany's neighbourhood, where people are becoming more violent and less trustworthy, and where she herself appears to be more and more unpopular, blamed for everything that goes wrong.

The Nac Mac Feegle play a part in this book, as always, although they too seem rather more violent and less amusing than usual. Tiffany visits Ankh Morpork to get in touch with someone she needs to see, and meets a character from an earlier Discworld book as well as some extra folk. There she learns exactly why she keeps seeing strange visions and smelling horrible stinks, and why there is so much suspicion and unpleasantness in the Chalk.

Reading as an adult, I enjoyed the story, which has a satisfying ending to what is, I gather, the last of the Tiffany Aching books. However with the early unpleasant part of the book, and several sexual innuendoes throughout (though nothing explicit), I would not recommend this to anyone under the age of about fourteen.

The other books in the series are:

The Wee Free Men - A Hat Full of Sky - Wintersmith

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 30th November 2011

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