The Shepherd’s Crown (A Discworld Novel) by Terry Pratchett.

As many of you will know, ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ is the final book set on Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series and it’s difficult to approach it without a degree of apprehension. Will the last book provide a fitting end to the series? Will it be up to Pratchett’s usual standard, even though he was succumbing to terminal illness as he wrote it? I know several people who are putting off reading this book because it is very much ‘The End’, but I was simply glad I got to visit the Discworld one last time.

‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ follows Tiffany Aching as she takes on the mantle of head witch (first among equals, of course). The barrier between the human realm and Fairyland has grown thin and, as Tiffany tries to deal with grief, boyfriend troubles and meddling witches, she also has to save the world from invasion by elves. They’ve been sent packing once before but now they’re back and ready to take what they think is theirs by right and that means everything and everyone. As the elves start sending raiding parties, Tiffany rallies the witches together for one final reckoning. This land belongs to them and the Elves don’t know what’s waiting for them in this new age of iron.

I enjoyed every page of ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’. It delivered all the wit and humour of the Discworld and, even though it leaves many questions still to be answered, it also finished up a few long-running plot points, which was quite satisfying. My favourite ‘Discworld’ book has always been ‘Lords And Ladies’, with anything featuring the witches coming in a close second, so I was really pleased to see the elves make another appearance. They’ve always delighted me and I love the way Pratchett explores words with them, ‘everyone forgot how ‘terrific’ really means ‘brings terror’. The Elves are probably the darkest things to have appeared in Discworld and I enjoyed seeing how Tiffany decided to deal with them and her assortment of witches.

It was great fun to learn more about the different witches in this book. It’s rare for them to all get together (too much squabbling), so you don’t often get the chance to see how different they are and how similar at the same time. The addition of Geoffrey, a young man who wants to be a witch, and his brigade of old men was brilliant and I particularly enjoyed the introduction of the shed to Lancre’s aging male population. It was really funny stuff, although it felt like it could have been explored further.

I did find part of the book quite emotional and that’s the part dealing with the death of one of Discworld’s most loved characters. It felt a bit like we were saying goodbye to Pratchett as we said goodbye to that character and it was quite uplifting to see how the rest of the characters dealt with it. They all knew that the world had undergone a change with that death, that things could never be the same again, but all put aside their grief to deal with threats to the living. It was nicely done and I think a fitting theme to deal with in this book.

‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ does feel a bit shorter and perhaps slightly more rushed than other ‘Discworld’ novels. There’s definitely room for more development of the world and characters in between the big action scenes and, at times, the plot feels like it’s missing a bit of fleshing out, but it certainly didn’t feel unfinished and all the story points come together neatly enough by the end of the book. There is a note addressing this in the afterword from Rob Wilkins, where he says that it was ‘not quite as finished as he [Terry Pratchett] would have liked when he died’.

I don’t think I need to recommend this to ‘Discworld’ fans out there, though I certainly would but, as this series comes to an end, I would like to encourage people who haven’t yet tried it to give it a go. It’s filled with humour and lets us take a closer look at our own world through the dry wit of the events on Discworld.

Vinca Russell

December 2016

(pub: Doubleday/Random House. 343 page hardback. Price: £20.00 (UK), $32.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-857-53481-1)

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