Approximately four months following his passing, Sir Terry Pratchett’s last novel, ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ was released. This story is the fifth and final book of the Tiffany Aching series, which follows the life of the young witch. Following Pratchett’s death, at age 66, all the rights for the fantasy world in which his novel’s are set, the Discworld, were passed to his daughter, Rihanna Pratchett. She later stated that there is no intention to add more stories to Sir Pratchett’s universe, and, with the beautiful send off that ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ provides, rightly so. The return of many familiar characters combined with the specific storyline causing Tiffany’s whole arch to become almost circular, this is certainly a wonderful ‘Last Hurrah’. This review will contain spoilers of the novel, so, if you intend to read it, please skip to the final paragraph for a spoiler-free summary.
The novel begins with the dedication ‘For Esmeralda Weatherwax - Mind how you go.’ This hints to the tragedy that strikes early on in the novel - the character of Mistress/Granny/Esmeralda Weatherwax, the most senior witch in all of the Discworld, passes away. She has been present in Pratchett’s novels from the very beginning - her first appearance in the 1987 Discworldian novel, ‘Equal Rites’, where she recruits Wizard-to-be Eskarina Smith (incidentally, the only female wizard). In similar fashion, Granny’s death inspires Tiffany to take on Geoffrey, as an apprentice, the boy who will become the only male witch. This is only one of many themes that cause the novel’s nature to cause the Discworld story to seem almost cyclical. But back to the Death of Granny Weatherwax. Witches, somehow, know when they are going to die (usually a couple of days before the actual event). This allows them to get their affairs in order, tidy the house, say goodbye to all their friends. The calm nature in which Granny reacts is so real, and almost telling, of Pratchett’s own behaviour, regarding his terminal illness. ‘It’s an inconvenience, true enough, and I don’t like it at all, but I know that you do it for everyone, Mister Death’. There is a ripple as so many protagonists of other stories set in the Discworld are momentarily affected by this loss, therefore it will break anyone’s heart. From the many, many characters revisited in the novel, the discussion of loss, and the fact that Tiffany faces the same threat she did in her first novel - you get the sense that Pratchett knew. He was fully aware that this would be his final novel. So he did the best he could to say goodbye.
This is a novel full of mourning. Of saying goodbye to those you love, but still, never forgetting to live life, and do your duty. The novel ends with Tiffany deciding to follow her Grandmother (Granny Aching)’s footsteps, her step forward into her future a satisfying, and beautifully unfinished ending. Following that, there is a heart-breaking farewell from Rob Wilkins, Sir Pratchett’s friend, discussing all the stories that remain unwritten. Still, sixty six books in one lifetime isn’t bad. In my opinion, Sir Practhett’s words were magic - and, as he wrote himself, ‘It doesn’t stop being magic, just because you found out how it was done’.