I knew that regardless of what the last Discworld book was going to be, I was going to end up crying. Not because some stories would get neatly wrappeI knew that regardless of what the last Discworld book was going to be, I was going to end up crying. Not because some stories would get neatly wrapped up (and I really don’t think that the Discworld series could ever truly end, the series always felt that we would end with the world continuing onward as the Great A’Tuin swims further in space), but because that this would be it. Even if Terry Pratchett had stopped writing and had a few years before his eventual death, I would have probably had that same reaction. (I cried the entire day at work when I found out that he passed away, and my friends and my mother asked me if I was going to be okay.)
(I should also mention I intentionally put off reading The Shepherd’s Crown mostly because I had some sudden real life changes that I was incredibly upset and angry over. There’s only so much constant crying that I can take at one time, regardless of the reasons for it.
That said, I ended up finishing this book, at the end of my lunch break and sobbing my eyes out. I had three people ask me what was wrong and couldn’t understand why I was so upset by a book ending.)
The Shepherd’s Crown is what I wanted from a final Discworld book. The prevailing theme of Discworld has always been the world will change, for better or for worse, and all anyone can do is make those changes and the world better. Especially with the last handful of books—the introduction of the clacks and finally, the railway system being introduced in Raising Steam—the fact that this world is changing so rapidly that the old ways are slowly becoming outdated has been such a hallmark, more in the last ten years of the series than it has been overall.
(view spoiler)[I had heard the spoiler very early on that Granny Weatherwax dies in this book. I was not prepared for it to be so early in the book, that when I realized it, I was at least a little ready to brace myself for the eventual outpouring of tears. (I started sniffling when Nanny says “It should have been me.” Full-on tears happened when Mustrum Ridcully showed up to pay his respects.) But I think that’s what makes this works so well—it’s not about mourning the loss of one of the stalwarts of the series, but rather about making room for the next generation and allowing for the world to move on. And I also love the perfect symmetry of the series in the end—Esme’s first appearance was about what happens when a girl wants to become a wizard (oh god Eskerina’s reaction when Esme died); her last features a boy who wants to be a witch. (hide spoiler)]
I think that it works more for the overall plotline. While the faeries have been a beginning underlying presence with the Tiffany Aching books, I liked that their presence is more to underscore one of the last few ideas of “conservative” thinking to going to back the ways thing are…except that the world has changed so much that the faeries’ ideas about coming back to take over the Discworld is laughable. Which isn’t to say the things they do aren’t horrific or disturbing, but compared to their first invasion in Lords and Ladies, there’s no way that they’d be able to withstand the new world of railways and iron.
But outside of the world-building and dressing, this series has always been about Tiffany and her growing up. While I’d argue that I Shall Wear Midnight is really the one about Tiffany embracing adulthood (which again, is a book I can’t read without crying, but for specific personal reasons), and this really underscores what that means. And that means you can’t do everything that everyone expects of you and that you can’t handle everything on your own all of the time. I really liked Tiffany’s mentorship of Geoffrey and how well they’re able to work together, especially as Tiffany’s personal obligations start becoming more straining on her.
And that’s why I really like how the ideas of adulthood are framed through the book—it’s clear that Tiffany’s ready to leave home, but she wants to do it on her own terms. (view spoiler)[Which is why I liked that she gives Granny Weatherwax’s cottage to Geoffrey in the end, and chooses to go back to the Aching homestead. I like this idea that even though the world will change and it’s good to accept those changes, there are things that will never change, the things that have stood the test of time. (hide spoiler)]
It should be telling that the strongest relationship in this book is between Tiffany and the deposed faerie queen, Nightshade. That Tiffany—who has no reason at all to trust Nightshade—decides to show kindness to her, and the decision to affect change for the faeries’ involvement with the world. And I like that while Nightshade doesn’t completely grasp how humanity works, she’s willing to learn from Tiffany. (Although I love her insistence to put on a completely inaccurate glamour for the situation and Tiffany going “No. Just no. No dairymaid looks like that.”) (view spoiler)[And it’s a heartbreaking moment where Peasebossom does kill Nightshade because he could do it in that moment. Of course, it’s all for naught that seeing as there’s no way that the faeries can’t truly exist in this world anymore.
There’s also a lot of the book here, especially with the callbacks and return of the majority of the witches in here. My heart soared and I started getting choked up again when Magrat went to go get Queen Ynci’s armor for the battle against the elves. I also really liked seeing again how the witch supremacy works, especially given that Granny Weatherwax is gone for good. (And it should be telling as well that one of our final looks at Lord Vetinari is Drumknott informing him about her passing—it seems like a missed opportunity that the two never got to butt heads on screen, but that’s what makes it work for me in the end). And I liked Geoffrey well enough, but I wasn’t jumping all over his scenes of talking to the men in the pub and encouraging them to create their own spaces. It’s not a bad subplot, but it didn’t grab me. The only thing that I don’t think works is the fate of little Tiffany, who’s been routinely ignored by her parents and put in danger. (Then again, I can’t fault Pratchett and Rob Wilkins for this either, but I do wish there was a definitive resolution for that storyline.)
(I’ve seen a theory that Granny Weatherwax isn’t really dead, that’s she’s been Borrowing You the entire time. I honestly don’t believe that idea, based on Granny’s views on Borrowing and the idea of death in general. I think that, much like Granny Aching and her sheepdogs, that her spirit generally lives on in Lancre and the land, because that feels more true to her character. Not to say that she doesn’t have some influence over You, but I really don’t think that Granny is inhabiting her cat full-time now.) (hide spoiler)]
As I said at the beginning, I don’t know what I wanted the last Discworld book to be, and I don’t think that we could have gotten a more perfect ending than what we have in here. I don’t think there could have ever been one last Grand Discworld Adventure to neatly wrap up all of the plotlines (and really by this point, those stories have been finished years ago), and I think putting the focus on how much the world has changed since Twoflower first stepped foot in Ankh-Morpork to now, with steam engines and the new generation coming into their own and changing the world for the better is the perfect way to have ended the series.
The Turtle still moves. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
**spoiler alert** Of the many (many, many) story arcs that occur on the Discworld, Moist von Lipwig isn’t one of my particular favorites. Not that I h**spoiler alert** Of the many (many, many) story arcs that occur on the Discworld, Moist von Lipwig isn’t one of my particular favorites. Not that I hate the Moist books or even dislike them, but they’re not the ones I tend to go back to the most. (The Lancre witches and Death books are my favorite series. The Rincewind books are probably my least favorite—again, I don’t hate any of the Discworld books, but I have the hardest time getting into those.) With the Moist books, it feels like there’s so much set up to the book before the plot actually gets going. And that makes sense, given the Moist books are the closer satires to the real world than most of the other books in the series.
Like in here—the bulk of the first quarter of the book is dedicated more to Dick Simnel’s steam engine and the growing discontent in the dwarven community, before the action finally gets Moist von Lipwig involved. I think that the slow build-up helps the book. Much of the plot deals with the fallouts from The Fifth Elephant and Thud!, so a lot of the details before we get to Vetinari’s bringing the steam engine (and Ankh-Morpork, and by extension, the Discworld) into the new century.
I really like that over the course of the last few books, the culture and society of Ankh-Morpork has changed, and we see the effects of this reaching out towards the rest of the Discworld. And I like that there’s been a good gap of time between Raising Steam and Thud! because the cultural conflict feels more realistic and natural—it’s been touched on in the intervening books, but things have been given time to percolate and boil over to the point where the grags are going to get violent. (view spoiler)[And while the ending of the book feels a little too nice and neat, I do really like that this ends with Rhys Rhysson shattering one of the biggest dwarf taboos and revealing her gender to the world at large. (hide spoiler)] I think that this book has done a better job with the underlying theme of acceptance than Unseen Academicals or Snuff did—we see how the goblins have been integrated into society, and how the more established races deal with the goblins’ presence.
Raising Steam feels much larger in scope than any of the other books in the series. I think that this is the first book where the plot overreaches several years rather than a quick few months of action, and really spans the whole of the Discworld. We’ve seen other cities and spent long months in-book travelling to them, but this is the first where we really feel the distance and scope of the entire world. But it makes sense, as this is a book all about interconnectivity and how it’s needed to move the world into the modern century. As Vetinari says, “If it is time for the steam engine to come, then let it come.”
(Can I mention the sheer number of callbacks and shout outs in this book? Plot developments aside, this book is made for a drinking game with the number of things to pick out for fans. My personal favorite is Adora Belle mentioning that one of the Lancre witches bums coffee off the Lancre clacksmen “particularly if they’re young.” Oh, GYTHA. <3)
And it’s also reflected in how the characters have changed throughout the books, particularly Moist. It does seem a little boring when we finally catch up to him, and he’s settled down in his two jobs, and now married to Adora Belle and we’re expecting the swindling bastard to show up. But given that Vetinari knows everything (probably even my own feelings about this book), it’s only a matter of time before Moist is up to his old tricks. And even though things are on the up-and-up, Moist is still Moist, and he manages to pull off miracles in the face of the sheer impossible.
I also like that, instead of continually introducing new characters per book, Pratchett’s been delving more into the background characters and really expanding them. Like with Harry King, who’s popped up a few times, but we’ve never really gotten to know him beyond being the King of the Golden River. He made for a good foil to Moist, and I really liked of their scenes together. And I do like Dick Simnel—he’s a decent enough character, and I liked his development throughout the story. (It’s also nice to have a regular human character not driven to madness by harnessing advanced technology.)
I know that I haven’t liked Terry Pratchett’s more recent work, and I don’t want to be the person who wants him to only write Discworld until the inevitable occurs. (I do like Pratchett’s non-Discworld books, I do! I just really didn’t like The Long Earth duo, and there’s going to be a third one and I’m conflicted about it.) I think that Raising Steam is more of a return to form for Pratchett, and that he successfully pulls off updating his world without shoehorning in technology for the sake of modernization. It’s really well handled, and I think this has been well worth the wait. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Huzzah, this year’s Discworld book is out and I have read it! The Night Watch cycle isn’t in my top favorites in the series (those would be the WitcheHuzzah, this year’s Discworld book is out and I have read it! The Night Watch cycle isn’t in my top favorites in the series (those would be the Witches of Lancre and Death), but starting with Men at Arms, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the set.
What works extremely well is that Vimes is out of his element and there’s little involvement with the rest of the Ankh-Morpork Watch. Which I liked, not only does it put Vimes into a situation wherein he needs to send a member out to do some investigating, but he gets to go back and do coppering on his own. (Not that the AM Watch doesn’t get involved in the mystery, they’re just not AS involved.) There’s always been a sense of class warfare in the later Night Watch books, so having Vimes deal with those prejudices in the much-slower-to-adapt countryside, particularly with the tenants of his land, was interesting than the usual “Ankh-Morpork aristocrats dealing in dirty business.” (More on that below.) (Also, the Pride and Prejudice parody of Sibyl’s friends was brilliant.)
While I liked the main plot of the triangle trade and getting further into Discworld’s tolerance levels, I had some trouble adjusting to the goblin plotline. I liked their inclusion, I liked learning about their culture and it’s noticeably different from any number of the races that have appeared prior. But the whole subplot with Felicity Beedle instructing the goblins about the aboveground world felt a little too close to Nutt’s backstory from Unseen Academicals. It doesn’t help that goblins and orcs are described as being somewhat similar in physiology, and there’s the same prejudice of “Well, something THAT horrible and nasty can’t possibly be cultured!” If Snuff had come before Unseen Academicals, I think I wouldn’t have had this problem. (I don’t remember if goblins have shown up before—it’s a plot point in here, that there’s no goblin tunnels in Ankh-Morpork, but I don’t remember if they’ve popped up beforehand.) That said though, I did like the triangle trade plot. It was interesting, it kept me guessing on how things were going to turn out in the end. I also liked Colon’s attachment to the goblin jar—Cheery even says in the book that his attitude to non-human species needs a firm readjustment, and I did like his character development.
Wilikins had great development in this. Thud! mentioned his street gang past, and I loved seeing his methods of ‘dealing’ with unscrupulous individuals. On the other hand, I would have liked more characterization and motivation for Stratford, aside from the money. Having murderous psychopaths is all well and fine, but there’s a large amount of them on the Discworld. I would have liked to have seen more of the bartender and his backstory, and I really liked Feeney and Jefferson. Part of me wants a spin-off series. I also loved the down scenes with Young Sam and Vimes—there was a little of this in Thud!, but it’s nice to see Vimes take time out of his day to spend with his son, even if the majority of their activities are poo-related. And, also, Vetinari losing his shit over the crossword puzzle compiler is WIN.
Overall, it’s decent entry in the series, definitely a step forward to Vimes, but it’s not quite jumped into my absolute favorite pile. ...more