Book Author: Terry Pratchett
Book Series: Discworld
Series Number: Book #1/41
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, children’s
First Published: December 1983
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I had two reasons for reading The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. The first is the Pop-sugar challenge reading prompt:
A Book set on a different planet
The characters live on a planet that is shaped like a disc known as the Discworld, so I thought it was definitely one worthy of this prompt. But it isn’t the only reason why I chose Terry Pratchett either—after all, there are plenty of books that would have fit into the prompt.
The other reason I chose this book is because of the feedback from my lecturers. For the past three years, I have studied Creative Writing at degree level and one lecturer, in particular, commented on several occasions that I write prose in a similar way to Pratchett… so I figured it was time for me to see who Pratchett is and how he writes—especially now I have graduated.
I still don’t know how. Maybe my way of defamiliarisation?
Anyway, the book…
In a world different to ours, a wizard—who isn’t really a wizard but also is—sets out on an adventure with a tourist, Twoflower. The pair fall into danger at every corner as they explore their world—the discworld—and worlds beyond their own.
Plot and World Building
I think the world building is the strongest part of this book and the plot follows after. The world has similarities to our own but kind of stuck in the middle ages. Tourist, Twoflower works at an insurance firm but no one in this world knows what that is. It doesn’t help that Twoflower cannot speak their language and only the wizard can speak one of his.
‘Fooood,’ said the stranger. ‘Yes. Cutlet, hash, chop, stew, ragout, fricassee, mince, collops, souffle, dumpling, blanc-mange, sorbet, gruel, sausage, not to have a sausagem beans, without a bean, kickshaws, jelly, jam. Giblets.’ He beamed at Broadman – Terry Pratchett (2014, p. 19)
As the wizard, Rincewind, tries to flee death and also protect Twoflower, the two get into more danger. This is where the world building takes place. From the dangers that lurk inside trees, to the dangers of imaginary dragons that only exist if you believe in them, to the edge of the world, talking frogs, spells gone wrong.
I believe this adds to the world as you see it as the character does. I think it helps that the protagonist, Rincewind, wasn’t much of an explorer until he met Twoflower so a lot of the experiences are for the first time for him too. It sort of relates back to Sophie’s World where Gaardner suggests that the older someone is the more they will be surprised by something they have never seen before.
I believe this adds to the imagery of the story as the character’s reaction tells us as the reader what is normal in that world and what is abnormal.
Since the disc’s tiny orbiting sunlet remains a fixed orbit while the majestic disc turns slowly beneath it, it will be readily deduced that a disc year consists of not four but eight seasons. Terry Pratchett (2014, p. 8)
I also liked Pratchett’s way of defamiliarising. I liked the description of the camera as a sort of miniature demon that operates the device from the inside and I loved the luggage chest too. It kind of reminded me of that bag from Halloween Town. And Mary Poppins, come to think of it. I think all these little details add to the vividness of the story and strengthens it.
The plot was simple – following the storyline of Rincewind and Twoflower as Rincewind attempts to keep Twoflower from harms way.
Normally, I quite like a bit of character development but the characters don’t develop much in this book. It is 1 of 41, so maybe in the future, they will but I don’t think it spoils the story. This time, it adds to it.
Rincewind is a wizard that has never graduated from Wizard University but more to do with something disabling him from learning new spells. This in itself is interesting. Throughout the book, people are terrified of him because he has this one spell he knows, he doesn’t know what it does and neither does anyone else. The threat of this one spell saves him on a few occasions. Despite this, he is very pessimistic
Twoflower is an optimistic and naive fool. He will go where the danger is without any fear. This leads Rincewind to go after him, usually grumpy and usually followed by Death—AKA the Grim Reaper. Twoflower wants people at home to know he has met heroes, went on an adventure and survived.
Rincewind does change slightly at the end though, his interactions with Death changes, so it is a start in their development I believe.
Pratchett also makes it clear that the characters live the Discworld life and another life simultaneously. In the other life, Twoflower is still a tourist but Rincewind is a doctor of sorts.
Even Death is an interesting character. He has many workers for him that can claim any being but only he can claim a wizard out a mark of respect. A birthright of any wizard. So, while Rincewind keeps hanging from the clasps of Death, Death is on his tail while his workers get all the other people that die “off-screen” as it were. No wonder Death was getting a bit grumpy.
The book was shorter than I expected. My copy is A5 with 241 pages. So it can be read relatively quickly. It is perfect for children, especially those that are starting to read. The vocabulary is simple with purposely misspelt words that adds to the charm. These words include circumference and Insurance. Most of the time, they are misspelt next to the correct spelling and are added to show the character’s confusion of the words.
I think the book is a light read, with a simple to follow plot and characters that are able to bring their own personality into the world. The two protagonists are each other’s other side of the coin. When Twoflower finds the idea of riding on a fire-breathing dragon amazing and fun, Rincewind sees himself 5000 feet high and is terrified of fulling to his depth. The two characters feed off one another.
Perfect for children and teens or anyone who loves that little bit of sci-fi and fantasy.
Thanks for reading.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?
The dragon, carrying the weight of two men, was only a few yards above grass. This turned out to be fortunate, because the moment Lio!rt lost consciousness the dragon winked out of existence. Terry Pratchett (2014, p. 161)