Monday, October 18, 2010

I Shall Where Midnight by Terry Pratchett

One of my favorite authors is Terry Pratchett. There’s no secret to that if you’ve spent even a little bit of time browsing my blog; he writes some of the best fantasy books out there, and has one of the keenest minds and greatest storytelling abilities I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.

Not surprisingly then, Sir Pratchett has done it once again with his latest Discworld novel, ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’, the fourth in his Tiffany Aching series, following the trials and tribulations of a girl becoming a witch in a land that doesn’t want a witch.

I wonder whether someone who hasn’t read the previous three Tiffany books would enjoy this as much as someone who has. I don't recommend testing it; if you haven't read them, do so. Much of the Tiffany story, comes from having seen her grow up and fill into her role as the first witch of the Chalk. From nine years old Tiffany finds herself time and again having to deal with problems that no ordinary witch need deal with. And each time she does so with such skill and poise that it is no surprise she is being heralded as a very special witch.

Midnight takes place when Tiffany is not yet sixteen, and having to deal with problems nobody else is willing to deal with. That’s the job of a witch. You do the thing in front of you, and then you do the next thing.

Once again Pratchett writes the mind of a teenage girl perfectly, or so I think, never having been one myself. But considering that Pratchett was never a teenage girl either, you can’t help but assume that he has it right on the money. The lack of knowledge she has about some topics (pink inflatable wossnames) mixes wonderfully with a mass of understanding that even her father fails to grasp. She’s na├»ve and wise, ignorant and informed, all in one pretty little bundle.

And let’s be honest here. I’ve been in love with Tiffany since the first moment I met her. She is the perfect fantasy character, not stupid but not all knowing. She learns. She understands her limits. She thinks things through and then let’s her second and third thoughts think on the things that she has thought.

Midnight happens quickly. Maybe five days takes place, at best, and Pratchett seems to write ensuring that he gets everything in there in as fast as possible. This makes for some head spinning action and narrative, leaving you wondering where the extra pages went or whether Pratchett’s desk has a larger draft somewhere.

Surprisingly the early third of this book is a little rough, leaving you feeling as if you’ve missed something, or are missing something. I’m not sure that I did, but I will reserve judgment until I’ve read it again.

And I will be reading it again. The book had me in tears by the end, tears of joy at having read such a wonderful story. It was both heart-warming and cheer-worthy, and I couldn’t help but notice my heart beat faster as the story reached its climax and then it’s ending. This is definitely a book – much like many of Pratchett’s books – which will have re-readability for years to come. And I look forward to rereading it as soon as possible.