In the first part of the twelfth chapter of I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany wakes up in the castle to a different atmosphere. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I gotta repeat what I said on video at the start of this, just because it feels so important to state: I’m real nervous that things seem to be taking a turn for the better this early in the book. Granted, there’s lots more left of this chapter alone, and the title has set me on edge, so there’s that. We don’t know how other people in the castle will feel about Tiffany’s presence. I am certain that the Duchess will be The Worst in the coming pages. But I must concede that, for the moment, Tiffany has now won over a number of people: Brian. Preston. Letitia. Roland. It’s important to acknowledge that! She made huge strides with Letitia in the last chapter, and clearly, I was wrong. Roland was willing to listen to his fianceé, and it made a massive impression on him, so much so that this chapter opens with a number of gestures of kindness and consideration that we did not see from Roland before. Tiffany does NOT get in trouble for escaping; she’s given a fresh breakfast; she’s even offered a bath. By the time she arrives in Roland’s study, I had a sense that he’d changed his mind about her. (And did he ever, in more ways than one.)
But before that happens, Pratchett gives us two pivotal scenes, both of which are intertwined with one another. I have to reference Roland’s monologue here, though, to explain what I think Pratchett intended. Later on, Roland finally explains why he grew apart from Tiffany, and apart from being gut-wrenching, it’s actually a very heartfelt moment of kindness. He simply did not believe he was compatible with Tiffany and her mind. But you know who does seem to be? Preston. When Tiffany heads down to the crypt to do the final ritual to help preserve the old Baron’s body, look how quickly Preston picks up on what she’s doing. He doesn’t question her, he doesn’t make her feel weird, and he even tries to bond with her over how he solved fowl crop in his granny’s chickens. He’s right on her level in a way that feels genuine and real, and I don’t even think Tiffany is aware of this. Which I get! She has such a natural rapport with Preston, and right now, she’s got so much else to focus on.
I am also fully admitting how much Tiffany’s scene with Roland ripped my soul out of my body. It is one of the most vulnerable moments not just in I Shall Wear Midnight, but the series as a whole. It’s two people being honest about how they feel towards one another, even if those parts don’t really seem compatible. Roland’s life was different from everyone else’s, but that meant that it was also drastically different from Tiffany’s, so much so that they did not share a common ground on which to grow a relationship. His view of her was poisoned by the spell Letitia cast and the subsequent presence of the Cunning Man. (WHO I STILL DO NOT BELIEVE IS GONE, AND I AM CONCERNED.)
Which makes me wonder: is this what breaks the Cunning Man’s hold on others? The closing of the book? Honesty? Because both of these things combine to clear Roland’s head, and he’s no longer blaming the witch for the problems in his life. Why? Well, I’d also argue that on top of it all, he chose to understand Tiffany. He did this with Letitia’s help, but it’s also what was always missing from the Cunning Man’s approach when he was human. He never sought to understand or empathize with the witch he fell in love with. What if he had? Would he have been so gravely injured? Would he have turned into the being he is now?
I can’t answer that, but I can see that Roland feels… well, a lot more like himself. Finally!
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