The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett
Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.
This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.
As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.
There will be a reckoning . . .
THE FINAL DISCWORLD NOVEL
So much has already been written about The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett’s final Discworld novel, that it is hard to know where to take this review where I may cover new ground. So this review is a little different..you don’t need me to summarise the plot: it is a Pratchett Witches story. You don’t need me to introduce the characters (it is Tiffany and the Witches). You don’t even need me to tell you if it is a good story: it is the last ever Discworld book written by Terry Pratchett and – having read all the previous books – I am not going to be unhappy with it.
Except it did make me unhappy.
Well I should clarify…it made me sad. It made me so sad that I sat in a café with tears streaming down my face. Proper big wet dripping tears.
I loved the Discworld books. I have invested many hours of my life reading, re-reading and taking about the characters from the Disc. I have my favourites…favourite characters, favourite books and even favourite jokes. Other than my single read of The Shepherd’s Crown I have read each of the Discworld books at least 3/4 times. In the case of Nightwatch that rises to over a dozen times. Let there be no doubt that since I was in High School (and I am now past my 40th birthday) I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett. Reading The Shepherd’s Crown and knowing there were no more titles to follow was harrowing.
My personal reading trauma should not take away from the fact that The Shepherd’s Crown is a GOOD Terry Pratchett story. While previous novels featuring Tiffany Aching have been more aligned to a slightly younger reader this is very much a read with a darker tone. The primary reason of the darker tone is death. Not DEATH (the blue eyed, cat loving skeleton that Pratchett fans love so much) but actual end of life death – the final reckoning. Perhaps it is appropriate that in his final Discworld novel Mr Pratchett casts his attention to death in the way he has previously lampooned trains, the post office and Christmas. Except death is not such a light-hearted topic and the story of The Shepherd’s Crown is more brutal at times than may have previously been the case in earlier books.
Had I considered it, I would not have wanted it to be a Tiffany story which was the last ever Discworld book, I felt that her tale reached a natural conclusion in I Shall Wear Midnight. However, I will confess that Tiffany and the Witches give the series a great send off – the story seemed right as I read it and I feel it brought the Discworld to an acceptable place for us to leave it on its journey. I would have loved one last chance to see the Watch in action, travel with Death to his realm and see Albert and the Death of Rats, have the Luggage stamp through the background and see Rincewind running in the other direction…but it was not to be. But what we do get from The Shepherd’s Crown is a poignant send off from one of the nations most loved authors and a series finale that builds upon the legacy of all the books that came before it.
You would not start reading the Harry Potter books with the 7th title in the collection. Nor should you consider picking up The Shepherd’s Crown as your first introduction to Discworld, this is a story which has been years in the making – the sum of many parts – and for this reason it is a magnificent addition to the collection.
For this reader the Discworld has been a place of escape; a world of dragons and assassins, trolls, dwarves and wizards – it has been an ever present through my adult life and will continue to be my refuge when this world gets too much for me. Thank you Sir Terry.
Now if you will excuse me I think I must have some grit in my eyes….
The Shepherd’s Crown is published by Doubleday and is available in Hardback and digital formats.