Ah, the very last Terry Pratchett and a farewell not only to the author but to one of his most endearing characters, Granny Weatherwax who sets her affairs in order, cleans the house, weaves her own coffin and meets Death as an old friend, leaving her cottage, her boots and her steading to young witch Tiffany Aching.
Tiffany is a powerful young witch, yes, but stepping into Esme Weatherwax’s shoes (while not giving up her own steading on the chalk) is a very big step and there are some senior witches, particularly Mrs Earwig, who would deny her the opportunity. Indeed, people are always underestimating Tiffany. She’s young, working class, she comes from the chalk, not from Lancre (and chalk is ‘soft’) and her kind of witching largely consists of going round the district dealing with births and deaths and cutting old men’s toenails because that’s what needs doing. And that’s what a witch does. It’s not flashy magic, in fact, it’s not always magic, but it’s what’s needful.
Tiffany has allies. Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax’s long time friend, knows that Tiffany wouldn’t have been named as Granny’s successor unless she was worthy, and the Nac Mac Feegles, the Wee Free Men of the first Tiffany book – a cross between miniature Scottish Nationalists, Glasgow boys on a Saturday night out, and Braveheart extras with double woad – are her staunch supporters and protectors. And then there’s Geoffrey, the boy who wants to be a witch, and also Tiffany’s long distance boyfriend who is learning to be a doctor in Ankh Morpork at the Lady Sybil Free Hospital.
All this comes together when there’s another major incursion from the Elves, those Lords and Ladies repulsed by the elder witches in the novel of the same name. Elves are nasty and dangerous. They live by their glamour and take delight in doing mischief from ruining beer to stealing children and tormenting and killing humans in various despicable and painful ways.
Needless to say Tiffany deals with the Elves in her own way and becomes her own witch in the end, not following exactly in Granny Weatherwax’s bootsteps, but making her own.
This is a delightful book, a fitting end to Terry Pratchett’s oeuvre. I have to say that right from the start there were moments when I could hardly read it dry-eyed. Tiffant has a lot to say about humanity, but she leads by example, working it out for herself as she goes.
When I finished the final page I was left with a hope that somewhere, in some reality, Terry Pratchett and Esme Weatherwax are sitting in the sun enjoying a substantial cup of their favourite tipple together.