As someone who was deeply impacted by the work of the late Sir Terry Pratchett, it was with some trepidation that I began reading his final book. Part of me wanted to just leave it on the shelf, forever unread, so it would never be done. But I did, and, wow, what a book. Here are three key things you and your kids should be aware of.
3. Beware of continuity, newbs.
One of the great things about Terry Pratchett books is that they can largely be picked up and read in any order. You may miss things, but you can always go back and catch up. The one exception is the Tiffany Aching series, and this is absolutely one of those.
If your child has not read the previous Tiffany Aching books, make sure they read the others (Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, and I Shall Wear Midnight) first. Frankly, I had thought that the previous novel, I Shall Wear Midnight, was the perfect ending for that line–until I read this. In fact, it’s the perfect ending for the entire Discworld series. However, you only really need to read the Tiffany books to get the most out of it.
2. Continuity makes this great, guys.
Once you read it, you see that this could only ever be a Tiffany Aching story. Pratchett takes his 21st century protagonist and uses her to revisit themes and characters from prior books, including a callback to the very first Witches novel, Equal Rites. We get to see Magrat for the first time since Lords and Ladies came out in 1992 [Correction: Make that since 1998’s Carpe Juguulum]. One of the best bits of the Discworld series is that time moves, so a lot has gone on since, and it’s a joy to discover. A key bit is that, since the last time Pratchett used these particular antagonists, the Disc has moved into something of an industrial age. It’s a very, very different place, and that makes up a huge part of the story.
1. If you or your child cry at books, you’ll probably cry.
Like the first Tiffany Aching novel, a central theme of The Shepherd’s Crown is loss. Loss and growing from it. I read the first book right after my own grandmother passed away and found myself crying, and I am not a book-cryer. This time around, I started Saturday afternoon, and by the time I hit chapter three I was crying. There’s a key bit there that is just perfectly sad. Almost delightfully depressing, if that makes any sense.
Yes, it’s stronger if you’ve read the other books, but it’s still a powerful emotional moment. And, no, it’s nothing to do with the fact that this is Terry Pratchett’s last novel–at least until you read the Afterword. That’s a special punch-in-the-gut just for the fans.