Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review of The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic literally ending on a cliff-hanger (as only Terry Pratchett can), it’s up to The Light Fantastic to conclude the worldwi—err, discwide—adventures of Rincewind, the wizard with only one spell, Twoflower, the world’s first tourist, and their lively pearwood chest of money.  Though readers had to wait three years for the concluding sequel, the pair’s adventures are brought to a fine, satirical end, in turn triggering the romp that Discworld has since become.

The one spell Rincewind knows proves to be important.  The wizards a the Unseen University discover that the disc will be destroyed if they do not recite the Eight Spells, including the one trapped inside Rincewind’s head, and set off on a quest to find the erstwhile magician.  In a space ship at the outset examining the disc, Rincewind is soon thereafter separated from Twoflower and taken, certainly against his will, on a whirlwind of adventure to a variety of places, including the realm of DEATH, to the mountains to meet trolls, and in a strange world of dragons.  The wizards eventually find Rincewind, but his ability to recite of the Octavo—the eighth spell—is anything but a foregone conclusion.

A perfectly complementary second half, The Light Fantastic concludes the story of The Color of Magic in precisely the same style and tone.  Wildly imaginative, unpredictable, and humorous, Rincewind meets some fascinating characters in his adventures.  Cohen the Barbarian perhaps the greatest, the ancient warrior fights, or attempts to fight, all in blazingly hilarious style and satire.  Pratchett having more than one go at the unintended humor of Howard’s Conan, there are several laugh-out-loud moments as Cohen attempts to uphold his ways in old age.  Moreover, the portrayal of the famed warrior as a toothless fuddy-duddy metaphorically marked the death of the pulp character and made it known it was time for a new era of fantasy—Pratchett epic style.

I will end this review rather quicker than normal, but suffice at saying, if you enjoyed The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic is just as good.  Pratchett riffing off all variety of fantasy tropes and making subtle jokes about all things ancient and epic, the novel is the equally funny conclusion of a tale that put Discworld on the world’s reading map.  There are reviews that state it’s possible to read The Light Fantastic as a stand alone, and, while indeed it is theoretically possible, the experience is all the richer knowing the backstory which brought Rincewind and Twoflower to the state they are in at the outset of The Light Fantastic.  So do yourself a favor if you intend to read either of the books: start with The Color of Magic.  Pratchett’s wit and charm will take you on a ride.

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