Book Review: Sourcery by Sir Terry Pratchett

Posted May 29, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 3 Comments

Book Review: Sourcery by Sir Terry Pratchett

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sourcery by Sir Terry Pratchett
Series: ,
Genres: Fantasy
Published by HarperTorch on February 6, 2001
Pages: 260
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

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When last seen, the singularly inept wizard Rincewind had fallen off the edge of the world. Now magically, he's turned up again, and this time he's brought the Luggage.

But that's not all...

Once upon a time, there was an eighth son of an eighth son who was, of course, a wizard. As if that wasn't complicated enough, said wizard then had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son — a wizard squared (that's all the math, really). Who of course, was a source of magic — a sourcerer.

Also by this author: I Shall Wear Midnight, The Light Fantastic, Mort, The Shepherd's Crown, Guards! Guards!, Moving Pictures, Small Gods, A Blink of the Screen, Reaper Man

Third in the Rincewind subseries revolving around Rincewind the Wizzard and fifth in the overall Discworld series. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Discworld books on my website.

My Take

Greed for power. It’s a universal trope in the human race. And this eighth son of an eighth son is no exception. I suspect there’s some brainwashing involved in this as well as this eighth son of an eighth son influences his own eighth son.

It’s that third round of eighth sons that causes all the trouble because he’s a “wizard squared. A source of magic. A sourcerer.” It’s also how Ipslore will get his vengeance against wizards for hating his humanity.

Pratchett continues to poke fun at the wizards at Unseen U, and I wonder what happened to him when he was at university. These wizards certainly sound like tenured professors too content and lazy now that they’ve finally achieved their security. “…work up an appetite for the evening’s feast; about a dozen steps was usually considered quite sufficient” is only part of the fun.

It’s choice and circumstance that enables the world to survive. Luggage has its part to play as does Rincewind and Conina and Nigel. I do love how well Pratchett engineered all this.

I am curious to know why Rincewind didn’t end up being archchancellor after events in The Light Fantastic, 2.

Ooh, the bursar’s robes sound pretty, right down to the vermine hood, a “skin [that] is rare and highly valued, especially by the vermine itself; the selfish little bastard will do anything rather than let go of it”. The cheek.

This particular story has a focus on sex, and the fact that wizards weren’t allowed any. The purpose has been lost in the mists of time *cue the eerie, lingering music*, but Coin’s appearance provides the clue. That’s right, mate, when wizards bump uglies too often, they have, gasp, children, and “if wizards are allowed to go around breeding all the time, there was a risk of sourcery”.

“The trick relied on the laws of physics failing to spot the flaw until the journey was complete.” … “There was the subtle, unpleasant sound of the universe suddenly catching on.”

Hmm, while I do think it’s practical to give things a good shaking up every few years (or centuries), I draw the line at book burning, although I did crack up at Rincewind’s reaction to the book surgery.

Oh god, oh god, LMAO, the scene in which Conina, Nigel, and Creosote steal three of the four horses belong to the “horseman and [now] three pedestrians” of the Apocalypse.

Well, doesn’t that one sound familiar? We wanted it, but when we got it, we discovered there were consequences.

“It isn’t a good idea to rely on other people or things to … ‘remember who you really are’ … you see. They always get it wrong.”

“Ook” for now.

The Story

It’s Ipslore’s vengeance coming of age that signals the beginning of the end. When the books in the library go wild. When ants, bedbugs carrying mattresses, rats, gargoyles are all fleeing the school.

Magic has returned to a world in which it had been waning, and now the wizards are going wild with actually being able to do magic. So wild, that they believe they can rule the city, nay, the world!

Fortunately, the greatest thief ever born is roaming the night and steals the Archchancellor’s hat. She had to. The hat insisted.

The Characters

Rincewind is now the honorary librarian assistant at Unseen U. He still has Luggage, a chest that has been described as half-suitcase, half homicidal maniac and totally loyal to its owner.

Coin is the sourcerer who returns real magic to Discworld. Ipslore the Red is his vengeance-oriented staff, er, father, er, staff, er…

Conina is a thief, the “type of thief who could steal the initiative, the moment, and the words right out of your mouth”. Cohen the Barbarian is her father. And Pratchett doesn’t half have fun with Conina’s “genetic inheritance”.

Death refuses to allow absolute destiny, but he will get drunk along with Pestilence, Famine, and War. We’ll have to keep that angle in mind next time the world is threatened with annihilation. It worked pretty well here…

Ankh-Morpork is…

…an ancient city “sprawling like a bag of dropped groceries” with an iridescent green river pungent with its own fetid aroma, which is ruled by the Patrician, Lord Vetinari — think Ernst Blofeld and his white cat — isn’t particularly interested in rightful kings and all that rot. Wuffles is his geriatric wire-haired terrier.

Gritoller Mimpsey is vice-president of the Thieves’ Guild. Ardrothy Longstaff is the purveyor of Pies Full of Personality. Whose personality, I really don’t want to know. Miskin Koble runs a jellied starfish and clam stall.

Unseen University is…
…the premier school for learning about wizardry. There are eight levels a wizard can pass, providing someone on the level above him dies. Those assassination attempts certainly keep a wizard on his toes. There are also eight orders of magic including the Order of the Silver Star led by Skarmer Billias, the Sages of the Unknown Shadow is led by Gravie Derment, and Marmaric Carding who is the current head of the Hoodwinkers.

The Archchancellor Virrid Wayzgoose is the official leader of all the wizards on the Disc. The Librarian is still a wizard, somewhere under the orang-utan he’s turned into. Spelter is the bursar. Ovin Hakardly is a seventh-level wizard and a lecturer in Lore. Benado Sconner is the temporary leader of the pack of wizards sent to burn down the Library.

Al Khali is…

…a desert city ruled over by Creosote, the Seriph of Al Khali and a very bad poet who spends most of his time in his Wilderness, a specially designed park designed to look wild. His palace is known as the Rhoxie. Abrim is his Grand Vizier with some rather grand ideas.

Nijel the Destroyer is a hero just getting started. He has the book and everything.

There’s a genie in this one, we never do learn its name but we do learn how very overcommitted he is to making money, taking meetings, etc. Maligree was one of the last true sourcerers. Ly Tin Wheedle is the Disc’s greatest philosopher. Blind Io is the leader of the gods; Offler is another god. Ice Giants appear when the gods disappear. They sound much worse than the snowman I had in my backyard this past winter. The Dungeon Dimensions are terrifying wastelands that exist outside the Disc and everywhere else. There are Things that live there, horrible Things that want to break through into the warmth where they’ll end up destroying the world.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a muted grass green background with a black vertical border on the left with wizard hats bouncing along it. In the center is a flying carpet and a whistling brass lamp steaming from both ends.

The title is all about this latest character, the ultimate wizard who specializes in Sourcery.

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