Posts tagged ‘the color of magic’

The Colour of Magic

“It is forbidden to fight on the Killing Ground,” he said, and paused while he considered the sense of this. “You know what I mean, anyway.”

“I wish to be directed to an hotel, tavern, lodging house, inn, hospice, caravanserai,” he said. “What, all of them?” said Hugh, taken aback.

The Colour of Magic is the first of Terry Pratchett’s acclaimed Discworld series. The book’s main character is the inept wizard Rincewind, a master at languages, running away from things, and survival and a failure at most else. Rincewind lives (at least at the book’s start) in the city of Ankh-Morpork, a loosely defined fantasy city full of thieves, assassins, barbarian heroes and the rest of the fantasy stock types. The book begins (after a brief introduction) with a pair of heroes, parodies of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, watching the city of Ankh-Morpork burn down. They see Rincewind gallop out of the city, followed by a mysterious figure attempting to ride a horse. The two heroes accost him, and ask who the figure is. Rincewind explains to them, in exchange for food. The person is Twoflower, a visitor to Ankh-Morpork. He comes from a seemingly more modern land, as he himself is a clerk for an insurance company. (Although in Rincewind’s tongue, this is pronounced. reflected-sounds-of-underground-spirits.) Twoflower thinks he is poor, but his money is gold, which is common in Twoflower’s home but valuable in Ankh-Morpork. Rincewind becomes his tour guide, and helps him survive in a city where even the cockroaches had an unerring instinct for gold. Twoflower tours the city, taking pictures with his demon-operated camera and having a good time. It begins to go downhill when Twoflower offers the owner of the tavern/inn that he is staying in a fire insurance policy. The owner decides to burn down the inn, and the city burns as a result. When this story ends, the heroes ride away, leaving Rincewind and Twoflower to explore.

From here on, Rincewind and Twoflower explore the continent. The book is really more like a set of chronological novellas than it is a single united story. Rincewind and Twoflower are playing pieces in an intensely complicated game run by the Gods which is suspiciously like the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. They tangle with a Lovecraftian horror from beyond the boundaries of space and time. (Twoflower kills it with his camera.) They get involved with a parody of the famous Dragonriders of Pern series. They even take a brief journey into our world!

This is not one of Pratchett’s best works, at least in my opinion. Most of it is purely a parody of other famous fantasies, with very little of the originality of his later works. It does introduce Rincewind, one of his most beloved protagonists whom often appears. Nevertheless, it does not possess the same degree of plot or humor as even its immediate successor, The Light Fantastic. If you enjoy starting at the beginning of a series, this is the place to start. If you want a representative sample of Pratchett’s work, a better place to start would be Guards, Guards, the ninth book and the start of the City Watch subseries. This, merged with The Light Fantastic was recently made into a movie.

My Rating: 73/100

Next Up In Pratchett Reviews: The Light Fantastic

April 20, 2009 at 7:18 AM 2 comments


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