Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Review: The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

Publication Date: August 27th 2015
Publisher: Doubleday Children’s/Penguin Random House UK Children’s
Length: 344 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday Children’s/Penguin Random House UK Children’s for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

A shivering of worlds
Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.
This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.
As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. 
Her land. 
There will be a reckoning...

This is a really hard review to write, because on the one hand there is a part of me feeling devastated this is Terry Pratchett’s last novel and the bittersweet melancholy and love of Discworld part of me wants to give it a full five stars. But there is another part of me that (reading it objectively) knows that this just isn’t as good as some of his other novels.

It states in the afterword that this book isn’t in the fully finished state that we have come to expect from Pratchett’s works. He had finished writing it, in that it is a complete story with ‘a beginning, a middle, and an end’ but it is not finished finished. Not polished and honed and fully explored. And that shows. There is something missing from this book, some spark or sharpness that I have loved in all of Pratchett’s other works, where yes it is a good story, but it isn’t brilliant.

The writing wavers intermittently between the brilliance we have all come to expect, and something less focused. There were whole swathes where I felt (I hate to say this) a little bored reading it, where the writing ambled at a much slower pace and with less focus or purpose. Which is partly why it was so hard to rate because there were those dreaded parts where I wasn’t enjoying the story so much that it dropped to a three, and other parts where the story picked up and I was laughing and thrilled and loving it where it was a solid four. Those are the sections where it is abundantly clear that this was not the finished story that Pratchett wanted to tell. They read like an outline of scenes and ideas with little character, and so it is a strange read this mix of Pratchett genius with Pratchett thoughts combined into a ‘finished’ piece. There are also several subplots that appear and then disappear randomly and would obviously have had a lot more to them had he had the time he wanted to finish it. As a result the ending feels a little rushed and haphazard, but it is no less satisfying to read.

I don’t want to discuss the plot because I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is very well done. It was bittersweet and a fitting last novel – I’m not ashamed to admit that I was in tears at several parts. It felt at points, as though Pratchett knew this would be the last and is infusing the story with that knowledge.

If you haven’t read any Pratchett novels before I don’t recommend starting with this one. ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ is not his best novel, and you are far better off starting with one of his earlier ones and coming to it at a later point. However for returning fans of Discworld, of the Witches, of Tiffany Aching, this book (whilst not quite on a par with his usual brilliance) will be a must read. It’s bittersweet with moments of brilliance, and still an incredibly good novel. Just be aware going in that whilst it ‘has a beginning, a middle and an end’ this is not the finished novel that Pratchett most likely would have wanted readers to find. Enjoy it simply, for what it is – the last new outing in Discworld we will have.

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