Considering the four books in the Tiffany Aching series as a whole, I Shall Wear Midnight
is certainly the darkest installment. It’s a bittersweet book, interspersed with horrible images of seething hate and physical and mental abuse faced by the young and old alike. Even the carefree and high-spirited Nac Mac Feegles are not immune and are faced with genuine feelings of fear and anguish in response to a potential threat to their home and their “hag o’ the hills.” It is very much a story about loss of innocence and learning how to cope and deal with the threat of darkness—be it memories of the past or thoughts of the present and things to come.
In this story, Pratchett draws from aspects of Puritanism and the Salem witch trials with his creation of the Cunning Man. I like how Pratchett prefaces the Cunning Man’s presence with a background story: a priest of sorts placed at odds with his beliefs and emotions, by falling in love with a witch. In a way, the Cunning Man serves as an example of what can happen after failing to learn how to cope with one’s feelings… the portrayal of a man still at odds with himself. What is left is a shadow of a man eternally burning with hate and disgust: self-hatred that has turned outward, and now has the ability to spread like a disease.
I do like the arrangement of this book—how it ends where it begins at the scouring fair, providing contrasting images of noise and silence. There’s also the sense of harmony and union in contrast to the underlying sense of discord, which in Tiffany’s eyes, mars the fair the year before. If this is the last book to the series, it definitely is a fitting end.
I’m certainly thankful for winning this book here on Goodreads, since it reintroduced me to an author whose work I really enjoyed reading as a young teen.