Discworld shaped me like no other series has. Harry Potter was a little late, and I think I discovered Discworld at 14, the perfect age. I only realised why I enjoyed it so much in seventh form, when we had a guest lecturer in to teach us some philosophy. Pratchett’s books are full of philosophy (natural and metaphysical), particularly in the parts of the novels about the wizards and the gods. When I went on to university to study philosophy, along with a little bit of Christian thought and history, my mum probably regretted her gift of Maskerade.
The Shepherd’s Crown is the last in the Discworld series, and it concentrates on the world of the witches – the Chalk and Lancre, with a dash of Ankh-Morepork thrown in for good measure. Tiffany Aching was introduced along with the Nac Mac Feegles in The Wee Free Men, and this thread of Discworld is targeted at Young Adults, though I suspect Pratchett never wrote Discworld to target older and younger readers; that was simply how the story unfolded. He claimed that Tiffany Aching was his favourite Discworld character, with Commander Vimes in at a close second. Perhaps this is why he chose to focus on her in this, his final book.
The book is centred on two battles of power. First, Granny Weatherwax leaves her final note: I is probably dead. Meanwhile, in Fairyland, Lord Peaseblossom is waiting to take the place of the diminished Fairy Queen who was previously defeated by Tiffany. The barrier between the lands is gossamer thin, and the fairies are dying to make humans their playthings again. The only way to preserve the world is to make a group of arguing witches agree for a change, and work together to kick the fairies back to Fairyland for good, this time. The introduction of a male witch, Geoffrey, who is very handy with goats, and livestock, and calming the minds of those around him, helps matters a little, and helps Tiffany to keep her steadings in order.
The thing I love about Pratchett books is that while they demand very little of you, they leave you with a lot more than you started with. His quirky offsides always had a grain of truth, and even his most characterful characters (like Nanny Ogg) had something of humanity that you recognised instinctively. I think he taught me to be a bit more cynical, to question more of what is supposedly normal – whether that was eating street food from the likes of ‘Cut-my-own-hand-off-Dibbler’ or simply how to connect the dots between people’s behaviour and what they value. He was a great drawer-out of stories, and I think it was a deep knowledge of what makes people do as they do that allowed this.
The Shepherd’s Crown was written as Pratchett’s life was drawing to an end. There are not as many footnotes, there are a few missing stitches, but it is a fitting end to a wonderful career, and the creation of a wonderful world. If I had to choose between Narnia, Hogwarts and Discworld, I would go Discworld every time.
Thank you Terry Pratchett, for Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Queen Magrat, Tiffany Aching, Agnes Nitt, for Commander Vimes, Sergeant Angua, Nobby, Sergeant Colon and Captain Carrot, for Moist von Lipwig, Adora Belle Dearhart, Lord Vetinari and Drumknott, for Mustrum Ridcully and Ponder Stibbons, and of course, for Rincewind the inept wizard who began it all. Not to forget Death, and his granddaughter, Susan. May they and the dozens of others who lived in your world, rest in peace.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
The Shepherd’s Crown
by Terry Pratchett
The 41st Discworld book
Published by Doubleday