I recently read this book – the last Sir Terrance wrote before he died. According to a note by his assistant in the end of the book Terry would have given the text one final polish before the book’s release had he not died before having the time to do so. There were few spots in the book where this lack of polish was noticeable. For the most part this book was as good as many of the better Discworld books.
One interesting aspect of the book was how it inverted many of the things that were introduced in the first three books. Instead of a girl wanting to become a wizard there is a boy wanting to be a witch. Instead of parodies of fictional characters such as Hrun the barbarian there are similar uses made of things from the real world – such as the men’s sheds (the mere mention would have been funny, that they are an essential element of the story is even better).
Throughout the series is a running reference to the way axes are passed down through dwarf families. Sometimes it needs a new head and sometimes it needs a new handle but it is still considered to be the same axe. This becomes the basis for one element of Shepherd’s Crown when Tiffany want’s to get Granny’s broom repaired so her new assistant can use it. The dwarf repairing it decides that both the bristles and the handle need replacing in order to get the broom back to proper functioning. Tiffany had insisted that the broom be repaired rather than replaced and so this was the way the dwarf obeyed that instruction.
The book also revisited events from the early book ‘Lords and Ladies” with another invasion attempt by the elves. This gave an opportunity to mention just about every witch mentioned in all of the prior books as well as a number of other characters who only appeared in that one book – such as the elf king.
About the only thing I couldn’t figure out in the book was the relevance of the Shepherd’s Crown itself. It could have been left out of the story completely without affecting the overall story to any great extent. I can only assume that Terry was intending to make it more relevant to the story during the final rewrite in order to justify it as the name of the book.
The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the reference at the end to passages that Terry had written for future books that will now never be finished. I can’t see that knowing about books that were started and will never be finished achieves anything meaningful.
I did meet Terry once. Almost 20 years ago he was signing books in a local bookshop on my birthday and I spent my entire lunch break waiting for the opportunity to meet him. Of course I had to buy a copy of ‘Science of Discworld’ for him to sign as I already had copies of all of the actual books in the series at home.
Now looking forward to the publication of the fifth and last book in the ‘Long Earth’ series which I started reading recently. As he was only one of the two authors of that series (having come up with the original idea but not had time to fully develop it himself) that will presumably be able to be completed by Stephen Baxter (whose other books may soon find their way onto my book wish list).