British Fiction Focus

Speak His Name: Covering The Shepherd’s Crown

“A man is not dead while his name is still spoken,” tweeted @terryandrob late last week. That’s the same @terryandrob who broke the terrible news about Sir Terry Pratchett’s passing back in March. It’s a pleasure, however, to speak the man’s great name again today, in the wake of the release of the cover art of the final Discworld novel.

We don’t know a great deal about The Shepherd’s Crown to date, but I dare say we don’t have long to wait. Almost exactly a year since Pratchett put the finishing touches to the saga last summer, the forthcoming forty-first instalment of the Discworld mythos—and the bestselling series’ default finale, sadly—will be published on August 27 by Doubleday in the UK.

The cover, by Pratchett’s frequent partner in magic Paul Kidby, does reveal a few details, not least about a couple of the charming characters we can expect to spend the last week of August with. As The Guardian reports:

The British jacket shows Tiffany [Aching] and the Nac Mac Feegles, the six-inch fairies with red hair and blue skin who speak a Scots dialect (“Ye ken, we’ve been robbin’ and running aroound on all kinds o’ worlds for a lang time, and I’ll tell ye this: the universe is a lot more comp-li-cated than it looks from the ooutside,” one says in The Wee Free Men). It also depicts a white cat, presumably You, the kitten given by Tiffany to Granny Weatherwax. Advertising material for the novel from Waterstones shows it surrounded by bees.

These bees play a markedly more prominent role on the cover of the US edition of The Shepherd’s Crown, telling us—well. Not a lot beyond the fact that there will be bees! Yet inquiring minds might connect those buzzing wee beasties with the reckoning that’s evidently ahead, as Pratchett’s Facebook page has reminded readers repeatedly in recent weeks.

The-Shepherds-Crown-by-Terry-Pratchett-UK

Relatedly, albeit belatedly: though The Shepherd’s Crown represents our last trip to the Discworld for the foreseeable—much as it pains me to moot it, I know better than to ever say forever—a couple of other upcoming books are bound to bear Terry Pratchett’s great name, including The Long Utopia in June, and the contracted conclusion to said series, which the late creator co-authored with Stephen Baxter.

But for the moment, let’s close on this genuinely affecting excerpt from A Hat Full of Sky:

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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