It was both sad and wonderful to read this book, the last published novel of Terry Pratchett, whose work I came to rather late in life. There’s plenty more I have yet to read, but I was particularly fond of the Tiffany Aching series, of which this is the final one.
Tiffany has grown in knowledge and power through the series: “The Wee Free Men,” “A Hat Full of Sky,” “Wintersmith,” and “I Shall Wear Midnight.” Her constant allies and companions, the diminutive Feegles, are always watching over her, and provide lots of comic relief, though they are also quite powerful. Tiffany began as a country girl with a knack for magic, and by this final book, is asked to take on the role of head witch among a group, the witches, who do not acknowledge that authority. Tiffany has learned much about magic, but has still to master some important skills in handling her own workload. She works way too much, and resents the lack of appreciation she gets, but soldiers on anyway. She never has enough time for her own needs, and is constantly juggling commitments and over extending herself. When the dangerous Elves begin emerging in her territory again (she defeated their queen once before), she has to gather all the resources she can, call in all the favors, corral all the magic users, enlist the help of regular folks, and hope it will be enough to counter this threat to her world and position. Along the way, Tiffany makes a few new friends, and gains new insights into her magic and her situation. When the Elves make their full-force attack, Tiffany will find out if she and her allies are enough to resist them.
Terry Pratchett died of conditions related to Alzheimer’s, diagnosed a few years ago, and I wondered if there would be any detectable loss of quality in the writing of this last book. There isn’t. An afterword by Rob Wilkins explains that Terry had an unusual writing method. After working out the framework of a book, he would gradually develop and add sections and incidents to it, rather than writing from the beginning to the end. In this case, he felt the book was finished, but perhaps would have added more to it if there was time. Sadly, there wasn’t. Despite his health problems, Terry went out in fine form here, and he will be missed.