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Fourth of the Tiffany Aching novels, the YA thread of Pratchett's Discworld series. This is not where to start with Tiffany, as it relies fairly extensively on relationships established in the previous books. It also has more callbacks to the overall series than usual, although they are all sufficiently explained in-text that I think you don't have to be familiar with the rest of them to understand this one.

Wow. This is on my shortlist of Pratchett, a list that for me includes Small Gods, Reaper Man, and The Last Hero: the very best work he does, the ones I will treasure forever. He started out as a comedy writer with an underlying vein of serious, had an awkward transition to writing serious with an overlay of comedy (there are a couple c. Thief of Time that I just honestly think are bad books), and has now basically stopped writing comedies, except possibly in the classical definition wherein a comedy ends with a wedding or other happy event as opposed to everybody dying. Of course there is still humor in there-- as there is, or ought to be, in just about any book-- but the Tiffany books, for example, are perfectly straightforward fantasy novels and I am glad that he no longer feels the need to be quite so parodic as he used to.

Because this is a very dark book and in all the right ways, and I can't see him letting himself do that, earlier on. This is so dark it pushes the boundaries of YA heavily, a book in which people do dreadful things because that is how people are sometimes, and as a result it works for me in a way the other Tiffany books didn't quite (though I do think they're good; I like the first a bit better than the second and third). I was thinking of writers like Greer Gilman, or Alan Garner's adult work during this; and because it is so dark it earns its grounding of numinous and its use of folklore in a way that feels more solid to me than the previous. (Pratchett says in an afterword that it is at least partly oral-tradition folklore, things he was told as a young man by people around, and it has that air.) It has the deep pragmatism that I appreciate so much from Pratchett, and its people are always more complicated than they appear at first glance, which is a trait I appreciate in anything.

It also helped, somewhat, with some of my ongoing fallout from having two beloved uncles die this year, and I am grateful.

My highest recommendation.


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