The Shepherds Crown by Terry Pratchett
There is Chalk in my bones and Sea in my veins, wave under hill I am part of the Land. I see what needs seeing and do what needs doing, I am Tiffany Aching and I am a Witch.
The Land cries and the doors are unguarded, those once fought and feared are returning; flee the glamour, the laugher and the dream. Fear the night, the moon and the face that shines the Fairy Count advances once more.
Summon the old, the young and small, the Land must be protected, her Land, her people and all its homes.
Before we start, this is a narrative-light review as there is a particular story item at the start of the book that you pretty much need to read for yourself. Any attempt by me to dance around it would project a light on the rest of the book, tarnishing the review and your reading. If you prefer, you can have a read of this particular item over at our blog section here before continuing.
The last, the least and the most dear.
Is this book all it could be? No. Is it a treasure to hold? Yes, completely and totally. The Shepherd's Crown is the last adventure into the magical and captivating universe which has been the Discworld. It could have been written in Klatchian, about flying-fish fishing over the Rim by Mustrum Ridcully and I would still have loved it.
That aside, the story is classic Discworld, concentrating on the Witches (Tiffany in particular), the Nac Mac Feegle and the Fairy Queen and her cold and calculating Fairy horde.
There aren’t as many quick jibs or quips as I would have liked, that old hag snap and cackle (terrible pun I know), but the voice of Tiffany is strong and on key with her character. The Nac Mac Feegle are as usual just fantastic, strange and insane in the best possible way, and they always produce a laugh.
Initially, the Fairy Queen is your typical inhuman, self-indulgent monster. However, when her fortunes take a turn for the worst it is under Tiffany’s wing that she goes. And it's during these sections of reading about her that I got flashes of the Auditor Myria LeJean from Thief of Time (the 26th Discworld novel), who became a personality in her own right, and also that feeling of steel and strength I got the first time I read about Granny Weatherwax as we see how Tiffany has matured into her role as a Witch.
The first half the book, bar the opening chapters, I felt the least love towards and it came across a little overdone, relying a too much on the reader's previous understanding (which is required) and not fully defining or expanding on certain scenarios and ideas. However, the second half was a lot better and felt very familiar, in a good way. The ending, which after reading the afterword makes a lot of sense **READ THE AFTERWORD** provided some closure to the story, but did feel like some of the meat was missing.
There has always been a grittier, more down to earth feel to the Witches novels than other Discworld books, which I have always loved, and in The Shepherd's Crown this is no different. There is life, death and a fight to survive. A desire from Tiffany to prove herself to everyone, including yourself.
As you would expect and hope there are a few new additions and faces to the story and the Ramtops. We have seen the evolution of Discworld increase significantly in the last few books: photography, clacks, and most radically the introduction of the stream train, and in The Shepherd's Crown this is no different, with a proposed Male witch - it is the Century of the Anchovy and the Year of the Spinning Mouse after all.
Stepping back, I can see it must be hard to drop these modern ideas: machinery, new social convention etc. into a well-established magical world, but it’s always worth the effort and I think has worked well so far. This new character, which we unfortunately won't get to read further about would have added a great new dynamic to the Witches team, including his very protective goat. It's not a funny story in the mountains unless there is a goat involved, right?
This book is dear to others and myself as it is the last true Discworld novel penned by Terry. It represents a final hurrah to him and the world he lovingly cultivated. Yes, there are flaws, as openly noted in the afterword, but in the end that doesn’t take away from its core and the joy that will be taken from it.
My heart wants to say 10/10 but my stupid rational brain wants me to be honest, so 7/10 it is.
This The Shepherds Crown book review was written by Fergus McCartan
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