I have to say, I think it’s the best thing Terry’s ever written.
Bold statement I know given his amazing back catalogue, but bear with me, and I’ll try and support my incredulous claim.
Like a lot of people on here, I’ve ‘grown up’ with Pratchett. I consider myself blessed to have discovered a copy of The Colour of Magic towards the end of my high school days in the late 80’s and have been hooked ever since.
The first of Terry’s books that was a new release for me was Wyrd Sisters and I can still recall the excitement (almost nerve shredding) on the day of release as I charged into our local book shop to buy it.
I’d already met Granny Weatherwax in Equal Rites but I’ll be honest and say our first encounter wasn’t a memorable one as I felt that book was poor after the TCOM and TLF ‘zany road trip’ which had massive appeal to an impressionable 15 year old.
Wyrd Sisters however, was a real masterpiece (understatement) and The Witches quickly became my favourite of all the Discworld tales with Granny being far and away the best character - No argument, sorry, she’d wipe the floor with Sam Vimes and even Death tips his scythe to Mistress Weatherwax.
But I digress (quick, quick get to the point!) ‘I shall wear Midnight’ was always going to be a triumph in my eyes because firstly, it’s a Witch tale.
After Carpe Jugulum, I think Terry knew he’d taken Granny to the pinnacle of her power and it would be difficult to find a foe worthy of her whilst making it relevant (though I pray that future Witch tales are in the pipeline - pleasepleasepleaseplease . . . .) Tiffany quickly took on the mantle and gave Terry some vulnerability to play with though it has to be said, as a heroine, Tiffany kicks arse – even on a steep learning curve.
But Granny is still to be revered and no more so than in ISWM. Little more than a cameo, but still a show stealer. There’s a line in the book about the other witches ’lining up’ behind Granny when she confronts Tiffany with the possible consequences of her losing. It made me shudder with respect for her and for the Great pterry himself - Just an awesome passage to read!
Secondly, the compact nature of the book (ok, it was short) reminded me very much of those episodal Discworld books of old like Pyramids, Sourcery, Moving Pictures, where Terry would always ‘get to the point’ quickly to allow space for great character development and gags. The early books as we know were proper ‘custard pie in your face’ slapstick married with cutting observation and wit.
The slapstick maybe missing from ISWM (and possibly we’re thankful for that as we’ve grown older) but the observational wit is sharper than ever. He cuts straight to the point in each chapter and I’ve read many a criticism of this as poor writing, rushed work or even (and this one sucks the root bigtime) an effect of Alzheimers.
To all of this hogwash I say ‘what a load of old B****cks’. I may appear as a defensive fan here but truthfully, I found Unseen Academicals enjoyable (if a little ploddy in parts) whereas ISWM just gets straight to the point allowing Tiffany to BE Tiffany which is what I wanted to read more than anything.
My third and penultimate point – ‘Thank the Lord’ I hear you cry! – is the story itself. It oozes relevance. In a world today where peoples IQ’s can be instantly reduced by uttering phrases like ‘coming over here, taking our jobs’ and mob mentality still rules (sadly) the idea of the cunning man moving amongst the people sowing the seeds of hate is narrativium in its purest form. I loved it and don’t feel any elaboration of him was needed or a more dramatic battle required to end the book as he served his purpose wonderfully.
He was a foil for Tiffany to fence with, he was an attitude for her to come to terms with and an ignorance to overcome.
Bravo Sir Terry, Bravo.
Finally (hurrah, we made it!) The ending of this book is emotional. I mean real, deep down, twist you where it hurts ‘Emotional’.
“Pratchett does Romance shocker!” – at least I now know what the sound of Love is. I just listened ( . . . . . . . ok, technically ‘I read’ but give me some poetic licence here!).
But it doesn’t end with Tiffany and Preston. Oh no, the authors note by Terry tapping into his childhood and the tale of the country hare gives a poignancy to the whole book that left me sat in a warmth you can rarely duplicate (I hadn't wee'd myself either thank you, I'm talking spiritually like . . . like I was lifted to some higher plain and glimpsed something made for more beautiful people than myself . . . sorta thing . . . )
Maybe this book hit me on some massive personal level (though I have never to my knowledge, been a teenage witch – being a big old useless bloke an’ all . . . . .) or maybe it was just that it evoked so many past Discworld experiences whilst I read it and I was nostalgic for my own long journey with Mr Pratchett in my hands, I don’t know.
All I do know is, the world would be a far duller place without ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ and duller even still without Terry Pratchett.
Best ever? mmmmm Yeh. I'm comfortable saying that and will heartily defend my view on it because this book really hit the spot.
p.s If I have one teeny criticism it's that, at no point in the book (and I will probably have to re-read it to be sure) did the Feegles say 'waily, waily. waily' And you cannae no have Feegles wi'oot a bit o' waily'