[Review] The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

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…

Genre(s): MG/YA, Fantasy, Coming-of-Age
Series: Discworld #41, Tiffany Aching #5
Published by HarperCollins on September 1, 2015

[ Goodreads | Storygraph ]

➤ Content warnings (click to show)

major character death(s), grief, domestic abuse, child abuse, infant neglect, misogyny, classism, speciesism, sadism, implications of torture, non-graphic violence, death threats

As some of you (mostly meaning Meeghan, but probably a few others too) may know, I’ve been on a journey to read all the Discworld novels. I’ve finally done it: The Shepherd’s Crown is the 41st and final book in the series — and Sir Terry Pratchett’s final book, full stop. 

I’d heard that this one was not quite finished (i.e., complete but not polished) but is nonetheless a poignant goodbye to Discworld and the author. That turned out to be accurate; while I can’t pinpoint anything that’s specifically missing, it does feel a little different from the rest of the series, and not just because it’s the ending of endings. Still, it’s satisfying in a literary sense, bringing closure to several arcs while hinting at where the story and characters might go in the future.

Personally I have always loved the passing the torch trope, when it’s done well. (Tropedia informs me that maybe I should instead be describing the situation as take up my sword, but — as is so often the case with Pratchett books — it’s kind of complicated. Anyway.) Not to get into spoilers, but it does feel like the natural next step for Tiffany Aching. And it’s depicted so thoughtfully, with nuance and complication. It would’ve been so easy to make Tiffany a Mary Sue, with her power and her noble values, yet her characterization keeps her relatably human to the very last page.

I don’t really love the old enemy returns trope, which again is just personal preference. (It’s one of the reasons I prefer the odd-numbered Artemis Fowl books.) That said, I think that at least it’s thematically fitting, through the lens of cycles, growth, callbacks to previous books. I also wasn’t completely happy with how the final showdown turns out, but then again I rarely am, and it doesn’t seem fair to pass judgment when, again, this wouldn’t have been the final version.

Speaking of callbacks: I was delighted by all the cameos from the extensive Discworld cast, featured in different books. How perfectly fitting for this last book and for a reckoning that could change the universe. 

3.5 stars

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