It’s with a heavy heart that we bid a very fond farewell to Terry Pratchett with his final Discworld book, The Shepherd’s Crown, which also closes the story of Tiffany Aching’s rise to steaded witch status. As with all of the great writers work, it’s an incredible demonstration of wild imagination, great plot development and an ironic take on fairy tales, folklore and fantasy fiction. It may not be our favourite novel in the series (that title goes to 2006’s Wintersmith), but it is a very fitting culmination to it all.
Released on hardback, audiobook and digital download on the 27th August 2015, it’s a must-read for any Terry Pratchett fans out there. If you haven’t read any of the previous forty novels released prior to The Shepherd’s Crown then you’ve got one hell of a treat ahead of you, but equally, you will definitely be better off tracking back to The Wee Free Men if you want to pick up on the Tiffany Aching series, but you might want to go back to The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett’s first Discwork book if you’re series about doing the full catch up.
We’ve specifically written our review with an attempt not to give away any spoilers before you read the book for yourself, so you should be fine to read on if you just want to find out how good the book is in advance. The story picks up with Tiffany a year or so after her epic tangle with The Charming Man in I Shall Wear Midnight and she’s a slightly older, wiser witch now with responsibilities mounting by the day. It’s this element of her coming of age that the book covers as expectations have built having also already faced down the Queen of the Fairies, the Hiver and the Wintersmith.
However, with developments landing her with more responsibility than she’d ever imagined and ideally hadn’t really wanted, she also has a new threat from the powers of Fairy Land. When the barrier between the two worlds becomes weakened, the Elves start to pour through, giving Tiffany, the other witches and the inevitable rabble of the Nac Mac Feagle a huge challenge to face.
The story feels just a little more well trodden than the last three adventures, as Tiffany has faced the Elves before during the events of The Wee Free Men and they also featured in Lords And Ladies, another previous witches adventure. However, it also seems kind of fitting, making it the full circle closer that sees Tiffany going toe-to-toe with the malevolence of the Fairy Folk as a fully fledged witch, compared to her more fortuitous first encounter.
Despite the fact that it has a recurring nemesis, that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in the usual unadulterated imagination that defines all Terry Pratchett novels. There are unexpected role reversals, more playful folklore fudges, furious Feegles and a counting goat, so it should be enough entertainment for even the most discerning fantasy fiction reader.
There’s also distinct sweetness about The Shepherd’s Crown that kind of speaks of Terry Pratchett’s knowledge about his proximity to death himself. His passing away in March 2015 is a sad loss to the world of literature in general, but more importantly to all of his fans, but in his final novel he’s given us a brilliant last hurrah that doesn’t disappoint. It’s packed with a few final bows from characters from earlier Discworld novels, continues to be infused with his brilliant personal morality and it leaves you feeling that despite the fact that the tale is finished, the stories will go on somehow.
It’s a touching goodbye to the much-loved author, which is added to by the moving closing remarks in the afterword about the writing of this final novel, all of the ideas that he had right up to his final months and his writing process in general. It points out that The Shepherd’s Crown didn’t get to be quite as finished as Terry Pratchett would have liked when he died and if what we got to read was not quite his best then whatever was left in Binky’s nose bag would have been the light spectacular.
Terry Pratchett, The Shepherd’s Crown review: 4/5