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Terry Pratchett – The Color of Magic

August 11, 2014

62. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (1983)
Discworld, Book 1

Length: 210 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Humor

Started: 20 July 2014
Finished: 26 July 2014

Where did it come from? Downloaded from Amazon.
Why do I have it? Many years ago, a friend tried to get me started on reading Pratchett with the early Discworld books (The Light Fantastic, specifically). I didn’t particularly love it, but then I came across Pratchett’s YA books and loved them… so I thought it was about time for me to give early Discworld another try.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 17 September 2013.

Protecting hapless
tourists might be a job for
a better wizard.

Summary: Twoflower is an insurance salesman and tourist, freshly arrived to the city of Ankh-Morpork from the distant and exotic Agatean empire. Rincewind is a not-very-good wizard (he only knows one spell, but he doesn’t dare to use it) who has been tasked with protecting Twoflower by city politicians eager to avoid angering the Agateans. Unbeknownst to them, however, they are being used as pawns in a game played by the Gods, and so Rincewind and Twoflower find themselves fleeing the city just ahead of an enormous fire, taking up with a barbarian, destroying a rather nasty temple, running into some invisible dragons, and narrowly avoiding falling over the edge of the Disc, all while being trailed by Twoflower’s sentient, loyal, and slightly murderous luggage.

Review: The Color of Magic is by far the roughest of Pratchett’s novels that I’ve read. It’s certainly understandable, since it’s the first Discworld novel (and one of Pratchett’s first novels, full stop.) A lot of time is spent introducing the world of Discworld, its geography, its cosmology, its metaphysics – these are amusing infodumps, but they’re still infodumps. The action of the story is also extremely episodic: Rincewind and Twoflower are plunged from one disaster into the next with only the barest connective tissue. But the good news is that each of the individual pieces are enjoyable on their own merits. This book is poking fun at fantasy clichés and conventions (at least as they existed in the early 1980s), much the same as Douglas Adams did with science fiction, and with a similar dry British wit that’s a combination of absurdism and snappy sarcastic one-liners. (I was glad that I’d recently read Dragonflight so I could pick up on the references in that episode of the book. Who knows how many allusions I missed elsewhere, though?)

Overall, while this book is pretty rough around the edges, it’s also imaginative, light and easy to read, and quite funny. Definitely enjoyable for some non-serious summer reading. And I think it says something good about a book when entire scenes get stolen by a piece of Luggage. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Even though it’s ostensibly the first Discworld book, I actually wouldn’t recommend this for someone new to Pratchett’s writing. (Start with one of the later “intro” books or stand-alones – like Small Gods – instead.) But it’s a fun, easy read, particularly for epic fantasy fans who are familiar with the clichés that Pratchett is satirizing.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Plenty of ’em at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: In a distant and second-hand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly, the curling star-mists waver and part…

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • Location 317: “A large chest of it…Rincewind tried to work it out, and decided that evin if the box were crammed with star opals and sticks of auricholatum the contents would not be worth one-tenth the price of the container.” – Not a real word. I suspected as much, but it never hurts to check.
    .
  • Location 451: ““And on top of these there is, of course, the moral obloquy attendant on the cowardly betrayal of a visitor to this shore.”” – discredit, disgrace, or bad repute.
    .
  • Location 531: “Rincewind took a few steps forward, cupidity moving him as easily as if he were on little wheels.” – Excessive desire, especially for wealth; covetousness or avarice.
    .
  • Location 557: “Some of the most notable questing grounds near the city were a veritable hubbub in the season. There was talk of organizing a rota.” – A roll call or roster of names.
    .
  • Location 765: “One by one the ganefs, thieves, finewirers, whores, illusionists, backsliders and second-story men awoke and breakfasted.” – A thief, scoundrel, or rascal.
    .
  • Location 1392: “Ahead of him a whole spinney of the tree men awaited.” – A small grove; a copse.
    .
  • Location 1493: “Countries near the Rim simply loaded down the books of dead mages with leaden pentalphas and threw them over the edge.” – A five-pointed star, resembling five alphas joined at their bases; – used as a symbol.
    .
  • Location 2771: “After a while a small speck on the rim of the world resolved itself into a eyot or crag, so perilously perched that the waters of the fall swirled around it at the start of their long drop.” – A small island in a river or lake
    .
  • Location 2776: “It contained one or two hulks and quite a large amount of floating wood in the form of planks, baulks and even whole natural tree trunks, some still sporting green leaves.” – variant of “balk”: any heavy timber used for building purposes.
    .
  • Location 3238: “But during all those hours the original mana of the spell had been slowly leaking away until the total magical energy was no longer sufficient to hold it against the universe’s own powerful normality field, and when that happened Reality snapped back in a matter of microseconds.” – A supernatural force believed to dwell in a person or sacred object.
    .
  • Location 3540: ““No one dies of scrofula! I’ve got rights. I’m a wizard!” – A form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes, especially of the neck, that is most common in children and is usually spread by unpasteurized milk from infected cows.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 6, 2014 4:17 pm

    It’s weird because most of my least favorite Pratchetts tend to be his very early ones? They’re not as funny/thought-provoking as his later ones (although he VERY latest ones haven’t been very funny, either, unfortunately).

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