If Terry Pratchett has a weakness, at least in his early books, it’s that it takes some effort to get into the story. I’m a huge Pratchett fan, but I’ve found that certain of his books are just plain difficult to get into the flow of. Sourcery was one of those books. I guess this can be attributed to several things, for one that it’s one of his earliest books, and hence his skill had not yet reached its peak. He hadn’t yet developed all the characters I’ve come to love, such as the Ridcully and the faculty, so I had to deal with the usual throwaway wizards that populated his early books focused on the wizards. He had not yet developed his ability to tie comedy and story as flawlessly as he managed to in later books.
If Terry Pratchett has a strength, one that is sometimes overlooked, it’s creating a mythology to serve as a frame for his comedy. Sourcery is a great example of that, as he takes the word sorcery, and makes it his own, using the new word sourcery to explain the difference between modern magic and ancient magic.
The conflict centers around a new sourcerer being born, which happens when a wizard, the seventh son of a seventh son, has seven sons himself. The young sourcerer is more powerful than any living wizard, and even more powerful than the gods themselves. Everything falls to pieces as the wizards get a taste of ancient power, and nearly destroy the world in their power hungry wars.
The biggest reason that I had a hard time reading this one is Rincewind. He’s not a terrible character, but I have to confess that I find his books the weakest out of Pratchett’s repertoire. Sourcery is from that period when Pratchett did not have a stable of characters to choose from yet. Most everyone that loves his book loves a specific group of characters. Rincewind tends not to be one of those characters. The main problem is that while he’s an original type of character, he also breaks the rules of good characters. He isn’t competent, he has basically no friends, and because he’s a coward it’s really hard for him to be sympathetic. I know that Pratchett was trying to be original with him, and not have the same type of fantasy hero, but it really did not work out for me.
Which is of course why it is ironic that the next Pratchett book that I have scheduled to read is another Rincewind book…
That being said, Rincewind definitely experiences some character growth towards the end of the book, and even grows sympathetic. It is by no means a terrible book, no Pratchett book is bad, but it comes from a time when Pratchett was still finding his voice. That being said, it also has one of my favorite jokes, which I won’t spoil for anyone that hasn’t read this one yet, but it happens when three of the four riders of the apocalypse have their horses stolen.
If you’re a Pratchett fan I say if you’ve read this one once you’ve read it enough. If you have not read any of his books yet, I recommend reading all of them in order, while keeping in mind that it only gets better. My experience with Pratchett was to start from the very beginning, and while his early books are not stellar, I enjoyed his later books all the more because I noticed how Pratchett improved over the course of his career.
Considering how long it took me to reread this one, I probably could have chosen a better book of his, but since it’s one of the rare ones I haven’t read in a while, I saw no reason not to. Now that I think about it, I’ve seen some other bloggers dedicate a few months to their favorite authors. I’ve been thinking of doing that with Terry Pratchett. I wouldn’t mind starting from the beginning and reading the series through chronologically. But since I only just finished reading the series again a few months ago, I think I’ll let some time pass, probably even a year or two, so I can start the entire series from the beginning and enjoy it all the way through. So look for it within the next few years, when I dedicate a few months to discussing the legendary comedic fantasy writer that is the singular Terry Pratchett.
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