I Shall Wear Midnight marks Tiffany Aching’s fourth appearance in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and the thirty-eighth book in the series overall. After her previous adventures in The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith, here we see fifteen year-old Tiffany back on home turf, caring for her steading on the Chalk as only a witch can. Things seem settled at first, but soon she finds the mood of the people turning against her, as a strange influence is in the air.
Where the first three books in the series saw Tiffany working out who and what she was, we now find her comfortable in her own skin and pretty much grown up. There’s a sense throughout the series that the books have been growing up alongside Tiffany, tackling darker and more adult themes with each novel, and that certainly continues here as we see her dealing with some really difficult issues with remarkable maturity and self-assurance. The main antagonist is essentially the personification of intolerance and jealousy, infecting the people Tiffany lives amongst with his bitterness, and she has to respond to that with determination, patience and kindness – traits that are very much representative of adulthood.
The usual cast of characters are all in place, though human characters are gradually replacing the Feegles as the major supporting cast. This time round we see more of her interaction with people from the Chalk, from the old Baron and his son Roland to a particularly difficult family, not to mention the unusual folk she meets when she takes a trip to the big city. In fact it’s while she’s in Ankh Morpork that she meets someone who will be familiar to long-term Discworld fans, and who introduces a strange subplot involving time travel and weird quantum magic – it’s a lovely nod back to an earlier book, but does feel like a bit of an unnecessary complication.
Overall this is typically well plotted, thoughtful, witty and insightful, and continues to show just how clever Pratchett was to introduce the jumps in Tiffany’s age between books, and how effective that has been, especially given his willingness to trust his readers and leave some things to the imagination. If it’s (unusually) a little over-complicated in places, by the end there’s no doubt that it’s every bit as good as the rest of the Discworld series, whether for adults or younger readers.