by Terry Pratchett



288pp/$18.99/September 2015

The Shepherd's Crown
Jim Tierney

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

With the forty-first Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, Tery Pratchett’s narrative has come to an end, and one he clearly foresaw. Although the Discworld was introduced with Rincewind and Twoflower in The Colour of Magic, Pratchett didn’t really begin to hit his stride until the publication of the third novel, Equal Rites, in which Pratchett introduced Esme Weatherwax and her coven of witches. While granny Weatherwax did not start out as Pratchett’s alter-ego, over the years, it certainly seemed that her ideas about headology most fully reflected Pratchett’s own point of view.

As the last Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown is a novel of endings, of course, and the harshest ending comes early in the novel when DEATH, the most recurring character in the series, delivers a eulogy which is as much for Pratchett himself as it is for the specific character. Following with the Disc’s response to the character’s death, Pratchett is practically describing the global response to his own death earlier this year. The Shepherd’s Crown is more than just a farewell, and once Pratchett has said goodbye to his character and his readers, it becomes a novel of beginnings.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee’s strongest desire was to see the Elves and come under their glamour. As far back as Lords and Ladies, Terry Pratchett introduced his own elves, a malevolent race from the dark folklore of the Celts rather than the cheerier woodlands of Middle-Earth. And while Granny Weatherwax and her coven eventually handled the Elves in that novel, in The Wee Free Men, Tiffany Aching has to face off against them again. Now, in The Shepherd’s Crown, Tiffany must not only stem an invasion of the Elves, but must also find her place amongst the witches of the Chalk and of Lancre, a very real passing of the baton to a new generation. Although at one time Pratchett had announced the idea that his daughter, Rhianna, might continue the series after his death, more recent announcements indicate that plan is no longer in place.

The Shepherd’s Crown is, however, a novel of finding one’s place in the world. Tiffany has to make decisions based on her own needs, obligations, desires, and abilities, despite the expectations of others. When faced with circumstances previously unseen, such as a good elf, she must decide how she would handle it, not Granny Weatherwax or Nanny Ogg or Magrat Garlick. In this, The Shepherd’s Crown is an excellent culmination of the seires, which at forty-one novels, several short stories, and associational books, should be enough, but isn’t. The Shepherd’s Crown, the last of the Witches novels also provides a pleasant symmetry with Equal Rites, the first one. In Equal Rites, Granny Weatherwax had to deal with Eskarina, a young woman who was destined to be a wizard, despite wizarding only being a man’s job. In The Shepherd’s Crown, Tiffany Aching finds herself faced with Geoffrey, Swivel, the third son of a lord, who decides his destiny is to be a witch, despite witchcraft only being a woman’s job.

Although we’ve lost Terry Pratchett’s unique voice, as he tells us in this book, we will find a replacement, someone different, someone with their own way of doing things, someone with their own message, and someone who may, for a short time, help us forget the void he has left.

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