The Shepherd’s Crown

/ posted in: Reading The Shepherd’s CrownThe Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
on September 1st 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
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Terry Pratchett's final Discworld novel, and the fifth to feature the witch Tiffany Aching.
A SHIVERING OF WORLDS
Deep 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 new, a blurring of 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. . . .
THE FINAL DISCWORLD® NOVEL


It isn’t often that an author writes a book knowing that it is going to be his last.  Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007 and wrote novels as his “embuggerance” worsened.  When he lost the ability to read and write, he dictated.  The Shepherd’s Crown is the last book he wrote.  It is a goodbye to the world that he created in his Discworld novels.

Minor Spoilers Ahead

I didn’t preorder the book.  I couldn’t make myself do it.  Eventually I ordered it and let it sit in the box on my counter for about a month.  One day I was off work and sick and decided to suck it up and read it.  I didn’t know much about what it was going to be about other than the fact that it was about Tiffany Aching, his YA version of the witches’ story in the Discworld novels and that Granny Weatherwax was going to die.  Granny Weatherwax is my favorite.  I want to be her when I grow up.  This was going to be rough.

Later I handed that page to my husband who has read all the Tiffany Aching books. He said he got chills.

Witches in the Discworld know when they are going to die.  The book starts with Granny Weatherwax finding out that she is going to die the next day.  She gets her affairs in order by cleaning the house and making a coffin.  Then she lays down in bed and greets Death.

YOU ARE TAKING THIS VERY WELL, ESME WEATHERWAX.

“It’s an inconvenience, true enough, and I don’t like it at all, but I know that you do it for everyone, Mr. Death.  Is there any other way?”

NO, THERE ISN’T, I’M AFRAID.  WE ARE ALL FLOATING IN THE WINDS OF TIME.  BUT YOUR CANDLE, MISTRESS WEATHERWAX, WILL FLICKER FOR SOME TIME BEFORE IT GOES OUT — A LITTLE REWARD FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED.  FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT….

The witches and wizards know when she dies and come to pay their respects.  It is a chance to say goodbye to a lot of characters that he created.  What really got to me though was after Nanny and Tiffany bury her, the animals in the forest who she used to borrow (hitchhike on their consciousness to see what was going on) come and sit near the grave.  That got the tears flowing.

The rest of the story is about what happens when a guardian of a land is gone.  How do you go on?  It isn’t hard to see the parallels to him thinking about his own death.  In the book, elves invade because Granny isn’t there to defend the borders between worlds.  Everyone has to learn to get along to defend themselves.  I found that I didn’t really care about the plot so much as I cared about the interaction between characters trying to figure out where they fit in this new reality.  That’s true for most Discworld novels though.  The overall plot takes a backseat to the characters.  (He does work in a great subplot about old, retired men finding a way to be useful and the magical powers of sheds in the lives of men.)

I’m glad I read it.  The husband hasn’t worked himself up to it yet.  I’ll be interested to hear his thoughts on it.