Review: The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1)

The Colour of Magic (Discworld, #1)The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Firstly, a word of warning – if you’ve never read anything in the Discworld series, do not start here! I recommend you start at least seven books in, maybe at Pyramids. All good comedy take a couple of episodes to find its feet and truly get underway.

These days, if The Colour of Magic was sent to a publisher with a covering query letter, I imagine the publisher would reject it for its rambling, its groanable puns, and its use of the most non-recommended perspective ever (omniscient third person) – and that’s without discussing the cons and cons of using footnotes and a prologue. Lucky for us this book was published in a different era, with looser restrictions and far more love-of-story and trust in a then unknown!

For lovers (and everyone else, those soon-to-be-lovers) of Discworld, this is a nostalgic look at Terry Pratchett’s early designs. A flat earth, carried on the backs of four elephants, who in turn stand on the back of a turtle. He’s still getting some of the finer points right (Death in particular, who never again has such emotion invested in reaping a soul, who never again actually kills someone himself).

Pratchett has a rare and beautiful sense of personification, of intent in inanimate objects; take this example of a ride on the back of a dragon by someone scared of heights –

The flat summit of the Wyrmberg rose up at them, lurched alarmingly, then somersaulted into a green blur that flashed by on either side. Tiny woods and fields blurred into a rushing patchwork. A brief silvery flash in the landscape may have been the little river that overflowed into the air at the plateau’s rim. Rincewind tried to force the memory out of his mind, but it was rather enjoying itself there, terrorizing the other occupants and kicking over the furniture.

– his similes are incredibly unique –

It sounded like the sort of scream that brings muscular help.

– as is his imagery –

It’s a little known but true fact that a two legged creature can usually beat a four legged creature over a short distance, simply because of the time it takes a quadruped to get its legs sorted out.

This is a series where all the non-mainstream beliefs of humans (ok, crazy beliefs – and I’m looking at you, flat-earthers) are actually real, where a tiny imp sits inside a camera and paints pictures very quickly, where the speed of light is often overtaken by the speed of dark, where things exist simply because you believe in them, and where science is something too crazy to exist, and if you keep talking about it you’re liable to get yourself looked at funny.

This is a great ‘flashback’ story after reading a few of the others, and a great insight into how Discworldians (particularly Ankh-Morporkians) think. I’m not a fan of Rincewind himself, and even though I would have loved to meet the luggage or Twoflower again one day, I’m glad Pratchett had so many more ideas to go on with.

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