Somewhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell very much like our own, but which looks completely different. It plays by different rules. Certainly it refuses to succumb to the quaint notion that universes are ruled by pure logic and the harmony of numbers.
But just because the Disc is different doesn’t mean that some things don’t stay the same. Its very existence is about to be threatened by a strange new blight: the arrival of the first tourist, upon whose survival rests the peace and prosperity of the land. But if the person charged with maintaining that survival in the face of robbers, mercenaries and, well, Death is a spectacularly inept wizard, a little logic might turn out to be a very good idea…
Who hasn’t heard of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books? They’re one of the biggest selling British fantasy series in print and during the nineties the a string of top ten Sunday Times bestsellers made Pratchett the UK’s biggest selling author. All of this begs the question: why haven’t I read any before now? It’s a good one too and I honestly can’t answer it. Still, I’ve now seen the error of my ways and started the Discworld books where they all began: The Colour of Magic.
I knew that the Discworld books were fantasy with humour, but I really didn’t appreciate what that meant until I started reading The Colour of Magic. From the first meetings with Rincewind, the wizard, and Twoflower, the tourist, I knew that there was going to be something special about the book. The way that the characters are instantly likable makes the book such a blast to read. The adventures we follow Rincewind and Twoflower on is an excellent way to introduce the reader to the many wonders of the Discworld.
The main premise of this particular story is that Twoflower is the first tourist of Discworld and that Rincewind has been tasked (albeit not entirely voluntarily) with his protection. We follow Twoflower as he wants to see the sights and events of the city of Ankh-Morpork along with anywhere else he can go. With the initial stages set to character and, to an extent, worldbuilding, we get to see many interesting things and start to get a good feel for the world. Pratchett is able to convey the information in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a chore in any way and that we have a good chuckle while he does so.
Once the events move away from the city the book takes on a broader and more traditional fantasy adventure, although with two characters that seem not to know what exactly they’re doing in any given situation. I enjoyed the pace of these events and the many wonderful things that Pratchett introduces. However, it got to a point where the story skipped forward six months and I felt completely out of kilter from then on. What was building up to be a really enjoyable book suddenly took a downturn and, ultimately, bought the book down a notch or two from what it could have been.
In general I enjoyed The Colour of Magic, although the pacing issue in the second half affected how much the enjoyment was. I’m very eager to read more in the Discworld series and hope that Pratchett can build successfully upon these promising beginnings – something I keep hearing he has done very well!