Terry Pratchett – The Shepherd’s Crown
Read By: Stephen Briggs
Length: 7h 54m (288 pages)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Started: 10 October 2015
Finished: 13 October 2015
Where did it come from? From HarperChildren’s Audio for review.
Why do I have it? I love the Tiffany Aching books.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 29 September 2015.
is dead, leaving a hole that
Tiffany must fill.
Summary: Tiffany Aching is the Witch for the Chalk, the rural area where she was born. Mostly her duties involve doing what needs to be done – tending to the sick and dying, helping those that need it, and keeping the Nac Mac Feegles in line. She’s happy with her life, although she’s still trying to figure out what to do about Preston, who is studying to be a doctor in the city. But when Granny Weatherwax dies, Tiffany’s comfortable life is about to be turned on its head. Witches don’t have a leader, but if they did, it would have been Granny Weatherwax… and she’s left everything – her house, her steading, and her responsibilities – to young Tiffany. Now Tiffany is being run ragged trying to shoulder everything, but she’s got bigger problems than just unhappy villagers, for one of the things that Granny Weatherwax did was to shore up the borders of the world, and now that they’re weakened, there are those in Faerie who have a mind to breach those barriers and invade the human world for good.
Review: This was Pratchett’s last book. There’s a postscript explaining how he was a tinkerer, editing and adding until the last minute and sometimes beyond, and that in this book, he died in the middle of that process. And, while I enjoyed this book overall, it did feel somewhat unfinished. The primary story arc was complete, the plot had a beginning, middle, and (slightly rushed) end, and most of the subplots did wrap up, or at least come to a stopping place. But the various subplots (the exiled fairy queen, Geoffrey, the whole matter with Preston) didn’t all feel as well developed, as rounded, as they could have been, nor did they all seem particularly well integrated into the main plot. Geoffrey, his desire to be a witch (NOT a wizard, as is traditional for men), and his goat Mephistopheles fared the best of the subplots, and he was one of the most interesting characters to me. The Nac Mac Feegles, on the other hand, didn’t have a lot to do for most of this book, and they seemed to mostly hover around the rafters providing occasional color commentary (that color being blue, of course.) (Although I was listening to this book at the same time I was binging on the Outlander TV series, and the first time that a character on the show said “Crivens!”, I burst out laughing, even though it was a fairly serious scene.) I also thought that – maybe for the first time in this series – Pratchett was drawing pretty heavily on his other Discworld books, or on the understanding that his readers had read them (which I haven’t, for the most part, and which didn’t seem to be a problem for the earlier Tiffany Aching books). Not that there was anything not understandable about the plot, and he explains the significance of various events (the building of the railways is a major one) on the Disc well enough to follow. But as Tiffany grows up, she’s encountering a wider world than just the Chalk, so while I understand why this series couldn’t stay entirely self-contained (and why Pratchett might want to bring in some of his favorite characters to say goodbye), I got the feeling that there were recurring characters and in-jokes and subtle meanings to a lot of it that went over my head.
One of my favorite things about things about the Tiffany Aching books, and Pratchett’s YA books in general, is that they really just seem to have their head on right, and have such a sensible perspective about things that all kids have to face. While that general perspective is certainly present here, it’s not as much in the forefront as in the earlier books in the series. Perhaps because the first few books are more coming-of-age books, and in this one, Tiffany’s pretty much come of age already, and while she still does have some growing up to do and some lessons to learn (namely, “you don’t have to do everything yourself”, and about the nature of grief, and how you can move on when you lose someone important), she doesn’t undergo as much of a transformation as a character as in the earlier books when she was younger. There are still a lot of really moving scenes in this book, especially so when they’re considered in light of Pratchett facing his own mortality – Granny Weatherwax getting ready for meeting Death got me a little misty-eyed; I can’t imagine what it must have done to fans who had been invested in Discworld for decades.
My other favorite thing about the Tiffany Aching books is Stephen Briggs’s narration, which is a great match to Pratchett’s dry sense of humor and his more serious moments, and is great at providing a variety of voices, including a hilarious and perfectly (in)appropriate version of the Feegles.
So, overall, while this book wasn’t the strongest in the series, the bones of the book it could have been were visible under its surface, and while I wish Pratchett could have had the time to get this book to where he wanted it, I did quite enjoy it in its present form, and I’m glad we got one final Tiffany Aching book before he went. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Not Pratchett’s strongest, for reasons described above, but certainly not his weakest, either. The Discworld books are so intertwined (and so numerous) that it’s hard to know where to start, but this one definitely needs to be read after the other Tiffany Aching books (and would probably benefit from being read soon after The Wee Free Men, as the Fairy Queen from the first Tiffany Aching book comes back to play a substantial role in this one.) But the series as a whole is really excellent, and definitely recommended for newcomers to Pratchett.
First Line: It was born in the darkness of the Circle Sea; at first just a soft floating thing, washed back and forth by tide after tide.
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