2015; 288 pages. New Author? : No. Book #41 (out of 41) in the Discworld series; Book #5 (out of 5) in the Tiffany Aching series. Genre : Fantasy; Humor. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
Change is coming to Discworld. The witches can feel it. The Kelda of the Nac Mac Feegle clan can sense it. The Elf Lord, Peasebottom, feels it, and discerns an opportunity. The Goblins believe that it is already underway. And there are those who'd say that even the land itself is aware of it.
Nobody can say how the ‘new’ Discworld will turn out, or even whether the change is for the better or the worse. But one thing is certain. When Tiffany Aching’s mentor, Granny Weatherwax, takes a walk with Death into the eternal night, the dimensional barrier between the realm of the Elves and Discworld has been seriously weakened.
And that means some big changes are about to unfold.
What’s To Like...
The Shepherd’s Crown features the witch-in-training Tiffany Aching, whose bodyguards (whether wanted or not) are the wee folk of the Nac Mac Feegle. They’re always a treat to follow. The “costars” are the various Discworld witches, who I also enjoy, including Granny Weatherwax. I particularly liked Terry Pratchett’s handling of the Letice Earwig character. Plus, it was fun to meet Geoffrey and his incomparable companion, Mephistopheles.
The storyline is divided into three parts. The first deals with Granny Weatherwax’s departure, and I felt it was the strongest portion of the book. Terry Pratchett was aware that his days were numbered, and I got the impression that Granny Weatherwax’s discourse with Death reflected his own views on his life and mortality. It left a lump in my throat.
The middle portion dealt with Tiffany’s struggles to live up to her new position. It was a bit too repetitious for me, and things bogged down once or twice. The final portion of the story dealt with the confrontation with the Elves, and (as always) pulled all the plot threads together nicely. The ending isn't particularly twisty, but I liked it that the Elves are baddies here.
The titular Shepherd’s Crown figures into the story. I won’t say how, but if you have trouble visualizing it, its image is on the book’s cover. A couple of other Discworld characters make cameo appearances, and if goblins and geezers are your kind of critters, you’re in luck.
The Shepherd’s Crown is a standalone novel, and the closing book of both the 5-volume Tiffany Aching series, and the larger 41-volume Discworld series. I’m not reading either series in order, and am aware that I therefore missed some plot details, most notably, the role of Preston in Tiffany’s life. But I still had no trouble following along.
The Appendix has both a hilarious “Feegle Glossary” and a touching Afterword from Terry Pratchett’s family. You don’t want to miss either of these.
Kewlest New Word …
Littoral (n.) : a region lying along a shore. (it can also be used as an adjective)
Others : Dissembling (adj.)
The Shepherd’s Crown sells for $11.99 at Amazon, which seems a bit steep, although this is a new release from a top-tier writer. Most (but not all) of the rest of the Discworld e-books are in the $4.99-$9.99 price range.
“What about this woman called Mrs. Earwig?”
Drumknott made a face. “All show, my lord, doesn’t get her hands dirty. Lot of jewelry, black lace, you know the type. Well-connected, but that’s about all I can say.”
“Ah yes, now you tell me, I’ve seen her. Pushy and full of herself. She’s the kind that goes to soirees.”
“So do you, my lord.”
“Yes, but I am the tyrant, so it’s the job I have to do, alas.” (loc. 834)
“What are your names, boys?”
Wee Callum, a little bit tongue-tied, said, “I’m Callum, mistress.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Tiffany.
“Aye, mistress, and this is my brother, Callum.”
“Two of you?” she said. “Isn’t that difficult?”
“Och no, I know who I am and he knows who he is and so does our other brother Callum.” (loc. 3884)
“Being a witch is a man’s job: that’s why it needs women to do it.” (loc. 1461)
There are the trademark Pratchett footnotes, but they didn’t seem to have their usual wit. Indeed, that can be said of the entire book. Also, the overarching tone of the book was a lot darker and more serious than most Discworld novels. This has been the trend over the last 3-4 books, but I think it’s quite understandable, and even forgivable. Pratchett knew he was dying, and I have no doubt that it’s hard to be whimsical under such circumstances.
The Shepherd’s Crown was published posthumously and to me, it seemed like it was Terry’s way of saying goodbye to both his readers and his beloved Discworld universe. I’m therefore willing to cut him a lot of slack, and let’s be clear; any Discworld devotee will still find it a delight, albeit a somewhat sad one, to read. I don’t think anyone is going to pick up the Discworld mantle, and I for one am going to miss this series.
8 Stars. Subtract 1 star if this is your first Discworld novel and are wondering where all the wit and humor is. Trust me, none of the other books in the series are as somber as this one.