Summary: Pratchett finishes off the Tiffany Aching series with heart, laughter, and some really good bits of magic in this fourth and final installment. Tiffany returns with her loyal companions the Nac Mac Feegle and an unspoken case of sour grapes: her long-time not-boyfriend Roland, heir to the barony of the Chalk, has gotten engaged to someone else. That worry soon takes a back seat as Tiffany finds herself facing an evil entity who is hell-bent on destroying all witches, a few angry mobs, and Roland's formidable mother-in-law-to-be, to say nothing of once again having to save her own skin while still managing to save face in front of Granny Weatherwax. Crivens!
Writing: Pratchett is once again up to his tongue-in-cheek humorous hijinks, and as usual, he has much to say about the human heart as well.
Pacing: I felt that the plot dragged in places, but one of Terry Pratchett's great qualities is that he could narrate the phone book and still remain engaging. You simply cannot be bored with Terry Pratchett!
Characters: Tiffany Aching has gone through many changes and growing pains in her journey from a ten-year-old with a mean frying pan in The Wee Free Men, to a promising witch just learning about her connection to her homeland in A Hat Full of Sky, to a cocky teenager who gets more trouble than she bargained for in Wintersmith, and finally to a confident young woman/witch who knows her own power and the sacrifices that come with it. I felt like this book gave us a look at Tiffany as a finished product, able to stand on her own and face any trouble this world (or any other) throws at her. I finished reading with a deep sense that wherever Tiffany goes in life, that girl is going to be okay.
There are many familiar faces thrown in: the Nac Mac Feegle with their wise kelda, Captain Vimes and the Night Watch, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, and even Eskarina Smith from Equal Rites, the only woman ever to train as a wizard. Of course, Chalk characters from past Tiffany books are present as well, most notably Tiffany's supportive if out-of-his-depth father, and of course there is Roland, his true colors as a man finally shown. We also meet a new guardsman who may just be the only person alive, witch or not, who really "gets" Tiffany Aching, and a couple of young witches for good measure.
Plot: I think that facing off against the spirit who causes witch hunts is a fitting last hurrah for Tiffany. I did not feel that the plot was as tight or deep as in the other three books, but Pratchett spends quite a lot more time on Tiffany's character than he has in the past. Also, since this is the closing chapter, he ties together many previous themes from his witch lore instead of laying ground for a sequel.
Ending: I spent most of this book thinking, "I am NOT going to like the ending." That said, I loved the ending! I didn't feel the climax was as spectacular or psychologically fulfilling as in the rest of the series, but it was the wrap-up for Tiffany I wanted to see, and it was definitely worthwhile.
Cosmetic: Beautiful title, great cover.
What more did I want?: You can never have too much Feegle, but I think this book proved you can have too little. I also longed for more of the cerebral "this is how stories work" analysis one usually finds in the Discworld series as a whole.
Bonus: Uh, this book was written by an actual real, live knight. How cool is that?