A good outing this time around from Pratchett, and although the Tiffany Aching novels are marketed as “young adult” fiction, frankly you could fool me: this one has quite a bit of brutal violence in it, albeit almost all of it offscreen. (Then again Nation had as a set piece the protagonist having to bury his entire village and then nearly committing suicide, so needless to say Pratchett’s idea of what constitutes “young adult” differs markedly from, for example, The Baby-Sitters Club.)
The question of “so what is this Discworld book about” is always raised when a new one comes out. Generally the Tiffany Aching stories don’t aim for larger motifs; Unseen Academicals is about sport and its place in society, for example, and Making Money is about the necessity of (responsible) modern finance, but The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith, while certainly not simple stories, are still more or less straight-up non-ironic fantasy adventures that just happen to be set in the Discworld.
I Shall Wear Midnight breaks from that mold because Pratchett for the first time is using Tiffany to talk about something wider. It’s still a bit vague – Pratchett still wants Tiffany to be his “just a story” character, obviously – but there are enough allusions to The Crucible to let you know that this is, first and foremost, a story about justice. The villain of the story, while certainly evil, is too impersonal to ever really be striking; by the end he’s just a bog-standard evil spirit. All of the best oh-my bits happen in the middle and are only obliquely about the villain.
That having been said – an enjoyable read and as always chock-full of brilliant snatches of writing. But definitely a bit uneven, as a story.