After I finished Terry Pratchett’s last Tiffany Aching book, The Shepherd’s Crown, I found myself thinking about Diana Wynne Jone’s Islands of Chaldea. Both were posthumously published, but the literary executors or whoever made the decisions took them in different directions.

The thing about Shepherd’s Crown is that it’s not Pratchett’s best book. What it reads like, rather, is a completed draft midway through the polishing of what could have been one of Pratchett’s best books. When he died, they apparently decided to publish it more or less as is. The whole story is there with no parts missing, but the words just don’t quite dance in the way I expect from Pratchett. They’re a bit stiffer, with creaky joints here and there though of course you notice it less as you get sucked into the story. I think publishing it that way was the right decision; I’m not sure anyone else could duplicate Pratchett’s voice, and depriving us of a last chance to follow Tiffany would have been a much greater crime than a few creaks and crotchets here and there. It’s also likely to be of interest for anyone who wants a view into how Pratchett worked.

When Diana Wynne Jones died, on the other hand, her sister Ursula Jones finished The Islands of Chaldea. She did a seamless job; I can’t tell where Diana leaves off and Ursula begins, and, unlike some other “finished by” novels whose second author adulterated the brew, this one feels like a Diana Wynne Jones book. This was also a right decision even though it was the opposite one from The Shepherd’s Crown.

I don’t think the situations could have been reversed. One obvious Ursula Jones – not only that she’s an author herself, or has the same genetics, but maybe that she and Diana were raised by the same set of wolves (Really. Not nice people.) cemented a bond or set their minds working in similar ways. I don’t know if Pratchett would have had someone like that, even though he did work with other writers. But the other thing is their writing styles. You can always tell a Diana Wynne Jones book – it’s like nothing else in the literary world. But you can tell a Pratchett sentence. Her quirkiness is in her characters, the worlds she builds, and the way she describes them – or doesn’t – but his gets down to the word level. Trying to write in Pratchett’s style would be exhausting; you’d always be wondering if you’d mentioned socks enough, or had a Feegle tell the truth too many times, or just somehow lost the balance somewhere. Ursula Wynne Jones said it felt like Diana was watching over her shoulder every step pf the way, which would be hard enough without also always having to look over your own shoulder. (That might be an example of Second Thoughts – or maybe Third Thoughts.)

So anyway. Totally different decisions, but I think both were right ones, and I thank the people who made the tough choices and gave me the chance to spend one more book in Jones’ and Pratchett’s worlds.