A Note: This review contains a great big spoiler, but only for the first chapter or so of the book. It’s up to the editor to put a spoiler warning or not. Consider yourselves warned.
Flying through time and space is the great A’Tuin, a turtle of immense proportions, and on his shell ride four enormous elephants which support on their mighty backs the magical realm of Discworld. Its characters and mythos have entertained millions, and while Terry Pratchett’s writings will continue to live on, its story, much like its creator, has come to an end. The final book in the series, The Shepherd’s Crown, is a fitting ending in that it isn’t an ending at all. It does, however, begin with one.
Esmerelda Weatherwax, or Granny Weatherwax, was the unofficial official head of the witches of Discworld, and certainly the most well known. She has been a steadfast rock in a sea of change and her character has been one of the most important. However, everyone has to go sometime, and Granny Weatherwax, like all witches, knows when it shall be. This means that someone will have to take her place, and while many very senior witches would love to step in, she has already named her successor: Tiffany Aching, the witch of the Chalk.
The Tiffany Aching series differs only slightly from the other Discworld story lines. It’s more of a Young Adult novel and the themes tend to reflect that. Throughout the first three books Tiffany goes from a precocious child to a full-fledged witch, while also transforming from a girl into a woman. After the death of Granny, Tiffany now has two communities she has to watch over and protect, and unless she can find help, she’ll be stretched much too thin, just in time for an old enemy, the Elves, to take advantage and re-enter the world.
Reading this novel made me realize just how different Discworld stories can be told just by changing the age of the character. Most of the political satire and adult humor is replaced with more toned down versions, which are pretty funny, but not in the same way. Another oddity about this novel is a trend that carried over from his previous book, Raising Steam, in which many of the point-of-view characters seen in different chapters only pop up once and are never heard from again, while established characters seem to miss out on the action.
While it does a good job of saying goodbye to Discworld as a whole, The Shepherd’s Crown feels like one of the weakest stories in the series. Many of the situations and villains are reused from earlier works without much more characterization. It carries many of the usual themes that Pratchett uses, such as sexism, change, and the inevitability of death, but everything seems to resolve entirely too easy, and very rarely is there much conflict between characters.
As I said in the beginning, The Shepherd’s Crown is not an ending. It is, however, a reminder of stories that will never be told. We learn of the first male witch and we see Elves attempt to change their ways, but we’ll never be certain of their success or failure. We won’t know how well Tiffany Aching fills the boots of Granny Weatherwax. In a way though that’s good. These stories can end now in any way we choose. We can write them ourselves.