I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Tiffany Aching, Chalk witch, must cope not only with everyday human failings of the people she watches over, but also the rise of an old evil that is out to destroy witches everywhere.
Tiffany is overstretched at the beginning of this book, but by the end (it's not really a spoiler to say it) witches seem to appear like mushrooms and there is no doubt that Tiffany is on her way to become one of the great hags (as the Feegles would say). Before that can happen, she must face the awkwardness of coming back to her sheep-raising community, which is unaccustomed to having a witch around - particularly one who is only sixteen years old.
Roland, the Baron's son, is engaged to a soppy young woman, and that adds a new layer of awkwardness given his past relationship with Tiffany. Tiffany is soon distracted by the plight of a young woman in a terrible home situation, the job of keeping peace in her community, and tending to the quotidian needs of the overlooked. Unfortunately, the young witch is being pursued by an ancient force known as the Cunning Man. Fortunately, the Kelda of the Nac Mac Feegles is there to provide guidance and friendship, and Tiffany is never far from the help of the blue-skinned Pictsies or of her fellow witches.
This book is sprawling and overstuffed compared to the other Aching books. Tiffany is always on the move from Feegle mound to Baron's castle to Ankh-Morpork (where, delightfully, we get a glimpse of the Watch's Commander Vimes, my favorite Discworld character, from Tiffany's perspective; and as a bonus a foundling finds his people). It's always a pleasure to follow Pratchett's characters and see them interact, particularly as they continue to do what they do best.
We get a glimpse of several important characters from Equal Rites, one of Pratchett's Discworld novels for adults. In an afterward, Pratchett mentions his personal experience growing up in a rural community like the one on the Chalk (which accounts for the realism of the details he chooses), and also points to a book where he drew the most striking images in I Shall Wear Midnight (even, in some ways, better than the title image) of the hare leaping through fire: The Leaping Hare by George Ewart Evans and David Thomson.