on August 12, 2008
"Sourcery" is the fifth novel in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld series, was first published in 1988 and is the third to give a starring role to Rincewind, the cowardly one-spell wizard.
Wizardry is widely seen as the most appropriate profession for the eighth son of an eighth son - however, given that it's also a celibate profession, is isn't a job that is intended to run in the family. Unfortunately, accidents do occasionally happen and the eighth son of a wizard is known as a Soucerer - a wizard who is also a source of magic. They are hugely dangerous, and will increase the background levels of magic to such a degree that other wizards may just start building towers and launch another round of the Mage Wars...
Ipslore the Red is one of the exceptions : he fled the halls of the Unseen University, married and had a family. The inevitable eighth son, Coin, is only a baby when Death arrives for Ipslore and the ex-wizard decides to choose his son's destiny. The future he picks for Coin includes wearing the Archchancellor's Hat of the Unseen University and, in an attempt to cheat Death, Ipslore enters his staff when he leaves his body. His intention is to guide Coin to his destiny....
Coin is roughly ten years old when he makes it to the University, and isn't long in taking over. When he deals with two of the Wizards - including the incoming Archchancellor - in a swift and very final manner, the remaining members of staff are understandably reluctant to stand against him. However, two of the survivors - a rather devious pair called Spelter and Carding - smell an opportunity. In seeing themselves as Coin's most senior and trusted advisors, they don't realise that Ipslore already has that role to himself.
Coin's arrival isn't universally welcomed - the rats and the gargoyles are amongst the first to flee, while the books in the University's library are distinctly unsettled. Rincewind, now acting as the University's honourary assistant librarian, is the first member of staff to realise there's something strange happening and nips off to the pub in a panic with the Librarian (an orang-utan), and his Luggage. (Luggage is a large brass-bound box, made from sapient pearwood - the same material wizard's staff is traditionally made from. It can move around by itself, has rather a vicious temper and - like Dr Who's Tardis - appears to be much bigger on the inside than on the outside). While Rincewind has been lucky enough to avoid Coin at the University, he's unfortunate enough to be apprehended by Conina at the Mended Drum. Conina, a very successful thief, is the daughter of Cohen the Barbarian and has pilfered the Archchancellor's Hat from the University. In this case, however, she stole the hat at its own request. (It is a magic hat after all...and it has realised that Coin's arrival will signal the Apocralypse). Under the Hat's instructions, Rincewind and Conina travel to Klatch, where the Hat believes there is a mind devious enough to wear it...and stand against the Sourcerer.
As usual from Pratchett, this is an easily read, rather silly and very enjoyable book.
on May 20, 2002
There is, throughout Terry Pratchett's "Sourcery," a somewhat sorrowful tone being struck amidst the high spirited comedy and dramatic saving the world (again) sorts of action.
Because, at the heart of this story of how a most magical being, one whose very existence could unravel the fabric of the universe, is a scared and cruelly tormented little boy. That Pratchett keeps this in mind, and indeed, makes his salvation just as important as saving the world, is a credit to his skills as a writer and heart as a person.
The eighth son of an eighth son is a wizard. And the eighth son of a normally celibate wizard is a sourcerer, a living font of magical energies. But it's slightly more complicated than that: a father with a grudge against the magical establishment, a magical establishment (the cast of Unseen University, alternately pathetic and for once frightening) that's hungry for power, and a chain of events that quickly gets out of control all hurtle this story towards disaster.
Along the way, we get introduced to the daughter of the greatest hero in Discworld's history, who just desperately wants to be a hairdresser but finds that some things are just in her blood. We also pick up a very unlikely barbarian hero and a literary minded monarch and his fabulous pleasuredome. And, of course, the magic-less wizard Rincewind and his animate Luggage make a triumphant (well, as triumphant as Rincewind gets) return.
"Sourcery" is Pratchett's most heartfelt novel to date, and he puts the characters ahead of plot or jokes -- although there are plenty, especially concerning Conina and Unseen University -- and it makes for one of the best Discworld novels to date.
on September 10, 2001
I loved Mort. I REALLY loved it. Because, simply put, it would still be worth reading if you removed the jokes. Sadly, I can't say the same about Sourcery.
Is Sourcery still a great book worth reading? Yes.
Are there more "laughs" than in the previous 4 Discworld novels? Yes.
Is the main premise (the backbone of the story) interesting? Yes.
However, the characters, although solid, aren't as good as in Mort, or Wyrd Sisters. The only memorable enough (as in "I gotta tell my friends about him") is the librarian. Other characters who would otherwise seem amazing either aren't developed enough (Conina, Nijel) or are developed wrongly (the sourcerer himself) And Rincewind seems to be losing his "loser" appeal.
As you can plainly see, I enjoy talking about flaws. The book's still a great addition to the discworld series (much, much better than Equal Rites) and any Terry Pratchett fan owes himself (or herself, in some rare cases) the purchase of this book.
on August 17, 2001
This is the 5th book in the Discworld series and the third in the subset with Rincewind as the main character (after "The Color of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic"). The story is similar to The Light Fantastic in that, once again it is upto Rincewind to save the world. This time not from a red star, but from the hands of an evil sourceror ( a wizard "squared").
The character of Rincewind is developed further in this book; clearly, he meets adventures with a sense of resignation now, knowing that there is no escape from them. Boredom is not his to enjoy. He has worthy allies in Conina the Barbarian (who wants to be a hairdresser), Nijel the Destroyer (freckled, with acne), Creosote the Klatchian monarch (who is of a literary bent), the Librarian ("oook"), and of course, The Luggage.
I am reading the Discworld series in order, and this was not as good as the previous book "Mort". However, if you are an admirer of Discworld in general, this book does tell you more about its history and character. We are taken to new places like Klatch, and told about the Mage Wars and the Ice Giants. Pratchett's footnotes are very witty and his descriptions of Unseen University are well worth reading.
Not the best in the series, but a good read just the same.
on April 30, 2001
What do you get when the eighth son of an eighth son has an eight son? A thaumaturgical headache that's too big for his britches, is what.
In Terry Pratchett's discworld, wizards are like your uncle that builds stuff in the basement: you wouldn't want to be left alone with him, but boy! can he do some cool stuff! And when they are fired up by a powerful young Sourcerer, they decide that the Disc is better off in their hands. The only problem is "their hands" means their own and no one elses', even another wizard. Fortunately, to battle this powerful youngster, the Disc has Rincewind, the most inept and ill-equipped wizard of all time.
Like many of the earlier Pratchett books, Sourcery is a pretty basic plot, with a lot of jokes sprinkled throughout. There are some great bits with Death, the Apocralypse (think apocryphal + end of the world, because no one can agree on when it's coming) and the Ice giants were a hoot. After having moved on to prefer the books involving the Watch (Men At Arms, Feet of Clay) and the Witches (Lords and Ladies, Equal Rites, etc.) I was glad to read a Rincewind book that cast him a little deeper than a mobile panic attack, even though that's what he is.
You don't necessarily have to have read the prior four books, but why not start at The Color of Magic? Then, you can enjoy Sourcery a little more fully, then want to read all of them like I did.
on February 3, 2001
"I get vertigo just listening to tall stories," says the inept wizard Rincewind at one point. He'd have a serious Jimmy Stewart moment if he ever tried to make his way through this story. It's classic Pratchett and classic Discworld for sure. But not as well developed as the previous books in the series.
Pratchett concocts a menacing figure in Coin, the 9-year old eighth son of an eighth son (making him a sourcerer) who comes to Unseen University (where wizards learn their trade) in an attempt to rule the world. But Coin's magic, which we are to believe is all-powerful, comes off as little more than glorified parlour tricks. Not really menacing at all. Still, the sniveling cowards the make up the elite professors of the university are a treat to read about, and save most of those scenes.
Rincewind returns, after dominating "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic" while making a brief cameo appearance in "Mort". Here, he has a history of unwanted adventures behind him, and Pratchett uses this world-weariness to give Rincewind a cool demeanor that he didn't have in the other books. Sure, he's still cynical and pessimistic and cowardly, but with a touch of the fatalist about him. Without that addition, the character would become stagnant and boring. Kudos to Terry for an inspired bit of tweaking. On the other hand, Rincewind's constant companion The Luggage is little more than window-dressing here. He (it?) doesn't really do much, except remind us of his (its?) finer moments in previous books. Joining these two Discworld staples on their adventure are Conina the Barbarian (remember her father Cohen from "The Light Fantastic"?), a warrior princess who'd rather be working in a salon; Nijel (the Destroyer son of Harebut the Provision Merchant if you please) who learned about being a hero from a book, and is on his first gig here; and Creosote, an ignorant sovereign who's more concerned with poetry and drink than ruling his kingdom. Also, watch out for the run-in with a lamp genie that sets new standards for parody, and the continuing development of the character of the Librarian, who gets to do much more than chomp bananas and say "Ook".
"Sourcery" is probably the weakest overall of the Discworld books I've read so far. That being said, it's still a fine and fun adventure filled with many humourous moments, and well worth the read.
on April 30, 2001
Terry Pratchett's Discworld Series is definitely one of my favorites. In Sourcery, the entire Disc is threatened by the sudden rise of wizards. The wizards are lead by one of the most feared people on the Disc, a sourcerer. What exactly is a sourcerer? The source of all magic, of course. The eighth son of an eighth son is, of course, a wizard. There was once a wizard that went out and had seven sons. His eighth son was a wizard squared -- a sourcerer. The sourcerer is the most powerful wizard ever, and with his coming, the powers of all the wizards has grown tremendously. With an evil staff urging him forward, the sourcerer and the wizards want to rule the Disc. They are apparently unstoppable. The hope of the Disc rests on the inept shoulder of Rincewind. Terry Pratchett is hilarious, and his stories are always witty and intriguing, and intelligent as well.
on March 3, 2001
It wasn't THE best, but it was definitely worth the read. Like all Rincewind novels, this one was hilarious. Especially when Rincewind has conversations with his conscience and his libido...
It's better than The Colour of Magic, and about as good as the Light Fantasttic. It is of course about a 10 year old Sourcerer who leads all the Wizards in what is kind of like a Mage Wars, and Rincewind and Conina the hairdresser travel to Klatch with the Archchancellor's hat. They find themselves with Nijel the Destroyer, a teenager who wants to be a Barbarian hero. The Librarian tells (or rather "Ook"s) Rincewind that he must save the World and destroy the Sourcerer. This is where the famous half-brick in the sock originates.
As always Pratchett delivers entertaining story-telling with wit and style. In this Discworld tale we return to Rincewind and the legendary Luggage, in a Discworld upheaval caused by the release of sourcery (essentially raw, wild magic) by a son held puppet by his father's power and consciousness that has been locked into an iron staff.
As a reader, it's refreshing to read a writer's work that suspends my disbelief (quite the feat given this immprobable world, and quiets the editor. Pure, entertainment at the top of its form.
on November 25, 2000
Sourcery is one of Pratchett's earlier books, and fans of his Discworld series won't be dissappointed. For those who haven't yet read Pratchett, this one has a bit more of a confusing plot than his later books. You might want to start with Pyramids, or something like that, even though Sourcer and the Colour of Magic both set up background and history referred to in later books. At least keep in mind that he really does get better.