This week I am not talking about a comic book, but rather a book. The last few weeks I have been completely immersed in a fantastic novel written by the greatly missed Terry Pratchett. This is my review of Terry Pratchett’s final book from Penguin Random House, The Shepherd’s Crown.
The book features Tiffany Aching, focusing on the story of Discworld’s witches. Tiffany, a recurring character in a number of Pratchett’s novels, has to take on new responsibilities and protect her land of the Chalk from enemies old and new as she finds her place in a strange world.
The book starts with a terrible loss that impacts all of Discworld, one that leaves Tiffany Aching in an unusual position of power in the witching world. This tragedy leaves her with two steadings (territories under her watch and care) which causes her to be stretched thin and face some hard decisions and harsh criticism. As the book progresses we see Tiffany come slowly into her own and realize she needs to be her own witch, instead of just filling shoes left by the previous steward. She organizes the witches, recruits new ones, and takes on an apprentice — notably the first male apprentice a witch has ever taken, a prince on the run with his pet goat Mephistopheles, a young man named Geoffrey. On top of pressures from her new role, the Elves decide to invade so it is up to Tiffany to organize the witches and draw upon the power of her land to fight off the Elves.
This book was great and its themes could never have fit better. The major motif (minor spoiler alert) is the power vacuum left after an important death. This is a perfect fit because Terry Pratchett died before fully finishing this book. I found the similarities between the contents of the book and the situation surrounding the book to be mirrored. A major character in Discworld history dies in this book and leaves a massive power vacuum and an extreme sense of loss that is felt throughout the world. This is how I felt and how many felt when we found out that Pratchett had passed away. The world felt a little less magical, more vulnerable and, much like in Discworld, I feel like someone needs to stand up and fill the void left by Pratchett’s passing. But, like Tiffany, I feel they need to build on what Pratchett did and make it their own.
As I said earlier this book was great, one of the best books I read in 2015 and one of my favorite of the Discworld series. The characters, as always, were well written, the plot moved quickly and it was easy to lose yourself in the pages for hours. This book, as well as dealing with death, is a brilliant coming-of-age story depicting a young girl growing into a woman, a boy becoming his own man, and a world moving on, finding a place for magic and technology. Personally the ending for this book was rather perfect in a sad way as it tied all of these themes together and really seemed to bring the series to a close.
The Shepherd’s Crown is not perfect however. It was left slightly unfinished and that causes some problems. The story does come to a fitting end and one that feels like it was written by Terry and not from his notes, which is important, but some of the side stories go nowhere and there are many places left unexplored and questions unanswered. Also, at least to me, there came a point where the story felt like it suddenly changed. I felt like I had almost missed something as the story changed from one about Tiffany and her two steadings to one about an invasion of elves. It was an unexpected change, one that felt out of place and rather blunt, lacking the usual finesse and flow that I find to be a signature of Terry Pratchett.
This book was a great ending to an enormous series. His impact on the world of fantasy literature will never be forgotten and, needless to say, this book is a 5/5 and a 10/10.