Terry Pratchett – The Shepherd’s Crown

There are some words I never wanted to type, but I’m going to have to do it, so here goes.

This is the final Discworld novel by the late, great, and generally wonderful Terry Pratchett. It’s not quite as finished as Terry would have wished, but it has, as the afterword by his assistant Rob Wilkins puts it, a beginning, a middle and an end, but there are clearly some bits not finished off quite as thoroughly as they might have been. But it’s all we have, and all we’ll have, and it’s a lovel;y thing.

Now it’s almost impossible to talk about this book without including spoilers, so for the benefit if anyone reading this who hasn’t yet read it, I’ll recycle my Doctor Who warning method:

Here be spoilers!

Tiffany Aching, who we first met when she was nine years old and just begging to learn witchcraft is now a young woman (age not specified, unless I blinked and missed it), and much respected. This is just as well, because very early in the book, something quite drastic (and I’m inclined to think symbolic) happens. Granny Weatherwax, most respected of the leaders that witches don’t have, dies. (Look, I did warn you about spoilers, didn’t I?). Reactions to this are varied, but can best be summarised as

there was a sudden sense of wrongness, of the world going askew

And it’s soon revealed that Granny had someone in mind to succeed her as the, err not leader at all of witches: Tiffany.

Quite apart from trying to do two jobs at once – her own territory in the Chalk needs her as much as the people of Lancre, Tiffany is faced with another problem: elves. And as you might recall, the elves are not at all nice. So it’s a good job that Tiffany is aided by not only all of the witches, but also the ever devoted, every violent and generally drunk Nac Mac Feegle.

And much happens. There’s a bunch of older gentlemen who may have been somewhere near Walmington-on-Sea, given this little quote:

They will not like it up and over ’em!

And, as they say, much, much more. Granny’s cat You attaches herself to Tiffany, and it’s implied that there’s more going on with her than meets the eye – Neil Gaiman has said that if Terry had been able to really complete the book, it would have been confirmed that Granny had done one last bit of borrowing to oversee the handover to Tiffany (indeed this is very strongly implied by Death’s words to Granny…). We get to have one last visit to Ankh-Morpork, where we see some of our old friends, but perhaps not as many as we’d have liked.

And that is where the story ends. Mumble years ago, Terry suggested that he might stop doing Discworld after he’d got to 25 books. It’s an eternal joy that he carried on to give us 41, and an eternal sorrow that he couldn’t go on, and on, an on.

And in case of any doubt, there most definitely will not be any more Discworld books. There was a misunderstanding in some quarters when it was announced that Terry’s daughter Rhianna would be overseeing the legacy of his work. While she will be working on TV and fiim adaptations, she’s made it quite clear that not only will she not write any books herself, she won’t allow anyone else to either:

Sacred. Exactly the word I have in mind.