“The Colour of Magic” by Terry Pratchett

Surprisingly, I struggled to read this one. I picked it up in February to read for a Turtle Recall readalong, but it took me the entire month of February to complete it. I didn’t expect to struggle so much with a Discworld book.

Genre

Fantasy

Series

Discworld, book 1
Rincewind, book 1

Pubbed

1983

Quick Summary

The Colour of Magic is the first novel in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, a satirical fantasy series set in a flat world that lies on the backs of four large elephants — Berilia, Tubul, Great T’Phon, and Jerakeen — that stand on the pockmarked shell of a giant turtle, the Great A’Tuin, who’s flying through space. It contains four short stories centered on the adventures of Rincewind, a failed wizard who dropped out of Unseen University after learning just one spell, as he tries to protect Twoflower, a tourist visiting Discworld from the Counterweight Continent with his Luggage made of sapient pearwood in tow. The Luggage follows Twoflower wherever he goes.

In the first story, “The Colour of Magic,” Twoflower arrives in Ankh-Morpork, the largest city in Discworld, as its first tourist. The amount of gold he has attracts the attention of thieves and assassins (and Rincewind). Rincewind is tasked with protecting Twoflower, whose antics lead to city going up in flames.

The second story, “The Sending of Eight,” sees Rincewind and Twoflower as the objects of a game played by the Discworld gods. Fate is out to get them, but Lady Luck has a soft spot for the pair. Their adventure in this one culminates in them trying to escape the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth with the hero Hrun the Barbarian and his talking sword, Kring, while trying to avoid saying the number eight, which is represented everywhere in the temple.

The third story, “Lure of the Wyrm,” sees the group — Rincewind, Twoflower, Hrun and his talking sword, Kring — arrive at Wyrmberg, a huge upside-down mountain, where they learn that dragons are things of the imagination made real. After escaping Wyrmberg and briefly appearing in the real world, Rincewind and Twoflower fall into the Circle Sea and flow into the fourth story —

“Close to the Edge” in which Fate is REALLY out to get them. Rincewind and Twoflower are rescued from the Circumference, a giant net that prevents things from falling over the rim of the Discworld, by a sea troll but are taken to the city Krull to be sacrificed for a mission intending to send out a spaceship containing two chelonauts to discover the gender of Great A’tuin. (Goodreads)

My thoughts

This one has all the trappings to be the kind of story I’d enjoy, but apart from a few sections that amused me, I was largely bored and often dozed off while reading. I was surprised at this because I enjoyed the other Discworld books I’ve read so far (the first three in the Witches subseries). I thought my experience with The Colour of Magic would be similar to those, but instead I ended this glad that it wasn’t my introduction to the Discworld books.

Another surprise to me was that in some parts the absurdities fell flat for me and more annoyed than entertained, which made me wonder if I was in a weird mood as I read because the silliness is what I love about Discworld and how it pokes fun at things we take for granted and aspects of the fantasy genre. Although Twoflower is the tourist and we are experiencing and learning about Discworld as he does, it’s often Rincewind’s perspective we read from. Rincewind knows much more than he lets on and, through him, we notice the absurdities of the world and Twoflower’s silliness as a naïve tourist. However, Twoflower seemed too clueless sometimes, which annoyed and bored me.

Despite that, there were several sections that amused me, and I highlighted them all (which I always do while reading, lol). I enjoyed rereading these highlighted sections, which I did to refresh my memory for this reflection piece, so I think this book might be more enjoyable to me on reread. Some of the bits that amused me were

  • the “Big Bang hypothesis,” which is that Great A’tuin is crawling through space from his place of birth to a place of mating, where he will engage in a “fiery union” from which new turtles will be born to carry a new pattern of worlds,
  • the importance of the number eight to the mechanics of Discworld and that wizards avoid saying it and that wizards have octagons in their eyes that enable them to see octarine, “the pigment of Imagination,” and
  • that the realm of the gods is called Dunmanifestin; the games they played were entertaining… since it wasn’t my fate they were tampering with.

Of the stories, I liked the adventure in the last one, “Close to the Edge,” the most; however, the “Colour of Magic” was most entertaining. I hope the other Rincewind books are novels. I’m not feeling the short story structure for these stories.

Overall: ★★☆☆☆ ½

The first novel in the Discworld series was a disappointing read for me, unfortunately; but I’m still eager to read the next book in the Rincewind subseries.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

Because I think it’s worth collecting and reading these if you’re a fan of satirical fantasy novels.

Quotes from the book

“No, what he didn’t like about heroes was that they were usually suicidally gloomy when sober and homicidally insane when drunk.”

“…the gods had a habit of going around to atheists’ houses and smashing their windows.”

19 thoughts on ““The Colour of Magic” by Terry Pratchett

  1. Yeah I was glad this wasn’t my first discworld book either, but I had great advice to start with all the other series first (I started with death, then city guards, then witches- but I think all of those are great to start with)

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    1. I’m looking forward to the Death ones the most. I’ve been intentionally putting it off, like waiting for the very last minute to eat my dessert, lol!

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      1. If you keep showcasing them as you get them, that would be fantastic.
        I didn’t even know these editions existed. I’m not a huge discworld fan but I’d seriously considering getting these just for the covers 🙂

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  2. I’ve heard that people are either Granny Weatherwax or Rincewind fans. It’s not true when it comes to Mr. BIP, who likes them both, but mostly I do seem to hear that people love one or the other. I’ve read The Colour of Magic twice, because I meant to read on with the series the first time but didn’t, so I reread, and I can say that the second time I enjoyed it more, because I was expecting to enjoy it less. If that makes any sense. *chuckles* I’m on about book six now, and in theory I will read on, but in reality I keep picking up other books. You know how it is!

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  3. Ooh first time Discworld readings. Looking forwards to more reviews!

    For what it’s worth – I was never that impressed by it either, and I know a lot of Discworld fans who recommend different series starting points.

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    1. I started with the Witches books and am really enjoying them. I’ve read about 3 of them so far. I plan to finish that subseries before picking back up with Rincewind again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I ended up really enjoying this one. It was my introduction to Discworld. If I recall correctly, the next book, The Light Fantastic, is a direct followup to this one, continuing right where this story ended. But I can certainly see why you might be a little disappointed having started with the Witch books. I’ve only read Equal Rites of that subseries, but I enjoyed that more than The Coulor of Magic or The Light Fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you mentioned the Light Fantastic. I was wondering how the story continues in that one. I ordered it last week, so it should be arriving soon. The next Discworld book I read, though, will most likely be a Witch one.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I think that because this is his first book, he has not really gotten a handle on his style of writing yet. He hits his stride after a couple of books but then he declines a bit in the last few. I hope you continue to read and review his books.
    Happy Trails!

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