Thursday, September 10, 2015
The Shepherd's Crown, by Sir Terry Pratchett
This is another Tiffany Aching adventure so we get to follow Tiffany as she comes into her own as a witch. The previous books have been about her training and learning what being a witch is really about, and by the time we get to Shepherd's Crown Tiffany is undoubtedly a full-fledged witch. Granted, she is struggling with the levels of responsibility that being a witch entails, but a tremendous number of people have great faith in her. However, as always, there are far greater problems afoot. It seems the elves are trying to return to the Disc once again, wishing to take their place as the "rightful" rulers. It will fall to Tiffany and the other witches to bring the fight to the elves.
Long-time readers of Discworld will remember that the elves have been dealt with before, in both Lords and Ladies and The Wee Free Men, so it makes sense for the elves to desire revenge. However, there is something almost idiotic in their desire to return to the Disc to spread terror. As the King of Elves said in Lords and Ladies, there was too much iron in the world then. And not just iron that people produced, there was iron in people's minds, which is why they got driven back to where they came from. And if it was bad enough back then, what about the Disc now? There are railroads on the Disc now, thanks to Raising Steam, practically the spirit of iron made manifest! In a world ruled by iron the elves are doomed to failure from the start. So in a way, I felt like the elves plot was almost a minor inconvenience compared to Tiffany struggling with being a fully-fledged witch and the transition to adulthood. It's still a good story, I was just smirking the entire time because I knew the elves were going to get it good this time.
I will also say that this book feels a little unfinished around the edges, like it's an earlier draft of what might be a much longer novel. And in the afterword they say basically that was Pratchett's entire process. He'd start writing a book, and then go back and add things, throw in details, link passages together, and if his publishers didn't pry the book away from him and run it off to the printers he probably never would have stopped tinkering with it. And so yes, I can see how it could have been extended a little bit here and there. But I feel that the decision to publish the book as-is, without someone else trying to expand on what Pratchett was trying to write, is a very respectful one and I'm very happy for the book we got, rather than no book at all.
As much as Raising Steam felt like a bit of a good-bye to the series for a lot of readers, The Shepherd's Crown feels like one as well. And personally it's a good-bye that I think we all needed. It's good to see some of our friends one last time, just to check up and see that everything's all right. And the Disc is there. The Disc will always be there, with things running along smoothly. The railroads and the clacks are bringing the Disc together, and even trolls and dwarfs are getting along together. And Tiffany Aching will be there, keeping an eye on the Chalk, calling in on people that get overlooked, making sure old men on their own have a hot meal every now and then. As much as I hate to leave the Disc behind, I think it's in good hands.