Crivens! This week’s BotW will come as no surprise – it’s the final Terry Pratchett novel, the 41st Discworld book and the fifth to feature Tiffany Aching. I managed to force myself to read it slowly (for me anyway) and made it last a week. I’m already listening to the audiobook on my walks to work.
In the Chalk, something is brewing. Tiffany can feel it coming, the Kelda can feel it coming. An old enemy is gathering strength. To quote the back of the book, Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad. And there will be a reckoning.
And to be honest, that’s about all that I can say about the plot of The Shepherd’s Crown without giving too much away. I encountered a massive spoiler in the Audible sample a week before the book came out – and my sister ran into the Guardian review which reveals the same Major Event – and I’ve become really concious of the fact that I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone reading this the way that plot twist was spoilt for me.
What I can say about the book is that it made my cry, repeatedly. But it’s not a sad book. As the back cover says, it is a time of endings and beginnings, and they’re handled beautifully. It is a Young Adult book and there are Serious Issues in there, but it deals with them very well, with Sir Terry’s trademark wit and warmth. I laughed and smiled and really enjoyed Tiffany’s adventure.
I wish there were going to be more. But as I said earlier this year (in this post), we knew that the end was coming sooner than anyone could have wished for. I still want the Moist the Tax Collector book. I am greedy for more from the Discworld. And the afterword in Shepherd’s Crown drops tantalising hints about what could have been. But I absolutely respect (and agree with) Rhianna Pratchett’s decision that if her father is not here to write them, there will be no more new Discworld books.
And if the end had to come, The Shepherd’s Crown is a very good place to finish. There are plenty of old favourite characters and there are some new favourites too. Of all the Discworld regulars, Mistress Tiffany has more life ahead of her than the others (unless you count Young Sam Vimes) and so it seems fitting that she is the centre of the last book.
The Shepherd’s Crown doesn’t feel like a goodbye, like a world is coming to an end – it feels like the Great A’Tuin is still out there, swimming through space with the elephants and the Disc on his back, it’s just that we won’t get to hear about the goings on there anymore. And maybe that’s Sir Terry’s greatest achievement – he’s created a fantasy world so real that we can’t believe that it could stop.
I’m planning to re-read the whole series. If you haven’t discovered Tiffany yet, start with The Wee Free Men and enjoy her whole journey. If you are a Discworld fan, who’s been hesitant about reading this, don’t worry. I don’t think this will be a disappointment to you. It is safe to read it. It feels right. You should be able to get hold of a copy of The Shepherd’s Crown anywhere which sells good books – but just in case: Amazon, Kindle, Foyles (sadly no discount), Waterstones.
Enjoy it. Make it last. Raise a glass to it’s creator. And mind how you go.