Title: The Color of Magic & The Light Fantastic
Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 1983 & 1986
Book or Audiobook: Book
How long did it take to read: Three days while on a trip for both books
For more information about The Discworld Series, audiobook narrators, editions, etc. you can find my introductory post to The Discworld Series HERE.
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…
First, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way.
Is this an epic beginning to this iconic series so loved and cherished that it’s considered a national treasure in Britain? No.
Is it remarkable, incredible, the best thing you will ever read? No.
Is it as funny as they say, will you gasp for breath while laughing uncontrollably? No.
Is it expertly crafted, the work of an accomplished author? No.
These two books are the work of a novice author long before he knew he’d become a national icon and his hobby turn into a book series spanning thirty years and forty-one novels.
Is it still worth reading? Yes, absolutely!
The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic are not bad books, they have some great lines, and the characters are enjoyable if a bit rough around the edges. What is apparent is that when these books were written Terry Pratchett hadn’t quite found his unique language yet. It’s there developing in front of your eyes, but the pacing is uneven and the plot somewhat unfocused.
To quote Terry himself: “I suppose around the fifth or sixth Discworld book, I discovered the joy of plot.”
That’s not to say there isn’t a plot in these two books, there is. The story begins in the city of Ankh-Morpork just as it’s inhabitants are about to experience something new and unfamiliar, a tourist. Twoflower the tourist eventually meet Rincewind the Wizard. The story that unfolds in the first book and continues in the second, centers around the adventures these two come across as they travel the Discworld; it’s a buddy road trip comedy of sorts.
The problem is that Twoflower the tourist loves adventures and has a knack for getting himself into trouble… “Twoflower was a tourist, the first ever seen on the Discworld. Tourist, Rincewind had decided, meant ‘idiot.‘” (The Color of Magic)”
While Rincewind… “Rincewind could scream for mercy in nineteen languages, and just scream in another forty-four.” (Terry Pratchett)
Their journey takes them across the Discworld, along the way they meet heroes, dragons, elderly barbarians with arthritis, druids, virgin sacrifice not that keen to be rescued and many more.
Terry Pratchett plays with words, themes, irony, sarcasm, parody, and satire. The books can appear simple at first glance, but the language and story have more layers than you might think. Terry Pratchett doesn’t explain things to you, you either have a grasp on the underlying theme he’s making fun of, or you don’t; that knowledge, in turn, determines if you understand the jokes or not. Simply put, the books are a lot smarter than they appear to be.
If you’re thinking about taking on the Discworld series, I think you should read these, if not for anything else than for the joy of experiencing the Discworld’s birth. But do so with an open mind and knowledge that the style, pacing, plot and the skill of the author will quickly evolve as the series continues, don’t judge the entire series based on these two books. The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic is not amazing writing but the potential and the promise of what this series will become is clear, and if you can take the books for what they are, I’m sure you’ll have a good time.
My Rating: 🐢🐢🐢
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