Review: The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
This book was a personal purchase.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“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. . . .”
Spoiler warning, because I can’t talk about this book without spoilers…
I am sad, for I have just finished the last Discworld book ever. Pratchett’s daughter has stated that nobody will take over the series, and so we have to be happy with what we already have. And yet, I’m still greedy and want more (as I suspect many people are). This book was the best of what Pratchett’s stories and prose could be: witty, sharp, and filled with hidden depths of feeling.
It’s tempting to assume that Pratchett knew that his time was short while writing this book. And he may very well have known just that. The book opens with one of his most well-known and indomitable characters, Granny Weatherwax, passing away peacefully in her own bed–just as Pratchett did this past March. The book is dedicated to her with the phrase “Mind how you go” appended. According to Pratchett’s daughter, that was a family catchphrase, usually said to someone traveling, and it was the last thing she said to him before he passed.
In a more general way, the book deals with endings and the effect on those left behind to deal with what comes next. It also deals with changes and the challenges inherent in adapting to them. Tiffany must learn that although she is Granny Weatherwax’s successor, she isn’t Granny herself and cannot be the same kind of person, or witch, that she was. The other witches must also come to grips with the fact that their loose organization can’t work the same without Granny around, and that they have to find new ways to handle problems.
There’s a callback to the previous book, Raising Steam, here as well, in that the advent of the railroad produces far-reaching alternations to the fundamental make-up of Discworld. One of the unexpected effects is that all that iron is a barrier to incursions of elves (who is this world are extremely malicious). As a result, we see this world-shaking change on a smaller level, and it’s a complement to the other changes in the witches’ culture.
But Pratchett also shows that even the most immutable (or seemingly so) characters can change. The Queen of the Elves begins to comprehend the human concepts of friendship, empathy, and altruism when she’s stranded in Discworld after a coup attempt in her own realm. She’s not forced into confronting these concepts; rather, she’s exposed to them and allowed to think for herself.
Despite these deep ideas, this novel has all the wit and humor of any Discworld book. Nanny Ogg has her same boisterous personality, funny footnotes regularly appear, and the Feegles continue to pick fights with anything and everything. Don’t worry that this book is a downer–it’s not. Just like Pratchett, this story finds humor in the midst of grim events.
Personally, I adored this book. It’s a fitting send-off for one of fantasy’s greatest authors.