Review of The Shepherd’s Crown – the final Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett

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We have always pre-ordered the latest Terry Pratchett novel since… forever. Pratchett’s world have developed and expanded through most of my adult life and while I love some more than others, I’ve never disliked any of them. And now, I have just finished The Shepherd’s Crown with a real sense of sadness. For Pratchett hadn’t finished saying what he had to say – and there is a sense of pent frustration and energy throughout this last Tiffany Aching adventure which he completed during the final year of his life.

theshepherdscrownDeep 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 a new, a blurring of the 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…

I’ve always enjoyed the Tiffany Aching books, set on the chalk uplands – a landscape I know and love. And the bonus is there are a hatful of my favourite characters who make an appearance in this delightful, moving addition to the canon. Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax, Miss Tick, Magrat all feature, along with a couple of Tiffany’s former adversaries, Miss Earwig and the terrifying Queen of the Elves. And of course the Nac Mac Feegles, the tiny, blue-skinned warriors who shadow Tiffany and guard her wherever she goes. Even in places she’d rather they didn’t…

The emotional scene near the beginning had me on the edge of tears. And in other parts of the book, I was laughing out loud – there are only a handful of books that have elicited that response from me. While I was looking forward to reading this one, I wasn’t expecting it to pack such a punch. But the story sings off the page as classic Pratchett at his best.

Tiffany is suddenly pitchforked into a role of major responsibility. A role where she is challenged and not only by those who don’t wish her well. But in addition to the threat from Fairyland, there is also the constant pressure to be the very best witch she can be in a world that is suddenly changing. A world where goblins are no longer smelly nuisances, but valued engineers, a world where railways and claques have shrunk distances. A world where a young man named Geoffrey, accompanied by his goat Mephistopheles, turns up requesting to be trained as a witch.

The story trips along at a good clip, providing all the unique Pratchett touches his fans know and love, including the whacky footnotes and the formerly obnoxious character that reveals a nicer side to her nature – a feat Pratchett regularly pulled off throughout this long-running series. And the ending provides plenty of action and excitement with a thoroughly enjoyable, wholly satisfying conclusion. Is this a detached, unbiased review? Probably not. I am discussing the last, the very last Discworld novel, ever. The series that has given me more pleasure over the years than any other.

Wherever you are, Mr Pratchett, thank you for this last gem. The magic persists…
10/10

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