The Colour of Magic
The Colour of Magic: Terry Pratchett, January 16—30, 2015
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
The Discworld series begins with A Colour of Magic, which stars hapless failed wizard Rincewind saddled with the job of protecting a tourist, Twoflower, and his aggressive Luggage from the gold-hungry men around town. Their adventure, we soon learn, is the result of an ongoing chess game amongst the gods who are undecided on their fate.
It’s easy to see why the series took off. Rincewind is a brilliant protagonist; an anti-hero who knows but one magic spell, though the result of it is unpredictable and precludes him from using even that. He has no interest in adventure or nobility, and behaves in selfish, cowardly and exasperated ways. It’s a refreshing change from the endless line of strapping young leads with hearts of gold, and despite his many flaws Rincewind is very likeable. He is, quite possibly, much more similar to the average reader than most fantasy heroes.
Twoflower, by comparison, is an adrenaline junkie who wants to meet all manner of mythical creatures, including barbarians and dragons, and gleefully whips out his goblin-powered camera at every perilous opportunity. He delights in the scrapes that drive Rincewind mad, and actively pushes them on through dangers he seems incapable of appreciating. His reckless enthusiasm and total failure to ever worry is just as amusing as Rincewind’s chagrin.
Although most of the other characters have smaller roles, Death must be highlighted as simply brilliant. Although he too is only a supporting character, his portrayal as an entity who sees taking life as just a day job, and the ability of Rincewind to evade him as quite annoying. His humour is very droll, and raises many a chuckle.
The narrative is peppered with very dry humour, which appeals to me, and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. In fact, many of the crazy conventions, such as seeds which can be planted in order to produce a harvest in the past, are clearly designed to send up the genre. Perhaps it is an effort to lampoon the grandiose nature of some fantasy, but Pratchett’s narration often seems vague and aloof, and makes it difficult to become properly immersed. Something acts as a barrier, and that’s the novel’s main weakness.
The storyline moves at a steady pace with each disaster leading to the next. Full of colourful characters, hilarious one-liners and just a sparkle of magic, this first Discworld book comes highly recommended.