The Color of Magic: Non-stop quirky adventure

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Terry Pratchett The Color of MagicThe Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic, published in 1983, is the first book in Sir Terry Pratchett’s enormously popular DISCWORLD series. The Disworld is a flat world which rides on the back of four elephants which ride on the back of a giant turtle named Great A’Tuin. The DISCWORLD novels are humorous, satirical and spoofy, often making fun of their own genre and various real-world cultural and political issues and institutions. Before HARRY POTTER, Terry Pratchett was the UK’s top selling author.

The Color of Magic introduces Rincewind who is technically a wizard because one dangerous spell attached itself to his brain when Rincewind opened a forbidden book. Rincewind doesn’t know what the spell does or how to cast it, and he doesn’t remember any of the other things he was supposed to learn at the Unseen University but, nonetheless, he’s a wizard. He’s also a coward — a really lucky coward because, though he’s unaware of it, Lady Luck is his patron.

One day Twoflower, a rich insurance salesman from a far-off land, comes to Ankh-Morpork to vacation and asks Rincewind to show him around because Rincewind is the only person who can speak his language. Twoflower is curious, fearless, and completely ignorant of the dangers in Ankh-Morpork. Rincewind tries to safely show him the sights, but the two of them end up needing to escape from one disaster after another. During their adventures we meet a barbarian hero who loves to pose for pictures, fratricidal dragonlords with unpronounceable names (K!sdra and Lio!rt), dryads, a troll from another world, a tentacled monster who lives in a temple in which everything is octagonal but you may not say the word “eight,” a terrorist on an airplane, a drowning frog, and a group of scientifically-minded wizards who want to push somebody off the edge of the world.

The Color of Magic is non-stop quirky adventure with lots of laughs. Pratchett’s British humor is silly, clever and witty and it’s fun to see him salute, and sometimes mock, well-known fantasy works, characters, or clichés. I think I recognized Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Conan the Barbarian, and Red Sonja. In this first DISCWORD novel, transitions between scenes are a bit rough and sometimes the humor tries too hard, but Terry Pratchett’s genius is clearly visible. The DISCWORD books are fun stand-alone reads that make a great break from heavier works.

I listened to the 1995 audio production by ISIS Audio Books. This is not the clearest of productions — there is a noticeable background hum (you can hear it on the sample at Amazon or Audible). However, Nigel Planer’s narration was so brilliant that I will be listening to the rest of the DISCWORD audiobooks that he narrates. I loved his interpretation of all of Pratchett’s characters. You should hear him pronounce K!sdra and Lio!rt.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I read this long time ago, but it’s one of my favorite Pratchett’s books – probably because it’s about Rincewind :D Hmm, I not really like audiobooks

  2. Quirky and punny about sums up my one experience reading Pratchett. Some very clever turns of phrase, but too many POV to hold my interest. I’d have probably enjoyed it a LOT more if I’d been younger, but with all the changing POV, I just couldn’t settle into the book. I”ve only tried the one (Wyrd Sisters?) and haven’t convinced myself to try another. There were some sections that were so good! But there were some characters/sections that just didn’t do it for me!

  3. I’ve not read that many Pratchett novels, but I’ve liked *most* of those I’ve read. Particularly liked Reaper Man, enjoyed Night Watch. Thing is, different people definitely seem to gravitate to different storylines. I like the ones with Death as a protagonist. I recently read and reviewed Night Watch here:

    Also, here’s a great link for suggestions about what novel to start with for different Pratchett storylines:

  4. Alannada, I like Rincewind, too, though I’ve heard that other readers find him dull.

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