Terry Pratchett,
Sourcery
(Signet, 1989)

As those familiar with the Disc know, 8 is the number of mystical significance there, somewhat corresponding to 7 in our world but far more powerful. And as the seventh son of a seventh son here is reputed to have wizardly powers, so it is true of the eighth son of an eighth son there ... and the powers of the eighth son in the third generation are so vast as to make him a sourcerer, with control over the very fabric of reality on the Disc.

To prevent the birth of such a creature, wizards are forbidden to marry (or do anything else that might result in a birth). This ban, along with the profound dweebishness of wizards in general, mostly works.

Mostly. Only one renegade can ruin things for everyone, though, and Ipslore the Red was such a man. The eighth son of an eighth son himself, he left Unseen University, married and had children -- most notably, an eighth son: a sourcerer. And then he created a destiny for his son Coin and cheated Death by entering into his staff, which became Coin's. And thus it began....

Given the number of subsequent Discworld books, I doubt that I'm betraying the plot when I say that the Disc does survive, and justice of sorts is achieved, and things in general are set to rights. Like most of the Discworld novels, the plot is as much a framework within which we visit Discworld as the engine that drives the book. We are sure when beginning that everything will turn out more or less all right in the end; the fun is in the journey. Sourcery in particular often makes one wonder how things can possibly turn out all right, and it's a page-turner.

If you like the wizards of Discworld, this novel is set among them. We find out more about the realpolitik of wizardry on the Disc, and what makes wizardry work.

Another reason we read Pratchett's novels, of course, is that they are funny. Patchett's unique vision of the world combines with his ability to turn a phrase to make us chuckle while reading. Sometimes we even laugh out loud, and then chase other people around with book in hand reading them the choice bits!

For example, here Ipslore is talking with Death, who has come to take him. Ipslore has been disappointed in life:

"I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that makes living worth while?"

Death thought about it.

CATS, he said eventually, CATS ARE NICE.

(Death always speaks in capitals.)

After rereading Sourcery, I find it retains its place as one of my favorite older Discworld novels. It's got a lot of background on wizardry, an exciting plot and many laugh-out-loud bits. While it might not be the best place to start one's exploration of the Disc, it's a great one to include at some point!

[ by Amanda Fisher ]



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