Terry Pratchett’s final contribution to the Discworld series does not really need a review nor, by now, should his work need an introduction. Those who adore his work will go out and get it, and those who haven’t as yet had the pleasure are unlikely to start with the last book. We listened to the audio version of The Shepherds Crown anyway, just in case you were in two minds as to whether you should pick it up. The answer is a rather obvious yes, especially the audio version.
The Shepherd’s Crown is not only the last Discworld novel, it’s also the final series in the Tiffany Aching stories, the cycle of books that Terry wrote specifically for the Young Adult market. Tiffany is a young witch who works on the chalk and is very much her own person. We’ve watched Aching grow from a precocious child to a confidant teenager to finally a whole and complete person who also happens to be a strong leader and powerful witch. Pratchett created Tiffany, in part, as response to Harry Potter. His heroine has no great destiny or legions of people telling her she’s special; rather than following her star, Aching works hard, gets results. This is fun for the reader because those results often involve beating up some sort of occult horror.
The Shepherd’s Crown is also a book about dealing with death, on many levels. Terry wrote the book when he knew he had the Posterior Cortical Atrophy form of Alzheimer’s Disease. Part of the plot features the death of someone close to Tiffany, and the aftermath of their passing forms much of the backstory of the book. This should not come as a surprise to fans; Death has always been a central character in Terry’s work. Pratchett also returns to his theme of elves. The Discworld version of the point-eared fairy beings paints them as parasitic monsters that delight in cruelty. They are a twisted mirror of humanity, creatures that do not understand the human condition and exist only to destroy it. Pratchett’s essential humanity shines through, exploring the triumph of man without celebrating our hubris.
The entire audio version is narrated by Stephen Briggs, a contemporary and colleague of Pratchett’s. His performance is spot on, even doing a reasonable impersonation of Christopher Lee when it comes to Death’s brief cameo. If you’ve been putting off reading The Shepherd’s Crown, then pick up the audio version so have a little bit of company when you leave the Discworld.
THE SHEPHERD’S CROWN / AUTHOR: TERRY PRATCHET / NARRATOR: STEPHEN BRIGGS / PUBLISHER: RANDOM HOUSE AUDIOBOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW