Book Review: The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett

TheColourofMagic

“Twoflower was a tourist, the first ever seen on the Discworld. Tourist, Rincewind decided, meant idiot.

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…”

I love Rincewind.

Wildly.

Unconditionally.

Irrevocably.

The Colour of Magic?

Not so much.

Here’s why:

Entertaining, clever, and populated solely with the kind of unique characters that are a staple of Terry Pratchett’s novels, and that never fail to delight, The Colour of Magic is the type of novel that I’ve always enjoyed – and probably will continue to enjoy, being something of a creature of habit. It’s also action-packed, a grand adventure story complete with a hero, an enthusiastic tourist, some dubious Luggage, and Rincewind, of course. There’s a Princess, some very strange and more or less hostile trees, and, would you believe it, an aeroplane.

Rincewind, Ankh Morpork’s resident failed wizard, is ordered to accompany Twoflower on his travels through Discworld, ostensibly to keep him safe. The Colour of Magic then relates their subsequent shenanigans, which involve, among other things, a Princess, some very strange and more or less hostile trees, and, would you believe it, an aeroplane.

(You’d better believe it)

That said, The Colour of Magic is [i]not[/i] my favourite Discworld novel.

(Shock, horror)

It has many good qualities, but it doesn’t read as the first book in a very long, well-known series. Rather than establishing a particular universe for our enjoyment, it reads like a sort of dissertation on the physics of the Discworld itself, with a few random characters thrown in for good measure. Additionally, a lot of those characters are, arguably, just archetypes, albeit skewed ever so slightly sideways. They provide excellent entertainment value, and are often the catalyst for a joke or ten, but they’re less unique than many of his other characters, and it makes for a novel that is, in my humble experience, not quite as creatively exceptional as many of the others are.

Plot:

The Colour of Magic doesn’t so much have a distinctive plot as it has a general premise, which is, to term it loosely, and without any of the pizzaz that Terry Pratchett’s novels are composed of, ‘the tourist experience of Discworld,’ with accompanying wizard. Twoflower, said tourist, is determined to travel far and wide across Discworld, and does so with Rincewind in tow, as reluctant protector, a more or less failed wizard, and generally confused and uncertain citizen of Ankh Morpork (which is occasionally a good thing, but usually bad).

Twoflower and Rincewind find themselves thoroughly immersed in many and varied difficulties, from creepy temples to lapses in the space-time continuum. It’s entertaining, but lacks definition as a consistent plot, and although it’s not hard to follow, it is difficult to relate each event to the next. Personally (as if this whole thing isn’t achingly personal), I feel as if this makes it difficult to read, not in the sense that there are several big words that I sadly don’t know the meaning of, but in the sense that it’s somewhat hard to follow.

Only somewhat. I was an English student, after all.

Secondly, this is not a novel for the fainthearted. The Discworld books are far from simple, but The Colour of Magic is especially difficult to comprehend, playing host to a considerable variety of complicated concepts that I struggled to grasp. Maybe I’m just not wired that way – very likely – or maybe, in the form of a novel, it just didn’t work.

Characters:

Twoflower is a fantastic character, entertaining, relatable, and fundamentally realistic. If, dear reader, you have ever been in the position of the enthusiastic tourist, camera in hand, then I think we both know that you can see something of Twoflower in yourself. I remain unconvinced by the plot, but I’m of the opinion that the characters work very well.

(To clarify)

Concluding Comments:

As I’ve already mentioned numerous times on this blog, Rincewind is easily my favourite Discworld character. In The Colour of Magic, he’s equally entertaining, and his exploits are glorious to behold. As such, including Rincewind, there are many aspects to The Colour of Magic that I enjoy. However, there are equally as many, if not more, reasons as to why I’m likely to avoid it in the future. This is a well written book, but not, arguably, a well written novel.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett

  1. I’d agree. Some of the characters behave differently in later novels, (Death for example). It reads like TP was learning about his world and characters. Didn’t he say Mort was the first book that had an actual plot?

    Like

    • I think so, yes!

      A lot of the earlier Discworld books have always struck me as a little piecemeal compared to the rest, and a lot of them do seem to focus primarily on a number of interconnected themes rather than what can reasonably be defined as a cohesive plot.

      (I like Mort. Rather a lot).

      Liked by 1 person

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