Growing up a witch
There has been a recent influx of teen series that are steeped in science fiction or fantasy elements: Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Leviathan, and of course, Twilight. They have all been praised, but I think they (at least the ones I have read) lack a certain something: humor. Fortunately, one of the best-loved fantasy writers ever, Terry Pratchett, has been on the case, and he does an admirable job of providing a grin with all the adolescent angst and lessons.
I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth book in the Tiffany Aching series, which itself is set in the Discworld universe, a disc-shaped (of course) world that lays on the backs of four elephants which stand on a large turtle. Sound silly? Good, it’s supposed to, but it is also saying something about belief. Against that backdrop, Tiffany is learning how to be a witch in an under-educated and largely agrarian society that distrusts her and her attempts to help. The threat that Tiffany faces in her fourth book is an ancient ghost who infects the populace with a fear of witches and other superstitious beliefs. The book, however, does not take itself too seriously, as along the way, Tiffany is helped by a lawyer that has been turned into a toad (he is paid in beetles), older witches that plan on teaching her everything about growing up and wearing a black hat, and most hilariously, a group of Scottish imps that fight, drink and generally cause trouble while trying to help.
Pratchett is one of the most popular authors of all time (seriously, he has sold more books than nearly every other author) and he certainly knows how to write a very funny book. He also takes the time to make each character feel real, someone you swear you have talked to on the street at some point. My main complaint about this book is Pratchett can get more swept up in the magic of growing up than he does the magic of fighting ghosts while a kilt-wearing imp is secretly helping out. When Pratchett isn’t being overly sentimental about growing up, he takes time to craft a story that sprawls across the entire world and involves many characters that are well-known and beloved by many of the followers of the Discworld.
I would not recommend reading this book as a stand-alone. The book really stands on what has happened in the previous three entries in the series (Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith). However, each of these books is just as funny, well-written and heartfelt as I Shall Wear Midnight.So if you are a fan of teen books that propel themselves into the world of fantasy but like to stop and laugh as well, then the Tiffany Aching series will serve you well, as long as you don’t mind deciphering drunken Scottish dialect (don’t worry; there is a dictionary provided.)