Scathing Post-Juletide Reviews, Pt. 2: Terry Pratchett’s I Shall Wear Midnight

As a birthday present to myself (my birthday is very close to Christmas) I bought Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel, I Shall Wear Midnight. I actually got the limited Amazon.com edition, which went on sale during the dreaded Black Friday week (I had to stay up rather late for the sale; these were timed sales) for 15 GBP. The discount was “only” 5 GBP, the normal price on Amazon for this item being 20 GBP, but the full retail price apparently being a whopping  40 GBP. This edition comes numbered,in its own slipcase, and proudly announces that it features an extra illustration and a “treatise” on similarities / dissimilarities between real life folklore and what’s found in the novel.

I Shall Wear Midnight, but only the Limited Collector's Edition variety.

The extra information on the folklore is nice, and I learned a few things. The extra illustration I’m not quite sure where was, as it was never announced valuable consumer, here is your extra illustration, and it didn’t have any obvious tacked-on pin-ups. I think an added print would’ve been nicer, maybe of the cover illustration. And speaking of the cover illustration, one thing that bothered me about this special edition of the book was that the cover illustration was printed both on the back and the front as well as on the spine on the slipcase. This also goes for the actual book: front, back, spine. So all-in-all the same illustration is re-used six times, which makes it feel a bit cheap. Couldn’t they have found some other art to use? Maybe just had it on the front of the book and the slip case, and left the other sides illustration-less. The book doesn’t come with a sleeve either, just the slipcase, but that might be normal for hardcover books in slipcases. The lack of an actual sleeve for the book does means it’s more exposed to the elements when you’re reading it though.

As for the actual novel… it was okay. It continues the story of Tiffany Aching, a young witch in a small rural community, and her pixie friends, the smurf-like (they’re small and blue and they only have one female per “colony”) faux Scotsmen (they wear kilts and speak with what seems like a Scottish accent) the Nac Mac Feegle. It’s Terry Pratchett’s fifth Discworld book intended for young adults (aka. children who’ve outgrown CareBears – kids still watch CareBears these days, right?) and his fourth centering around Tiffany Aching, but what exactly makes these books different from the ones intended for adults I’m not quite sure. Perhaps it deals with less mature or potentially disturbing or offensive themes, you say. But this novel deals with domestic abuse, has a couple of deaths, and some sex jokes (though nothing too risque), which seems to be about as mature and offensive as the adult Discoworld books get. But I guess the young adult books all have protagonists who are young adults / children themselves, which seems fairly common in literature intended for younger audiences. I guess it’s to make the story and characters more relatable, though I never quite got this myself; wouldn’t kids prefer reading about some totally unique and imaginative bad-ass protagonist rather than about some normal kid who’s about their age?

I Shall Wear Midnight feels more focused than the previous novel, Unseen Academicals (which I briefly reviewed here), with pretty much every scene including the main character of the book, but it still seemed like a few too many ideas and potential story hooks were thrown in which were never really utilized. It also has a few too many superfluous witch characters who aren’t really given enough page time to develop / show much personality; and it has a few too many characters who appear to be dimwitted and ordinary, but who turn out to be gifted and special.

The narrative seems to build up towards a good old fashioned witch trial, which I was rather looking forward to as I was progressing through the book. Such a trial would put the content of the first fourth (or so) of the book to good use, as it could prove valuable fodder for the trial, and Tiffany even went to the trouble of getting a lawyer for the upcoming trial. So I figured the trial would be how the protagonist – Tiffany Aching – would defeat the book’s antagonist, and it would be a nice change from the typical hard-to-imagine physical battles against not-quite-corporeal beings (and events) Discworld novels often end with. But the whole trial idea is abandoned, for no real good reason that I could see – no new evidence related to the charges are presented, and the charges brought against her are never actually dropped – and we instead get the more typical ending. Though this was fortunately a bit more corporeal and down to earth than the norm.

While more focused than Unseen Academicals, it was less funny. Still an entertaining read, and I have developed some fondness for Tiffany Aching and her community through the now four novels, so I guess even a sub-par visit is better than no visit.

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