Book #20: I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)

Finished reading on: 15 Dec 2011
By: Terry Pratchett
Length: 414 pages
Language: English

I waited a long time to read this book. At some point over the past few years I got frustrated at buying expensive hardback copies of Pratchett’s books and opted to wait for his next one (ie, this one) to come out in paperback before I actually bought it. So far, so good, although the time between the hardback release and the paperback release is phenomenal (and his newest book, Snuff, is now out in hardback, although now I own a Kindle, so I will probably read it on that, whenever I get around to it), so I essentially waited a very long time to actually read this book.

Anyway, I’m sorry to say it wasn’t really worth the wait; it’s, bluntly, not as good as some other Pratchett books that I’ve read, and in the end, it took me a couple of months to actually get through it.

I think this mainly boils down to Tiffany Aching, and the fact that I find her to be a bit Mary-Sue-ish, even when, as in this story, she’s battling all the elements and things are really going badly for her. She just seems to know all the answers, and yet she’s 15, and a big theme of all her stories is one of growing up.

Why Pratchett had to make a series of Discworld stories specifically aimed at young adults is confusing to me, to be honest. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been reading them since I was 13 anyway, and thus having a teenage protagonist has never seemed to me like the way to aim your book at teenagers.

Anyway, the other thing is that I can’t really remember (it’s been a few years) what happened in the most recent Tiffany Aching stories before this one. So the story starts with her as a full witch (she used to be a witch-in-training), and I’m left wondering when this actually happened. So I guess it’s through a combination of not really enjoying the character herself, not understanding why she exists in the first place in a meta sense, and just not really being interested in her backstory that I ended up not really enjoying this book.

On top of that, I’ve read a lot of Pratchett books, and while I still consider him a funny author, he’s been getting really repetitive. Several tropes recur all the time in his novels, especially the idea that humans have a weirdness censor, or certain jokes that should have been one-off but get repeated in many of his books. So when I was reading this I was finding his sense of humour a bit old and “done” at this point, simply because I feel like I’ve read the same book before.

That said, even a bad Pratchett book was ultimately an enjoyable read, even if I had to eventually force myself to finish it (the train journey back from York in December was useful for that!). And it’s not like the book didn’t have redeeming qualities – as a friend pointed out to me, it really puts Tiffany Aching into a “darkest hour” type of situation, where everything starts to go wrong for her bit by bit and she has to pick up all the pieces, and those kinds of situations are very interesting in a narrative sense. But overall, I’d recommend reading other Pratchett books before this one.

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