The Shepherd's Crown


Terry Pratchett


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

July 10, 2022

he Shepherd's Crown is Terry Pratchett's final novel. He knew he was dying for early onset Alzheimers (Pratchett died at age 68, The Shepherd's Crown was published in 2015, five months after his death), and so this book is a final gift to his legion of fans. In this novel, the chief of the witches, Granny Weatherwax, is paid a visit by Death. Knowing the circumstances of Pratchett's condition when he wrote the book, it puts the death of the beloved Granny Weatherwax in a new light. We can only hope that Pratchett's encounter with the Spirit with the Scythe went as well as Granny Weatherwax's.

With Granny Weatherwax gone, the witches convene to elect a new leader, even though, officially, they don't have a leader. Since Granny Weatherwax wrote a note leaving her stead to Tiffany, there is no real doubt that Tiffany becomes the next head of the witches. Young as she is, Tiffany has demonstrated great diligence, endless patience, and unswerving devotion to helping the people of the Chalk. Plus, she has already defeated the Winter King and the Queen of Elves in her short career, and those are mighty accomplishments.

Unfortunately, Tiffany now finds herself the witch of two lands - her home Chalk, and Granny's territory in the Kingdom of Lancre. She tries to serve both areas with her best efforts, but humans are endlessly falling afoul of fate or circumstance or just plain stupidity. There is always a new baby being born, an injured lumberjack up in the woods, or missing sheep. True, Tiffany has the help of the Nac Mac Feegle clan, but their aid is not always the most constructive.

Meanwhile, the evil elves sense that with Granny Weatherwax gone, now is an opportunity to venture into the human lands and cause mischief and pain. After all, who will stop them?

I copied a few quotes from The Shepherd's Crown. Here you can see Pratchett's sense of humor, his love of silly names and humorous conversation.

"What about this woman called Mrs Earwig?"

Drumknott made a face. "All show, my lord, doesn't get her hands dirty. Lots of jewelry, black lace, you know the type. Well-connected, but that's about all I can say."

"Ah yes, now that you tell me, I have seen her. Pushy and full of herself. She's the kind that goes to soirees."

"So do you, my lord."

"Yes, but I am the tryant, so it's a job I have to do, alas."

This next quote shows Pratchett's gift for describing things:

Granny Weatherwax's cottage was largely built of creaks, and you could play a tune on them if you wanted to. With accompaniment from the harmonious woodwork, Tiffany followed Nanny Ogg as she huffed and puffed up the cramped little staircase that wound up and around like a snake - Nanny always said you need a corkscrew to get through it - until they arrived at the bedroom and the small, sad deathbed.

Finally, I am including a quote that shows Pratchett's love of absurd. His humor is never mean-spirited, it is always funny jokes and a delight of word-play.

Then of course there was the kitchen garden and, above all, the herbs. Tiffany found a pair of heavy gloves in the scullery - you didn't go into Granny's herbs without heavy gloves until they knew you. Granny had foraged, bartered and been given herbs from just about everywhere , and she had Rotating Spinach, and Doubting Plums, Ginny Come Nether, Twirlabout, Tickle My Fancy Root, Jump in the Basin and Jack-go-to-bed-and-never-get-up, Daisy-upsy-Daisy and Old Man Root. There was a clump of Love Lies Oozing by the Jack By Moonlight, and a very active Maiden's Respite. Tiffany did not know what all of them were for; she would have to ask Nanny Ogg. Or Magrat Garlick, who - like her husband Verence, the King of Lancre - was very enthusiastic about herbs. Though unlike her husband, Magrat did actually know her Troubling Tony from her Multitude Root.

It is impossible not to like Tiffany Aching. She tries so hard to do what is right, serving the people with her witch skills. She is so earnest and dedicated that she cannot admit she is overwhelmed. Alas, since this is the final book of Discworld, we will never know if Tiffany and Preston ever develop into more than pen-pals. Both so devoted to their young careers (Preston works as a doctor in the big city) that they cannot find any time for each other.

There are 41 novels in the Discworld oeuvre, I have only read the Tiffany Aching books. I guess I should switch over to his other novels, no doubt they are just as entertaining.