Sorry for such a late review. This one took a lot to process, to really work out what needed to be said about the book before sending it (kicking, screaming, etc.) onto our esteemed website. Somewhat unlike our normal posts, this is going to be separated into two parts; the first will be a general review, with no spoilers or in-depth commentary for those who haven’t quite gotten around to reading it yet, and the second will have the rest (including spoilers). So, onwards and upwards!
Part One – In Which I Try Not To Give Away The Plot
Chances are you’ve read it already, or about to read it. However, just in case you haven’t, this is a spoiler free zone. Oh, and by the way, you should certainly go and read it. Now, if possible.
The Shepherd’s Crown is the final Discworld novel, and the final novel from the beloved Sir Terry Pratchett after his untimely death. It is, without a doubt, a story about endings of many sorts and a reassurance that characters go on with or without their creator. It is not the best book ever written, or even the best book (necessarily, everyone has a favourite Pratchett) that Sir Terry ever wrote, but it is certainly a master class in story telling, emotional writing, and how to treat characters that have lasted across novel after novel. The Shepherd’s Crown is the essence of Pratchett; joking for a chapter and serious the next, a commentary on morality and precisely how people can change when given a chance. As ever, he deals with his characters as if they were real people. None of the decisions are forced or artificial and whilst there are some of the usual archetypes, they are used too cleverly to really criticize.
I have only one real complaint, although it’s a tiny one that really had no effect on my enjoyment. The ending. It feels almost too well wrapped up, too easily put to bed for the usual style of Sir Terry. This can, perhaps, be attributed to his embuggerance and (presumably) the knowledge that everything would be coming to an end soon for him as well. On the assumption that this was the case, the ending is completely and utterly forgivable. All in all, it’s a superb book and a superb ending to a lifetime of writing.
Part Two – In Which There Is The Plot
Right then, some actual details. Although only some, I don’t want to spoil everything. The first few chapters deal primarily with the death of Granny Weatherwax. Yup. Your favourite character (I’m fairly sure) and certainly one of mine has finally met with DEATH after an incredible life of adventure. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching, and written in such a calm manner that it’s nearly impossible not to start welling up. It is also the kick the rest of the story needs to go into action. Tiffany is granted, rightfully, Granny’s steading and the Nac Mac Feegle are out in force to make sure she keeps it. The funeral and associated problems are dealt with gracefully, smoothly, and with incredible emotion. And then Elves!
Yup. The death of Granny has world-changing implications, with Pratchett emphasising the void her loss leaves when it comes to keeping some of the more quarrelsome beasties of his older novels in line. The Elves are back, the Queen dethroned and a new Lord causing havoc amongst the human world (though predominantly focused around Lancre and the Chalk), everything is up in the air. The main section of the Shepherd’s Crown deals with this new threat, and the Elves’ inability to comprehend the changes to the Discworld wrought in Raising Steam. Chaos is caused, elves are horrible and Tiffany gets increasingly bogged down with her duties and the new troubles. It always sounds rather dry when the plot gets explained like this, but at no point does the story start to drag or bore. The pacing is immaculate throughout the entire book, as per usual.
Eventually, in the last chapter or two, everything comes to a head in a final battle from which the heroes return relatively triumphant and Tiffany’s story arc is finally over. There’s a definite sense of completion, of being able to lay another character to rest (only metaphorically this time, don’t worry), and the last chapter speaks entirely of legacy and the continuation of people far beyond the restraints of their physical lives. It’s a beautiful ending, and a wonderful place for Sir Terry Pratchett to end his immense saga of stories.
I do wish there were going to be more, though.