I thought I was ready to read this book, more than a year after Pratchett’s death.
It turns out I wasn’t as ready as I thought. I was in tears by page 25. It will be hard for me to write an unbiased review of this book, as Pratchett’s work has been so influential for me as a reader, a teacher, a writer and, well, truly, as a human being. However, I will do my best!
Tiffany Aching has grown up through the series, and the end of I Shall Wear Midnight left her in a position of young adulthood. The Shepherd’s Crown picks up where that book leaves off and pushes toward the future, as Tiffany must step into an even greater responsibility than she’s held up till now — but it also reaches back to the past and brings back one of the Tiffany’s first and most dangerous enemies — the elves.
As usual, the book is a combination of humor, philosophical musings, silly names and puns, bravery and of course, hard choices. More than anything else, that seems to be the essence of Pratchett’s definition of what a witch is; someone who faces the choices others would prefer to turn away from.
This book contains a number of call-backs to the earlier novels in the sequence, and I’d suggest reading them first before beginning this one. However, at the end of it, the reader leaves feeling satisfied about Tiffany’s choices; her future; and those under her watch on the Chalk. It makes me wish she lived on a hill nearby my own house…I think we’d all feel better with a Tiffany to keep an eye on things.
If you’re new to Discworld, I’d suggest starting with Going Postal, Small Gods or Thief of Time and perhaps working your way up to this one later. But do begin. This series is one of the best written over the past thirty years, and I am convinced we will be reading it thirty, sixty, ninety years from now.
The truth is that Pratchett — like Granny Weatherwax — left this world a better place than it was when he arrived in it.