Terry Pratchett, The Shepherd’s Crown

Terry Pratchett The Shepherds CrownWith his recent sad departure from the globeworld, every new Terry Pratchett book published posthumously is going to be treasured all the more by his fans, which we count ourselves as one of the lucky many. His work has delighted fantasy fiction and comedy readers alike for the last 33 years, ever since The Colour Of Magic arrived back in 1983, and his final Great A’Tuin-balanced adventure, The Shepherd’s Crown, closes things out with one of the writer’s favourite newer characters, Tiffany Aching.

It’s release date on hardback, audiobook and eBook had been confirmed as the 10th September 2015, but it was subsequently brought forward to the 27th August 2015. It’s sadly the first and last new novel from the author since his death in April. It’s the 41st Discworld novel and his fifth book to feature the determined and much-loved teenage witch, following on from The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full Of Sky, The Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight.

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Little was initially known about the story for the book when it was first announced back in spring  2015 – in fact the cover artwork hadn’t even been released (which you can see from the image above), so there were no clues there either – but what we knew for sure was that it would feature Miss Aching once again. However, as the release date drew near it was confirmed that she would be facing an old enemy and would need the collective might of the Nac Mac Feagle and her witch sorority to save her land, The Chalk.

Having battled the Fairy Queen, the mind controlling Hiver, the Wintersmith and the Cunning Man, The Shepherd’s Crown to focuses on an attack by yet another crazed Pratchett-imagined mythical creature. While our initial postulations were incredibly preposterous and wildly incorrect, they were pretty funny, but sadly it’s not the king of the shepherds, a highly evolved sheep man or a tramp that likes to wear a woolen hat as a sign of his ancestral, self-appointed kingship that is on the offensive. It is, however, the resurgent might of the fairy folk, who’s mighty queen Tiffany came up against and beat in her first adventure with just a frying pan.

Despite the onset of the debilitating Alzheimer’s disease, which Terry Pratchett has been battling since 2007, the pace of his writing hadn’t slowed too much over the intervening time with eight Discworld novels published in the last ten years. However, you’ll have to go back to 2013 for his last release, Raising Steam, featuring Moist Von Lipwig, so it’s great to find out that there’s at least one more wild and crazy adventure still to come.

The bitter sweet news of the posthumous release can be added to by the fact that his sci-fi collaboration with Stephen Baxter, which began in 2012 with The Long Earth, will also be getting another release to add to the three previous novels. The Long Utopia went on to be published in June 2015, so there wasn’t too much time to wait to read more of Pratchett’s work, but equally, we already know that the series has been planned with five entries, so there may be another waiting in the wings too.

While it’s comforting to know that there are still a couple of Terry Pratchett novels still to look forward to, especially the final Discworld entry, The Shepherd’s Crown, there will clearly come a time when these too will come to an end. However, the most important point is that there will always be his prolific back catalogue to keep going back to, so in another fifty years or so we’ll always have The Colour Of Magic, Wyrd Sisters, Guards! Guards!, Hogfather, Raising SteamSnuff and a whole lot more to relive, even though his latest entry, which was written in the summer of 2014, has turned out to be his final hurray on the back of the four giant elephants, Berilia, Tubul, Great T’Phon, and Jerakeen.

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