Just finished it, and I must say that my actions are completely mixed on this.
It started off very promising, establishing Tiffany as the "fully functional Chalk witch" she needed to be. But for me at least the central story never really developed. It was just another "evil presence that Tiffany must overcome" story. The connection between Tiffany's kiss of Winter and the resurrection of the Cunning Man is never adequately explained by Esk, who seems to be here only to encourage younger readers to move on to "Equal Rites." The bark of the Cunning Man sems to be far worse than this bite, a child's version of the Summoning Dark. The metamorphosis of the Duchess from cruel taskmaster to milquetoast, just because the CM's nefarious influence is lifted and Mrs. Proust knows her backstory , makes no sense at all. And why do we never see the evil nurse get her proper commupance? She's a great villain who should stayed through the story as Tiffany's nemesis. Why didn't the CM take over her instead? That would have made for a very nice ending conflict. How easy it is to burn the body of a convicted murderer--how harder it would have been to burn the body of a nurse, who is supposed to be restoring health.
So much of this seems driven by calculation. Why, for example, is Tiff required to go to AM to get the Baron, when a clacks would have gotten there as fast? Or, she could have gone anywhere else to find him. But by going to AM, we get to encounter nearly all of the major AM characters, save for Vetinari, Ridcully William De Word and Moist. And all of these characters act totally differently than they have in past books. Don't like Carrot in the later books? He's a complete tool here. Angua doesn't speak like Angua at all. And Wee Mad Arthur a Feegle? That's okay, but what about Buggy Spires?
Oh, and in the end we get all our witch favorites, plus Verence and Magrat (who, regrettably, get no speaking lines). It almost seems like Pterry, in concluding the Tiffany series, is trying to promote his young readers to move on to the DW series. Nothing wrong with that, but the intent seems nearly as commercial as Pterry's promotion of the Thud boardgame and "Where's My Cow" in Thud!
While this might have been a tighter book than UAthere is still plenty of narrative fat. Backstories and tangental side conversations go on for far too long, as they did in UA.
And the Feegles! They started off as funny, fun-loving warriors, but here they are just annoying. What's less interesting than a serious Feegle? And Pterry's ill-dated decision to have them start 'mixing' with the humans removes their whole mystique. Tugs of war between Feegles and humans? Preposterous! And why would the Feegles even need to be worried about having a deed to their land? They'd be able to quickly dispatch any human shovel carrier before they got within a mile of the mound.
And the whole Amber story, which starts off as a terrible tale of abuse waiting proper retribution, peters out to nothing. Her father is never really punished, Amber is not removed to a safer environment (although one assumes that the Feegle are now her protectors), and we get no sense of what she is ever going to be.
And the climax is just--underwhelming. Let's all jump through the fire, woo woo. After several hundred pages, an enemy of Summoning Dark menace is dispatched with barely any danger to Tiffany? Throughout this series the quality of the 'foes' has totally nosedived. In Wee Free Men, she needed to discover who she really was to defeat the Queen, who came close to beating her. Here, it feels like a final exam.
It really all feels forced and much like a fairy tale, so much so that this intent is even stated in the narrative. But it doesn't feel genuine, or overly dramatic. Tiffany never seems to be in any real danger, nor does her solution seems to change her at all. People hating witches? Don't solve that by changing their minds, instead solve it by killing yet another monster. There we go.
Compared to the straightforward simplicity and freshness of "Wee Fee Men" and even "Hatful of Sky," this is really a very self-conscious, very forced and all-too-contrived conclusion to this series.