Carolyn Cushman reviews Terry Pratchett, Sarah Prineas, David Weber

Terry Pratchett, The Shepherd’s Crown (Harper 978-0-06-242997-1, $18.00, 276pp, hc) September 2015. Cover by Jim Tierney.

Pratchett’s last Discworld novel is fifth in the Tiffany Aching series, and it comes with a major spoiler that is a little hard to talk around, for the few fans who haven’t already heard, but I’ll try. Tiffany Aching finds herself leading all the witches she can gather as elves – not the nice, pretty sort – break through in the Chalk and up on the mountains near Lancre. The elves come through assuming they’ve got the advantage, not realizing there have been some changes in the human world: railroads have been invented, leaving their deadly iron tracks all over the countryside and making respectable beings out of the goblins who work on them. But the elves have no intention of letting such things stop them, so it takes the combined efforts of the witches and the Nac Mac Feegle to defeat them, while Tiffany does a lot of thinking about where she belongs. Ultimately, it’s a touching tale, and a fine cap to the Discworld series.

*

Sarah Prineas, Ash & Bramble (HarperTeen 978-0-06-233794-8, $17.99, 449pp, hc) Sep­tember 2015. Cover by Joel Tippie.

The Fairy Godmother is evil in this twisted version of fairy tales, in which the power of Story is generated by arranging happily-ever-af­ters. Most of the characters in the Godmother’s fortress have lost their memories of who they really are, though, and slave away to supply the magical material items needed for the stories. (Glass slippers have to come from somewhere.) Vicious punishments await any who rebel at the work they’ve been set, or try to escape. Pin the Seamstress is a witch’s daughter, and thanks to the token she carries, has more memory and will than most of her fellow workers. She spends painful hours sewing fancy garments that will become part of some girl’s fairy-tale life – ex­cept Pin’s very poor at sewing. With help from the Shoemaker, she manages to escape, only to get caught up in a Cinderella story in the starring role. Pin’s part of the story is told in first person present tense, which helps establish her confu­sion, and adds a slight sense of the surreal to this strikingly different sort of twisted fairy tale.

*

David Weber, The Sword of the South (Baen 978-1-4767-8084-9, $27.00, 546pp, hc) August 2015. Cover by Dave Seeley.

Weber returns to the epic fantasy world of Bahzell Bahnakson, hradani champion of Tomonak Orfro, god of war. It’s now some 80 years after Bahzell became the champion of Tomonak, but he and his wife are still in fight­ing shape, despite having settled down with a tavern and a ten-year-old daughter. But enemies are on the move, trying to kill off the good guys to ease their efforts to conquer the continent of Norfressa. One enemy in particular, Baroness Wulfra of Torfo, has sent assassins against Bahzell and the wizard Wencit of Rum. Wencit, meanwhile, really wants something Wulfra has, and has met a man with serious amnesia – he picks the name Kenhodan – but is a great fighter, among other talents he discovers. Bahzell, Wen­cit, and Kenhodan take off to deal with Wulfra. Despite the time lapse between this and previous books, there’s a lot that fans of the series will find familiar – desperate battles and gruelling cross country treks – and Weber provides plenty of exposition and a glossary to help those new to the series (or those fans who just find it hard to keep track of the players).

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