Pros: Some great takes on the Arabian nights, the legend of the Apocalypse, and genies.
Cons: There's a cliffhanger ending.
As I read farther along into the Discworld, the more intrigued and curious I become. With Sourcery, one of the questions that I had always had about wizards was finally answered -- namely, why are wizards so darn twitchy about sex, enough to where they'll avoid women and do what they can to avoid them. In an earlier book, Equal Rites, part of that answer came; namely that it was the eighth son of an eighth son who has the ability to be wizards, but in this novel, comes an interesting riddle -- what potential does the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son have?
As readers of the Discworld novels know, eight is a very potential number on this world. There are many associations with the number eight, most importantly the colour octarine, that hue peculiar to magic itself. There is also octiron, a metal that is extremely rare and very suseptical to magic. Wizards will even go so far as not to even speak the word 'eight' for fear that could trigger something.
In some far off mountains, a wizard is nearing the end of his life, and as it is customary, Death himself has called to collect Ipslore's soul. But Ipslore has a bit of a surprise in store -- he's holding, you guessed it, his eighth child. The infant is named Coin by his father, and it's quite clear that the wizard is going to pass on his staff onto the little boy. But as the transfer happens, something very unusual occurs -- Deth can't quite seem to grasp Ipslore's departing spirit. But Death knows better -- Ipslore can run, but he can't hide forever, not from Death. And Death is very patient in such cases.
About ten years later, Coin and his staff arrives at the Unseen University, and at first the wizards scoff at him. But very quickly they realize that he's something much more -- a sourcerer -- a conuit of raw magic, in that whatever he wants to change, he can. Too, other wizards discover that they're able to do magic that they've dreamed of before. And the world starts to do so, with brutal impulsivity. Figuring out what is Coin is scares the living hell out of the wizards, and when Coin quite naturally demands the Archchancellor's hat, things start to go awry.
And then there's Rincewind, the most inept wizard on the Discworld. He's over at the Mended Drum, happily getting a bit tipsy when a thief appears. That thief has a very interesting item -- the Archchancellor's hat. Once again, Rincewind is in the middle of it, as the hat starts to speak to him, and is quite determined that Coin isn't going to wear it if the hat has anything to say about it. Actually, the hat has quite a bit to say, as Rincewind discovers to his horror. Not only can a Sourcerer command great power at a whim, but also is able to provide a doorway to some very nasty, very dangerous things to enter the Discworld.
It also turns out that the thief, who is very skilled, is not only a woman, but Conina, the daughter of none other than Cohen the Barbarian. And while Conina longs to be something else, her natural inheritance keeps coming through. This has proved to be very detrimental to her ability to fall in love, as the men tend to get scared off, or dead, very quickly. With Rincewind, the hat, and of course the Luggage, they all head off to faraway Al Khali, where the Seraph, Creosote lives.
Creosote tends to write poetry, and somewhat clumsy poetry at that. In his scented pleasure gardens, he has everything he wants, and has left most of the running of the realm to his Vizier, who is as most them tend to be, rather a piece of work. They also run into a wannabe hero named Nijel, who's well, not very good at the hero business. And then to further complicate things, Rincewind is getting very aware of Conina as a very attractive girl. Not to mention, the Luggage is falling in er, lurve, serious lurve, with Conina...
There are some great scenes in this one, my favourite being the Four Horsemen of the Apocralypse getting very drunk in a bar, what happens to the Patrician and his dog Wuffles, finding out that the Librarian is quite more than he seems, and other set pieces that can be figured out depending on how much literature you know. I liked the idea of sourcery and sourcerers, and it takes care of the reason why wizards don't tend to reproduce very much.
Pratchett is in fine form here, with dialog that snaps and sparkles, and with Death tending to get the driest humour of all. I do enjoy seeing the return of Death in the novels, as he adds a certain amount of piquancy to the stories, and while he's useful when things get out of hand, Prachett knows not to overuse him very much.
While this one isn't a great novel in the series, it did have some good scenes and very funny moments. Discworld isn't great fantasy writing, but it is terrific satire, taking on both the themes of fantasy literature and also modern society. The novels are not very long, and can be easily gotten through in an evening.
This one gets four stars from me and a happy thumbs up from me. Fans of the series won't need much urging to find this one, and while this does do as a stand alone novel, be warned that there are some loose threads that are likely to be answered in the next book.
Discworld Novels that I have reviewed:
The Color of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Sourcery -- you are here
Lords and Ladies
Men at Arms
Feet of Clay
The Last Continent
The Fifth Elephant
1988; HarperCollins Publishers