This is it. Tiffany Aching’s story is over, at least for now. Terry Pratchett said in an interview that, were he ever to continue telling Tiffany Aching’s story, the next book would have to be an adult novel because Tiffany would be grown up. Now that’s a thought I like. That girl kicked ass when she was nine and picked up a frying pan, just imagine what she can do as a fully-grown witch…
Published in: Corgi Childrens, 2010
Paperback: 424 pages
Series: Tiffany Aching #4
My rating: 9/10
First sentence: Why was it, Tiffany Aching wondered, that people liked noise so much?
It starts with whispers.
Then someone picks up a stone.
Finally, the fires begin.
When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .
Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.
But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.
Chilling drama combines with laugh-out-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.
The Discworld sub-series about the young apprentice witch Tiffany Aching has been consistently good, but was never more touching than in this final volume. As Tiffany grows older, so do the themes the author explores. Most striking, this book takes a very dark turn and recounts some of the more terrible things human beings are capable of doing. Tiffany, however, takes these things with her usual calm and the knowledge that she is doing the best she can, as any good witch would. While the first books can be put into children’s hands without second thoughts, there was one scene in particular in I Shall Wear Midnight that I found shocking, even as a grown-up. When a young girl, who is pregnant, is beaten by her father so violently that she loses the child, Tiffany is the one who will try to make things right. Or as right as they can be in such a situation. Clearly, being a witch of almost-sixteen means trodding darker territory than ever before.
In the way he does so well, Terry Pratchett manages to lift his readers’ moods by being absolutely hilarious. While I loved Tiffany’s visit to the actual Boffo, there were numerous moments that elicited chuckles, laughter, and sometimes hysterical giggling on my part. I feel like I’m repeating myself because, honestly, Pratchett does what he’s been doing for the last few books, and does it as well – if not better. While Discworld is a funny place, it is usually the little moments of wisdom, of bravery and kindness, that get to me and make these books so memorable.
And so, because nobody in the castle had ever been very enthusiastic about the dungeon, everybody had forgotten that it had a chimney. And that is why Tiffany looked up and saw, high above her, that little patch of blue which a prisoner calls the sky, but which she, as soon as it was dark enough, intended to call the exit.
I have talked a lot about Tiffany as a character and a rolemodel and someone I would want to be friends with if she were real (or I lived in Discworld). But, wonderful as she is, I must metion the side characters. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg only have a short cameo in this book. In their stead, we get to see a lot more or Roland and the lady Letitia (whose name is “halfway between a salad and a sneeze”) and her horrible snob of a mother. Just as I got comfortable hating certain characters and joining Tiffany in thinking nasty thoughts about them, Terry Pratchett reminded me that, despite their faults, these are still people with their own worries and dreams. Making every single character so very human that I can believe they are real (if only in my mind) is a feat that more authors should try to accomplish. Even characters we only see for one little scene get enough depth to make them three-dimensional.
As I said above, the plot is a lot more sinister than in the previous books. Tiffany is neither hunted by a hiver, nor wooed by the Wintersmith. Instead, she has a much creepier, and more dangerous, creature to deal with. A creature that brings out the worst in people and a perfect villain, if you ask me. I enjoyed seeing Tiffany do her regular witchy work, although it does require watching people die at times, or helping a young girl recover from a beating, but her trip to Ankh Morpork definitely added another layer of fun to it. Not only does she meet certain officers of the Watch and visit Boffo’s, but another familiar character from the early Discoworld books makes an appearance.
The last thing I want to mention is the romance. Or lack thereof. Or the turning-on-the-head of the non-existing romance. You know… Sir Terry takes tropes from fairytales and fantasy literature alike and shows Tiffany (and us readers) that tropes aren’t actually rules.
And Tiffany… went back in time, just for a second. But in that second she was a little girl again, reading the well-thumbed book of fairy stories that all her sisters had read before her. But she had seen what they had not seen; she had seen through it. It lied. no, well, not exactly lied, but told you truths that you did not want to know: that only blonde and blue-eyed girls could get the prince and wear the glittering crown. It was built into the world. Even worse, it was built into your hair colouring. Redheads and brunettes sometimes got more than a walk-on part in the land of story, but if all you had was a rather mousy shade of brown hair you were marked down to be a servant girl.
Terry Pratchett doesn’t just show us that this “rule” goes both ways (what if a blonde girl wants to be something other than a glittering princess?) but also that its bullshit. Young girls with mousy brown hair, take heart. The other trope that was clearly subverted is the love story, even the love triangle. Now Tiffany is not immune to jealousy but she is also a clever and resourceful girl who trusts her Second and Third thoughts when they tell her the difference between love and friendship.
I am truly sad that this wonderful journey is over and can only hope that Terry Pratchett writes another book about the coolest witch I’ve ever read about.
THE GOOD: Brilliant characters, hilarious moments, a strong heroine dealing with tough situations.
THE BAD: It’s the last one in the seires!
THE VERDICT: Still as highly recommended as three books ago. Tiffany has stolen my heart and I already long to go back to her universe, the Nac Mac Feegles and the witches. Although I like none of them half as much as I like Tiffany. These are the kinds of books I wish I could have read when I was little.
RATING: 9/10 – Close to perfection
The Tiffany Aching Series: