Terry Pratchett’s Discworld does for Fantasy what Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy did for science fiction–firmly sets a story within a genre, stereotypes intact, then goes to town. He’s frequently irreverent, and it’s an absolute delight to read. Since this post is a compilation of reviews for the first five books in the series, (see my post on books six through ten here) there are a few spoilers. Mainly, if you care about this (Discworld isn’t really the sort of series where it matters all that much, but far be it from me to spoil a book for someone….) don’t read the review on Sourcery. That particular bit talks about the ending of The Colour Of Magic and The Light Fantastic as it continues the story of one of the characters from the first two books. Other than that you should be okay.
THE COLOUR OF MAGIC (*****) This is the first book in the series, and therein we follow the failed wizard Rincewind as he acts as the reluctant guide for Twoflower, the Discworld’s first tourist. Taking on everything from Conan to D&D, this is definitely a series to check out if you have any interest in the fantasy genre whatsoever…..or are just in need of a good laugh for any reason whatsoever….
THE LIGHT FANTASTIC (*****) This is the second book in the series, and while you could supposedly stop reading after the first one (in which case the literal cliffhanger ending becomes just another genre-joke), you really shouldn’t read this one unless you’ve read The Colour Of Magic first. We pick up Rincewind and Twoflower where we last left them–falling off the side of the Disc. However, it seems that fate has other plans in store for them, because that single spell lodged in Rincewind’s head has just become very important to those trying to avoid the end of the Discworld…..
EQUAL RITES (****) This third instrallment is only loosely connected to the previous two, in that it features many of the same settings and a few minor characters, but you could easily read it on its own. I’m reading through the series in order because that’s how I’m wired, but you don’t need to.
A wizard is born the eighth son of an eighth son, and such a birth is at hand as a wizard nearing his end travels to the mountain village of Bad Ass to hand over his staff to the newborn lad. Only too late do they realize that he has just ordained the Disc’s first ever female wizard…..
This was good. I preferred the first two DW novels to this one, but I’m seeing in the other reviews that the opposite view is just as popular, so take that how you will.
MORT (*****) is the fourth book in the series, but stands on its own pretty well. Rincewind and the Unseen University make a minor appearance, and Death has appeared in the previous books, but other than that it’s pretty self-contained. Although the rules governing how Death operates don’t really jive with what happened in The Colour Of Mag–*Slap!* Don’t think about it!
Death comes to all men in their time, but when he comes to Mort it’s to offer him a job as his apprentice. Soon Mort is handling the collection of souls, and Death takes a much-needed break….The problem is, when the time came for Sto Lat’s Princess Keli to be assassinated, Mort found himself altering reality by saving her from the assassin. Now reality is trying to reassert itself, Mort is in over his head, and Death is nowhere to be found……
SOURCERY (****) is Pratchett’s fifth Discworld adventure, and while I am a bit of a completist it stands on its own fairly well. Kind of. Because in this installment we catch up with Rincewind once more as he is forced onto yet another adventure against his will. For that alone I recommend reading The Colour Of Magic and The Light Fantastic before this one, but to each their own.
When we last saw Rincewind he had settled down in relative safety as the assistant librarian of Unseen University, the home of wizardry on the Disc. But even the University may no longer be safe…. The eighth son of an eighth son is destined to be a wizard; so much is common knowledge. But the eighth son of a wizard is something far more dangerous–a sourcerer, a conduit for raw and unstable new magic to enter the world. It has been eons since a sourcerer last walked the disc….wizards are celibate for this very reason, though they don’t remember that this was the original purpose. But against all odds the Disc is once more faced with the prospect of a sourcerer…..and a return to the sheer chaos of the Mage Wars as once-staid wizards are for the first time faced with power beyond their dreams. And that’s leaving aside all the discussion of the Apocralypse…..
Content-wise, Discworld holds steady at a raucous PG or a mild PG-13. There’s mild language, comedic violence, and various raunchy jokes that never actually become explicit. If you were okay with the likes of Conan and Red Sonja you have nothing to worry about here.