The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
So…this is it. The final Discworld book. I first read The Colour of Magic when I was about 12 and devoured the rest of the series in the year that followed. I’ve known since then that every year or so I’d get a new Discworld book to read and I’ve always looked forward to it. I still can’t quite believe that we won’t be getting a new Discworld book in 2016 or ever. There aren’t many series which can extend to over 40 books and still not quite feel finished. Thankfully, The Shepherd’s Crown is an excellent way to cap off a truly legendary writing career. Reading this book, part of Pratchett must have known that this would be his last.
Tiffany Aching has, despite her youth, become one of the most respected witches on the Disc. Already run ragged tending to the Chalk an unexpected tragedy leads to her workload increasing even further as she prepares to step into a role she feels barely prepared for. Meanwhile, a power shift in Fairyland leads to the return of the elves, posing a threat to the Chalk, Lancre and ultimately, the Disc.
The Shepherd’s Crown is one of Pratchett’s gentler novels, with the core threat of the elves remaining rather restrained for much of the book. This novel is mostly a reflection on the virtue of caring, of empathy and kindness. Pratchett has been cynical at times, but not in The Shepherd’s Crown which reflects an unshakable belief in the essential goodness of human nature. This isn’t his funniest book, but I don’t think it’s aiming to be. It is wonderful that Pratchett’s life ended with his belief in humanity unshaken, perhaps even reaffirmed. Death is a major theme in this book and there are several devastating passages which are impossible to read without considering Sir Terry himself and I must admit that I got more than a little teary eyed throughout.
The prose in The Shepherd’s Crown is more focused than it was in Raising Steam, the Discworld book immediately preceding this one. That book felt slightly scattershot, but that isn’t the case in The Shepherd’s Crown which feels leisurely and relaxed. Apparently this book was unfinished, but you wouldn’t know it. Those who want Pratchett at his most caustic may be disappointed, but The Shepherd’s Crown is a much nicer note to end on.
Tiffany has come into her own as a character, but the real treat is seeing pretty much every witch character from previous books pop back to make an appearance. Granny Weatherwax is indomitable, Nanny Ogg is hedonistic and wise and Magrat Garlic has become the powerful and respect Queen of Lancre. There are a few cameos from other characters which are nice and although this isn’t the final blowout crossover event I always imagined the Discworld series would end with what we have is enough to keep us satisfied.
The Shepherd’s Crown isn’t the best Discworld book, but it’s one of the kindest. This is a peaceful, calm conclusion to the series that I never knew I wanted. Sir Terry, I read 41 of your Discworld books and I would have happily read 41 more. I’m grateful for what we have however; one of the most incredible works not just in the fantasy canon, but in the history of English literature.