This is a post that I've put off writing for a while because it feels like writing it makes it real, but it is real, regardless of what I say. I read The Shepherd's Crown, the final Terry Pratchett book, last week, and I want to talk about it, but it also feels like talking about it will somehow give it a sense of finality that it wouldn't have had if I hadn't yet talked about it. If that makes sense. Maybe it's that talking about it completes the process of reading the book, so it really is over. I also procrastinated about reading it. I had it about half a week before I let myself read it, and then after plowing through about half in one day I made the rest of it last the rest of the week.
It's hard to talk about the plot without spoiling a major event, and it's a book that isn't really about the plot. It's about the characters. The story is about the elves deciding to try to make a comeback, and it's up to young witch Tiffany Aching to find a way to stop them and save her land. But it's really a major coming-of-age story for Tiffany, who's still young but having to function like an adult, and it's about the way the world is changing, with new technology and new ideas.
I've read some reviews that say it reads like Pratchett knew this would be his last book, and I'd have to agree. There's a bit of a farewell tour among some of the major characters from the entire Discworld series, and it feels like most of the plot threads that intersect this particular sub-series are wrapped up well enough that we can feel like we know the outcome. I had the sense of an author saying goodbye to his people. Those were the parts that had me sobbing. There's a note at the end that says this book wasn't quite finished -- the story is complete, but all the usual tinkering that would have been done in revisions didn't get finished. I wouldn't say that I noticed this or felt any lack while reading it, but looking back and comparing it to other books, I can kind of see it.
It's hard to judge the book itself without all the emotions attached to it. I enjoyed reading it. I found it profound and funny at the same time. I want more, and it's sad that there won't be any more. It's definitely not something slapped together posthumously. It's worthy of the name on the cover. But it may be difficult for fans to read, in some respects, because these people have become real to us, and it's hard to say goodbye. Fortunately, there are all those other books we can revisit.
I would say that this is a book best read alone, with a box of tissues handy, and with your calendar cleared for the day (unless you end up doing like I did and dragging it out).