With only a handful of books by the late Terry Pratchett that I haven’t read and only one of those in the Discworld, I’ve put off “The Shepherd’s Crown” ($18.99, HarperCollins) for months. Once I finished it, I knew that, on some level, this world that I’ve enjoyed exploring for the past quarter of a century or so has come to an end.
Eventually, though, you have to accept that reality, and so it was with mixed feelings that I finally cracked the cover on Tiffany Aching’s last adventure and Terry Pratchett’s final Discworld novel.
“The Shepherd’s Crown” begins with a major shift in the power on the Disc. The formidable Esme Weatherwax is preparing to meet Death for the final time. Part of that preparation, of course, is choosing her successor as the leader of the witches, though, of course, no one would suggest to the witches that they have a such thing as a leader.
To the surprise of all, Granny Weatherwax taps Tiffany Aching, the young witch from the Chalk, who has shown much promise.
But more challenges await Tiffany than just proving herself worthy to the other witches. The elves, long held at bay by Granny Weatherwax’s power, see her death as an opportunity to once again wreak havoc in the world. Tiffany will need the help of all of the witches, her fierce friends the Nac Mac Feegle and a strange new apprentice to stop them.
It seems fitting that, as Pratchett ended his watch of the Discworld, so would one of his most venerable characters, Granny Weatherwax. The wizards and the Patrician may have thrown their power around Ankh Morpork, but we all knew that Esme Weatherwax was the real power on the Disc, something that she proved time and again, beginning with her first appearance in the third Discworld novel, “Equal Rites.”
And speaking of that book, Pratchett gives us a nice parallel in “The Shepherd’s Crown.” Though Tiffany’s rise in the ranks signals the beginning of a new era for the witches, some things remain the same – like doing what’s right. In this tale, we meet Geoffrey, third son of a lord, a boy who has a way with people and wishes to become the first male witch. It’s a fitting way to close the circle, since we first met Granny helping Eskarina Smith become the first female wizard.
“The Shepherd’s Crown” provides a bittersweet ending to the legend of the Discworld. While reading it, I got the feeling that, despite the fact he had other stories in the works, Pratchett knew that this would be his swan song. It just feels like that sort of book to me. Though it opens other possibilities for characters like Tiffany and Geoffrey, there’s also an underlying finality to the story, and the parallel between Granny and Sir Pterry himself can’t be ignored.
There are only a handful of authors who have affected me the way that Pratchett did, and I walk away from this book with a deep sadness, knowing it’s the last time I’ll visit the Discworld – at least for a new adventure.