Terry Pratchett's new book The Shepherd's Crown 'magnificent'

Posthumous novel The Shepherd's Crown is feted by fans and critics as a 'proper send-off'

Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett's final novel, The Shepherd's Crown, which has been released five months after the author's death, has met with widespread acclaim.

The 41st novel in his Discworld series went on sale in the UK and Commonwealth at midnight last night, and will come out in the US on 1 September.

Fans gathered for midnight openings at stores in London, Oxford and Newcastle, reports the BBC. And in Australia, one book store says it will be offering free tissues with books, because "this really is goodbye".

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Sir Terry died aged 66 in March, eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, an illness he called an "embuggerance". The author had developed a huge following for his Discworld series, a gentle parody of fantasy novels that also offers a satire on modern life.

Critics, too, have lavished praise on his last novel, and spoken of their regret over the author's early death.

In the Daily Telegraph, Kat Brown calls The Shepherd's Crown "magnificent". This isn't just a great Discworld book, "it's extraordinary; a proper send-off for Pratchett and this mammoth series".

"His trademark wisdom and seemingly bottomless knowledge remains sharp," she says, as earlier themes and characters return for a last hurrah, anchored by one of his most popular recent characters, young witch Tiffany Aching.

Pratchett knew when he sat down to write the book that it would be his last, says David Barnett in The Independent. "It's impossible to open the book without a sense of melancholia," he says, "and it feels like the author embarked upon the writing of it weighted with the same."

A farewell letter to his legion of fans, the book was not entirely finished when Pratchett died. Nevertheless, Barnett says, it is a fine novel in its own right, "sometimes sad, often funny and eminently suitable testament to the life and career of Terry Pratchett".

In The Guardian, author AS Byatt adds to the chorus of praise and sadness, saying that Pratchett's last novel illustrates how he had moved increasingly away from pure fantasy to social and moral exploration.

"Nothing in Pratchett stays still and his inventive energy, book after book after book, is astounding." She will miss Pratchett very much, she says – "his loss is a persisting embuggerance".

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