Title: The Shepherd’s Crown
Author: Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld (5th in the Tiffany Aching mini-series)
Who’s it for? Teens and up
What’s it about? The barrier between worlds is growing thin and an old enemy is threatening the land that Tiffany Aching, witch of the Chalk, holds dear. She must make a stand with her allies against the oncoming threat of darkness.
What’s good about it? There’s lots to love in this book. Perhaps more so for the hardened Discworld fan, with nods to what has come before.
Following the prologue, chapter one has one of the best opening lines I’ve seen for a while:
‘It was one of those days you put away and remember’ – The Shepherd’s Crown, page 5
I just thought it was a beautiful way to open.
The Feegles are still an absolute delight and they remain one of my favourite species to inhabit the Disc. It’s interesting seeing Jeannie and Rob Anybody properly entrenched in their clan roles. Much like Tiffany they seem to have grown up as the series as progressed, so they seem slightly less wild and unruly than they did in the beginning (perhaps the result of being led by an excellent Kelda).
Tiffany really comes into her own here, she’s thrust into a position that brings with it a whole new level of stress and responsibility that perhaps she wasn’t entirely prepared for. There’s no one harder on Tiffany than Tiffany herself and her skill, kindness and sheer badassery sits her firmly among my favourite Discworld characters.
For those who are wondering what happening between Tiffany and Preston following the events of I Shall Wear Midnight, your questions are answered (ish) but their romance is a minor subplot against the events of the main story. Every so often it pops up, gives a little wave and then goes away again.
New character Geoffrey, a ‘calm-weaver’ who together with his pet goat Mephistopheles were an interesting addition. I’ll admit, I did spend 70% of the book wondering if he was going to reveal an evil plot (clearly his calm-weaving skills didn’t 100% work on me) but it was nice to be proved wrong.
I’m breaking my own unofficial rule here and I’m going to include a spoiler. I’ve changed the font colour, so highlight the below if you want to see it or skip on by to the next section if you don’t.
Granny Weatherwax was perfect and her cool, collected acceptance of her death was played out with grace and dignity. I cried. A lot.
What’s bad about it? Sometimes the Feegles dialogue did take a re-read for me to understand it (and a couple of lines where I was saying it aloud just to check I had got it right). It was a minor irritation though.
This isn’t quite as…polished as some of the other Discworld novels. There are some pacing issues and a couple of places which perhaps could have been fleshed out more. The reasons behind this are explained in the afterword, and while, for me, it didn’t detract from the overall novel, it still did cause the odd stumble while I was reading it.
The verdict? This isn’t one of those Discworld novels that you can start with and work your way back round the series. I really think you need to have read the preceding Tiffany Aching books to truly understand the impact of the opening. I’m not sure how well it translates without knowing the backstory. But I could be wrong.
There’s always a high expectation that comes with the last book in a series (especially one as sprawling as Discworld) that sometimes the book just can’t meet. I don’t think this is one of those times. I really loved this.
As the blurb says ‘[t]his is a time of endings and beginnings’ in more ways than one. Nothing lasts forever and this series has never flinched away from that. People die, people are born and others fight the monsters that we have only heard about in stories. The end of this book feels like a beginning, quietly hopeful and full of promise.
Yes, there are a couple of pacing issues and some of the Feegles dialogue was a touch difficult to understand at times, but on the whole it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. And the last line was perfection.
Also, if you’re not one for reading the extras once the story has finished, I’d still recommend you read the afterword. It was lovely and heartbreaking.
In a nutshell? if you’ve not read any of the Discworld series, don’t start here. There are better places to jump in (if you’re purely interested in the Tiffany Aching mini-series then start with The Wee Free Men). But Discworld fans should definitely read this.