Well, it's only been since December.
I think I'll make this reopening post a review.
In my heart of hearts, I really kind of wanted Terry Pratchett's last book to be a real, true Swan Song*, a work of excellence to rival his prior bests. (Exactly which books are those bests is up for enough debate as it is, although Night Watch, one of my two picks, is frequently cited. Nation less so, but I'm not its sole advocate.)
I knew it wasn't likely, but he still had a pretty solid grasp on Tiffany Aching in I Shall Wear Midnight, and I knew his editors had been praised for making this one a fairly solid work.
I will say it was better than the books right before it, in many ways, but I also felt like I was getting that impossible chance to beta-read an early draft, not the final. There was so much that was here that was Pratchett through and through -- interspersed with all the bits that wobble and wibble and get written in as one is looking for the heart of a story - things that would be cut in later drafts, scenes that would be expanded upon.
The death of Granny Weatherwax, and the reactions of the living in dealing with it, were among the jewels, the pieces carved out at their best and most precise. I have little doubt that was among the parts, as mentioned in the afterword, Pratchett had written earlier and had the greatest chance to revise and polish. I also have no doubt it was a part he most cared to get right, alongside coping with his own mortality.
I was mostly amazed it happened so early on, as the catalyst of the plot rather than as part of its resolution, or as a key turning point in the centre. But it makes sense.
The thread about the farming family with the triplets, and young Tiffany, I thought was one of the pieces where Pratchett had the most to say that never got written. It felt like there would have been greater ties, greater thematic resonances, with the main story, if this had been written ten years ago. They might not have been any better parents or learned much more than they already did - Pratchett was never one to shy away from the folly side of humanity, or its failings - but it rang one note, and usually it would have made a chord.
I feel rather the same about Geoffrey and his goat - things seemed to open for him a bit too easily. On the one hand, the bedrock of the witches has fallen, and the world has been changing steadily a while, so one more change feels like barely a blink -- and the more so for Tiffany herself, who is already following a rather unusual path. HER reaction is spot on. On the other, there should be some pull back, even if it's not the explicit, solid wall 'you can't do that' kind. In fact, I'd have been disappointed if it was that. But something on the order of micro-aggression, condescension, the occasional soft nudge aside - let me do it dear, I've been at this for years, I know my stuff, you can just watch for now - would have been much harder for Geoffrey, used to hard walls, to break past. It should have felt more like a pleasing turn when at the end even Mrs. Earwig approved him. Especially since it might have seemed peaceful so his calming tricks wouldn't work. I liked him and loved Mephistopheles as characters, though. Distinct even at this brief an intro.
By contrast, there were far too many bits affirming Tiffany Aching as THE witch, too many times the possibility of big resistance was raised, only to be waved off. I feel certain Pratchett would have crystallized the number of times it was asserted, by the number of people, that Tiffany was indeed the right choice.
The battle with the elves, and indeed their incursions into Discworld, were more clumsily handled than they might have been -- Nightshade's transformation was too quick, and in some ways far too likely to have reversed again when she got her power back. Her awareness of the changes in the Disc started before she lost power, and probably would have stayed, but I could easily imagine her understanding of humans fading again if she was back on a throne over elvish courtiers, and more if the elves found a different, less iron-advanced, world to harass. Peaseblossom was far too one-note to be a solid villain, and the scenes with the King were disjointed and confusing, even as his motives, too, were one-note. Their themes "The world is changing and we are being left behind" AND "Let's make elves in Discworld Great Again" both got repeated too much, with too little of the depth Pratchett has previously given to the opposition, making their resemblance to certain real-world aspects weaker and less convincing, and making them less scary.
The climactic battle had a much more solid feel of pieces coming together as they ought -- which felt surreal when my impression of the rest of the book was that the pieces were less than fully realized (or overemphasized).
And the epilogue fit Tiffany well.
* I felt the same about Diana Wynne Jones, and I didn't get it then, either, not quite. Her last novel written entirely by herself was fabulous except for the very last two pages, which added an extra and unnecessary and rather squicky revelation. Her very last book, finished by her sister, had a promising DWJ start and a not-wholly unsatisfying ending that nonetheless was also rather clearly, to me, not written by her. I can't point to exactly where the transition happened, her sister is a better writer than that. I also can't say for sure it isn't the PLOT she intended, it could have been - only that the prose and the flow of it were no longer hers.
Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there
. (Comments at DW: