Sourcery: Wizardry vs. Sourcery

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSourcery by Terry Pratchett fantasy book reviewsSourcery by Terry Pratchett

Sourcery begins as Ipslore the Red is about to die — or, more accurately — it begins as Death is coming to collect Ipslore’s soul. Wizards can see Death, so some plan to negotiate terms before departing.

Ipslore is an eighth son and a wizard. Banished from Unseen University for marrying and having children, Ipslore manages to create a magic staff for his own eighth son, a newborn he has named Coin, just before he dies. Coin, being the eighth son of an eighth son, is not just a wizard — he’s a sourcerer. And instead of dying, Ipslore transfers his being into the staff, cheating Death, so that he can guide Coin’s destiny.

What’s the difference between a sourcerer and a wizard? It’s not that sourcerers are more powerful than wizards so much as wizards are not particularly powerful at all. Sourcerers are powerful like gods. According to the Lore, sourcerers used to exist and their Mage Wars nearly destroyed the Disc. Their magic was too powerful to last, which is why the inept wizards of Unseen University endured.

(Until now.)

Ironically, though they’re largely harmless, the wizards of Unseen University are obsessed with power — or at least with their standing in the University’s hierarchy. The wizards fuss over their levels and orders, always clawing at those above them and stamping on those beneath them. They enjoy their Lore and their rules, but they also enjoy drinking and feasting, which is exactly what they are doing when a nine-year-old sourcerer armed with a staff interrupts their feast, challenges their leaders, and takes over the university. Soon, the wizards are at war with the rest of the Disc.

Rincewind, as luck would have it, is not at the feast. He’s drinking at the Mended Drum when a barbarian-thief-hairdresser, Conina the Barbarian, interrupts him. The daughter of Cohen the Barbarian and a beautiful slave girl Cohen rescued, Conina is quite a beauty — and a natural fighter. She’s still working on her hairdressing skills.

It turns out that the Archchancellor’s hat, which is sentient in a telepathic Sorting Hat kind of way, has recruited Conina to help it flee from Coin. The hat had commanded Conina to find a wizard, and Rincewind happens to be the wizard they find. Rincewind isn’t much of a wizard, but the hat and Conina decide to make do as they board a ship to Klatch.

Once there, Pratchett spoofs on magic carpets, genies, treacherous grand viziers, snake pits, and harems full of scantily clad women telling each other long stories.

There were a few gags that I particularly enjoyed in Sourcery, though I’ll concede that they’re pretty corny. Still, I did chuckle at the three remaining Horsemen of the “Aprocalypse” — they will end the world, but not until they finish the next round of beers. I didn’t find Conina, the Luggage, or many of the Klatchian characters especially funny, but I did laugh at Nigel the Destroyer, a skinny, pimply teenager. Nigel the Destroyer has carefully studied the barbarian trade, though he still has to work on his battle cry, which currently begins: “Erm…”

There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, but I find that the Rincewind novels often have too many plot twists. Or maybe they have too much journeying in them. While Pratchett has a knack for creating interesting antagonists — and Coin might actually be one of Pratchett’s better villains — he will also send Rincewind in a dozen different directions before remembering that the climax of the novel will have to take place somewhere, and probably back where everything started. And, at this point, the conflict of the novel becomes Rincewind’s journey back to the novel’s original conflict. Put another way, I liked the first and the final quarters of the novel quite a lot, and the stuff in between just OK.

While some readers might find The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic, the first two Rincewind novels, a little rough compared to Pratchett’s later work, Sourcery is pretty smoothly written. Better novels are still to come in the series, but readers could certainly start (or skip, as they prefer) here.

Discworld — (1983-2015) Discworld is a satirical fantasy world created by Terry Pratchett to poke fun at 1980s fantasy novels. Since then, they’ve evolved so that they now make fun of everything. Mr. Pratchett explains Discworld: “The world rides through space on the back of a turtle. This is one of the great ancient world myths, found wherever men and turtles are gathered together; the four elephants were an indo-European sophistication. The idea has been lying in the lumber room of legend for centuries. All I had to do was grab it and run away before the alarms went off… There are no maps. You can’t map a sense of humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs.” The Discworld novels are presented here in publication order. To read more about the Discworld “arcs” and reading order, see this Wikipedia article.

Terry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. EricTerry Pratchett Discworld: 1. The Color of Magic 2. The Light Fantastic 3. Equal Rites 4. Mort 5. Sourcery 6. Wyrd Sisters 7. Pyramids 8. Guards Guards! 9. Ericbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Moving PicturesReaper Manbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Witches Abroadbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Small Godsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Men at Armsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Soul Musicfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Maskeradebook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Feet of Claybook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Hog FatherJingobook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Last Continentbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Carpe Jugulumbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Carpe Jugulum, The Fifth Elephantbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Truthbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Thief of Timebook review Terry Pratchett Discworld The Last Herofantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Thud!book review Terry Pratchett Discworld Making MoneyTerry Pratchett Unseen Academicals DiscworldTerry Pratchett Unseen Academicals Discworld, Snufffantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Discworld for Kids:

book review Terry Pratchett Discworld Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodentsbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld THe Wee Free Menbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld A Hat Full of Skybook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Wintersmith I Shall Wear Midnightbook review Terry Pratchett Discworld Wintersmith I Shall Wear MidnightThe Shepherd's Crown: Number 41 of the Discworld Novels Series


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RYAN SKARDAL, on our staff from September 2010 to November 2018, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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4 comments

  1. Oh, but I love the Luggage!

  2. We’ll let you slide on the Luggage, Ryan.

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