I feel like popping open a bottle of champagne when a new Discworld book is published, and when, to add to the glory, it's a Tiffany Aching book, that is real cause for celebration!
This is the fourth book in the series (which is part of the larger Discworld series) that features the young witch, and her life is still as exciting as ever. She's grown up a lot since the first book - she is now a teenager, and she takes her responsibilities as witch very seriously. She helps deliver babies, takes care of the elderly, helps cure people's illnesses, and even, as happens as the book opens, saves a very injured girl from her abusive father.
Despite all the good things that witches do, though, they make people uncomfortable. Witches are needed, reflects Tiffany, but people don't really like having to need them. And lately something seems to be changing the way people think about witches, and something is definitely worrying the Kelda of the nearby Nac Mac Feegle clan. When Tiffany has to head to the city of Ankh-Morpork to deliver some bad news to Roland, the Baron's son, things go from bad to worse.
I loved this book - which is saying a lot, because the anticipation for this one was tremendous. Tiffany is such an engaging character, and she has grown so much since the first book. She is far from perfect - she has flaws and makes mistakes, but she really does try to learn from them and do the right thing, even when it's really, really hard to make herself do it. This story is a bit darker than the earlier ones, as it does deal with some serious issues - but there is so much humor woven in that the unpleasant things never become too much to handle. There are some old favorite characters that turn up for a visit, which was fabulous, and there are some new characters who were delightful. The only thing that was ever so slightly disappointing was that the Feegles didn't have as strong a presence here as in some of the earlier books. This was fitting, really, because Tiffany is able to handle things (mostly) on her own now, but I just love the Feegles and found myself missing them a bit.
This is one of the best series for young readers that's out there - and there is a whole lot here to appeal to teens and adults as well. I particularly recommend the audio versions, as read by the brilliant Stephen Briggs - he does a fabulous job. My library offers this as a downloadable audio book, but I went ahead and purchased my own copy from Audible, because I know that my children and I are going to listen to this one again and again. If you haven't tried this series - or any of the Discworld books - the first Tiffany Aching (The Wee Free Men) is a great place to start. It's also the perfect listen for a family car trip - I'd say ages eight and up would be perfect for the first book in this series. I enthusiastically recommend Terry Pratchett's books to all discerning readers - they are beautifully written, thought provoking, and positively delightful.
I Shall Wear Midnight (#38 in the Discworld series; #4 in the Tiffany Aching sub-series) by Terry Pratchett; narrated by Stephen Briggs (Harper Audio, 2010)
Also reviewed at:
Books before Bed: "Again I found myself just marveling at how astute Terry Prachett was able to identify human nature. He does a superb job of making characters real and putting them in real situations."
Fyrefly's Book Blog: "I enjoyed listening to every second of this book (Stephen Briggs did a wonderful job with the narration, as always), and am now really sorely tempted to go back to The Wee Free Men and start over."
Just Add Books: "Mr Sir Terry Pratchett has a very deft touch, and he weaves together elements like the sheer absurdity of the Nac Mac Feegle and the darker elements so well that there's nothing jarring in it at all."