Back in 2014, I read the first two Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett. Although the plot of the first book was a little hard to follow, I loved Tiffany herself, but it took me a long while to get around to the subsequent books in the series. They’re so much fun! Although the books build on each other, the stories are somewhat self-contained, making a long gap between readings not much of the problem.
Wintersmith finds 13-year-old Tiffany working as a sort of apprentice witch to the eccentric Miss Treason. As established in prior books, witchcraft may include spells and magic, but it’s mostly about taking care of the people in your assigned “steading.” This means sitting by bedsides, washing feet, negotiating neighborly quarrels, and so on. Miss Treason relies more on “boffo” than on magic, tricking those in her care into thinking she has more power than she actually does. But they love and respect her, and she’s essential to the community.
Tiffany’s problems begin when Miss Treason takes her to see the dark morris dance that welcomes in the winter. In a spontaneous act of excitement, Tiffany joins the dance and catches the eye of the Wintersmith. Now she’s all he seems to care about, and she’ll do anything to stay close to her. So Tiffany, with the help of the trouble-making Nac Mac Feegles, Tiffany must figure out how to end the winter before the whole land dies. Roland, her childhood friend to whom she’s especially attached, gets to play the hero (in his way). But it’s really up to Tiffany.
In I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany is back home on the Chalk, taking care of her own steading. But it’s a tough assignment because even the people who’ve known her since she was a child are wary of her. It gets worse when the Baron dies and Tiffany falls under suspicion. Roland, son of the Baron, is now engaged to be married to someone else, and he is as suspicious as anyone.
It turns out that in Wintersmith, Tiffany raised up some darker magic than she realized, and now she’s a target. Tiffany and her allies must break the spell and send him away for good, but it’s a risky task, and failure means death.
This is a darker book than Wintersmith, given the stakes and the bits of history we get regarding Tiffany’s adversary. But both of these books lean hard on the value of good sense and looking out for others. Tiffany is a success as a witch not because she’s so powerful. In fact, it’s suggested that she’s not as much of a natural talent as some others. But she works hard and pays attention. She learns and grows. And she leads those around her to do the same. One of the pleasures of these two books is seeing Tiffany grow into leadership.
There’s one more Tiffany Aching book left for me to read. I don’t think I’m likely to take on all the Discworld books anytime soon (if ever), but I’d love to know if there are others similar to these that I should make time for!