The Shepherd's Crown: Tiffany Aching Adventures, Book 5

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Shepherd's Crown: Tiffany Aching Adventures, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Final Discworld novel hits the mark with rich fantasy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

As in all the Discworld books, The Shepherd's Crown plays with the conventions of fairy tales and fantasy stories, encouraging readers to see folklore and myth in a different -- often amusing -- light.

Positive Messages

When people die, their memories live on in the people they knew and loved. If one can find compassion for an enemy, it's possible to change them for the better. It's better to put the needs of others before your own.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tiffany Aching may be young, but she is an extremely conscientious witch. She cares enormously about the residents of Chalk and Lancre, the two communities for which she's responsible after the death of Granny Weatherwax. She's brave and resourceful and doesn't back down from a fight. She's also compassionate, willing to help even one of her enemies when given the choice.

Violence

Although some of the invading elves restrict themselves to minor mischief, others attack human encampments, with deadly results. The violence generally is implied rather than described in detail. Tiffany kills three elves and initially feels horrified by her actions, despite the extenuating circumstances. The climactic battle has its share of fatalities.

Sex

A few subtle jokes about male genital size. Tiffany has a budding romance with Preston, a boy her age who's away training to be a doctor, and there's mild flirting between them.

Language

One or two uses of "damn" and "arse."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A number of scenes in taverns, where alcohol's served. Various adult characters enjoy local beer or whiskey, usually for "medicinal purposes."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Shepherd's Crown is the final Discworld novel by the late Terry Pratchett. Although it's possible to follow the story without previous exposure to the series, it is better that new readers start elsewhere. Violence is usually implied, rather than described, but there are a handful of mildly violent scenes, including one in which the main character, Tiffany, regrets killing three elves. Swearing is limited to a couple uses of "damn" and "arse." Scenes set in taverns and pubs include alcohol consumption, and some adult characters use whiskey for "medicinal purposes." There's mild flirting between Tiffany and her beau, as well as some jokes about male genital size.

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What's the story?

When Granny Weatherwax dies at the start of THE SHEPHERD'S CROWN, young witch Tiffany Aching must learn how to take her place. It's a formidable job, especially when the once-banished elves have their hearts set on slipping through the portal between worlds and causing deadly havoc on the human side. When the battle comes, it's up to Tiffany to marshal the forces who will prevent all-out disaster.

Is it any good?

Written well after its author was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, this final Discworld novel delivers a fond farewell to a rich fantasy world. Tiffany Aching is a sturdy but affecting protagonist, a young woman searching for the best way to serve the many demands on her precious time. While filled with subtle wordplay and can't-miss slapstick, The Shepherd's Crown also is a serious reflection on what makes a good life and a proper death. 

Readers new to the series should definitely not start with this installment, but longtime readers will be rewarded with cameos by beloved characters. There's no other writer like Pratchett, and The Shepherd's Crown demonstrates why he's irreplaceable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why fantasy novel series are so popular. What do these sagas, often multi-volume, offer that other genres do not?

  • When someone dies, what kinds of rituals are performed by surviving relatives and friends? How do these rituals differ in various cultures?

  • How can a leader delegate responsibilities so she or he doesn't burn out due to stress?

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