The world grew less funny last March with the death of Terry Pratchett, creator of Discworld, my go-to author during blue times, and the reigning king of my “funniest book read this year” category every year. Honestly, it makes me want to reach for a Pratchett book–which I did near the end of 2015, when I realized that Pratchett’s final Discworld book had somehow come out without my noticing! That was The Shepherd’s Crown, fifth book in the Tiffany Aching subseries.
This was an unusually fraught read, because the previous book, Raising Steam, just…wasn’t very good. And it made me really, really sad. So I am doubly pleased by how much I liked The Shepherd’s Crown!
As to the story here (there’s no way to soften this so I have to just say it) it begins with the death of Granny Weatherwax, who is not the leader of the witches (witches don’t have a leader–Granny wouldn’t allow it). Tiffany, somewhat to her own dismay, finds herself as Granny’s successor. She struggles with what it means to walk, not in Granny’s footsteps but in her own. The Nac Mac Feegle also careen through at times; Tiffany has to make a decision about Geoffrey, a boy who wants to be a witch; and the witches have to deal with an incursion by the fairies (far more scary than you might think).
This was good, solid Pratchett, with funny moments coupled with insights about–well, about the world. About finding one’s path and how to treat others and the meaning of responsibility and breaking boundaries and grieving lost friends and how people discarded by society can still have power. All of that. And it was funny.
This also solved an issue I had with the fourth Tiffany book. Namely, we’d been setting up for a romance between Tiffany and Roland for three books, which then fell apart, and we got a sudden new love interest for Tiffany…whose name I honestly can’t remember off the top of my head. It felt very tacked on. But then in this book, he and Tiffany still have an understanding, but in the meantime are both busy going about their respective careers (witch and doctor). Tiffany worries about this some, but also figures there will be time to work it out. And while there’s something to be said for not putting things off, in this series I think it works. Because it puts the romance back into the proper perspective for the series. It’s not a series about Tiffany falling in love and getting married; it’s about Tiffany finding herself and her role as a witch. I like the idea that she’ll marry someone she loves eventually, but that’s not the part of her life these books are about.
If I had had to choose one Discworld character to get one last book about…it wouldn’t have been Tiffany, it would have been Vimes. But Tiffany would have been my second choice! And perhaps we got a better end to the series because of the nature of where Tiffany is in her life, compared to Vimes (or almost any other Discworld character).
Spoilers, but I don’t think they’re troubling ones… The book ends with Tiffany moving out of her parents’ house, and making her own home up on the Chalk where her grandmother, Granny Aching, once lived. And you know, that’s perfect. Because it’s not an end end…it’s the clear and definitive end of a chapter–but the beginning of a new one. It’s one that will be left unwritten, but it leaves me feeling like, somewhere out in the ether of Story, Discworld goes on. Or if you’ll let me be slightly poetic and ridiculous at once, the giant turtle keeps sailing through the stars.
Author’s Site: http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/
Buy it here: The Shepherd’s Crown