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.
As a big Rincewind fan, I count Sourcery as one of my favorite Pratchett novels. This fifth novel of Discworld is the first to have a real epic quality to it. Seeing as how the plot is hinged around the "Apocralypse" (even though an inebriated Pestilence, War, and Famine cannot remember the proper term for it), it pretty much has to be an epic. Ipslore was a natural-born wizard, the eight son of an eighth son, who did the unthinkable (not to mention unwizardly) act of marrying and having an eighth son of his own--a sourcerer. By tricking Death, he enters his own wizard staff and later guides the ten-year-old boy Coin in assuming the Archchancellorship of Unseen University and trying to take over the world. A sourcerer has free rein over the use of magic, unlike modern-day wizards who talk about magic but rarely perform it. Sourcerers almost destroyed the Discworld in ancient times in the Mage Wars, and young Coin sets in motion a modern-day Mage War that can only end in disaster. Only one man can stop the sourcerer and save the world--most unfortunately, that one man is the inept wizard Rincewind. His only allies are the wise and good Librarian (who happens to be an orangutan), the beautiful yet deadly thief Conina (daughter of Cohen the Barbarian), and Nigel, the skinniest hero on the Discworld whose only heroic wisdom comes from a ghost-written book by Cohen the aforementioned Barbarian. The Luggage also plays a part, but he/she/it is not there at Rincewind's side.
I love how the character of Rincewind is strengthened and expanded in this novel; he's still the funny little man in a pointy hat that we met in earlier Discworld novels, but instead of running around all over the world trying to avoid dying, Rincewind is transformed in these pages into a hero--not a very good one, of course, but a hero nonetheless. His commitment to wizardry is steadfast and firm, while the vast majority of successful wizards go along with Coin, delight in the new magical powers they gain through sourcery, and eventually wage a magical war among themselves in the pursuit of raw power. Rincewind redeems himself admirably here by actually performing some acts of bravery, risking his life--albeit reluctantly--for the sake of the Discworld.
The book starts out like gangbusters, and although it loses a little steam and wanders a little bit in the later stages, the conclusion brings everything together rather nicely. It does, however, leave a few questions unanswered for the time being. The character of Coin, the ten-year-old sourcerer, could have used more thrashing out, I felt, but Conina and Nigel are very interesting new characters in Pratchett's universe. Sourcery is overflowing with typical Pratchett humor, but it also features an exciting, narrowly-focused storyline that provides a wealth of new information about the wizards of Unseen University, the brave and wise banana-craving Librarian, and the crucial role and importance of magic in the Discworld. Whereas earlier novels sometimes seemed to have stories built around the jokes, this novel is built upon a solid foundation of an epic fantasy plot--the comedy is just icing on the cake. Of the first five Discworld novels, this is by far the most exciting and entertaining.
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 29, 2001
If you are looking for a helping of humor with your fantasy, then look no further. Terry seems to be where it's at. This is the third book of his Rincewind the Wizzard saga, and it kept me smiling while I read it despite an over-abundance of silliness. Funny... yes, but almost too silly. In my opinion, this book is not as good as Colour of Magic or The Light Fantastic (the first and second Rincewind novels), but it was definitely an amusing, quick read.
In this story, cowardly Rincewind, the so-called "wizzard" finds himself, unwillingly, in the middle of another quest to save the universe. This time it is from a ten-year-old boy who happens to be the most powerful human on the planet- a sourcerer! (As opposed to a mere wizard) Of course, Rincewind has his usual bevy of beyond-odd companions: The many-legged, living Luggage is back with an appetite, and instead of Cohen the barbarian... there is his daughter, Conina the hairdresser. If this kind of silliness appeals to you then get reading, because there's more where that came from.
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 May 10, 2000
As you read in the reviews, there was an eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son. He was a sourcerer, name of Coin. He was only 10 years old, but his father's soul was in Coin's staff, and he (the father) had many grudes against the Unseen University. So when Coin was ten years of age, he went to the UU and there lured all of the wizards with promises of power and threats to come to his side. He gave the wizards so much power that (as everyone knows wizards would do if they had enough power) they took over the Dic. No hope survived. Nothing could stand up to their magic. No wizards were left free from Coin's rule. Except for one. You see, when one wizard saw the hordes of rats, mice, bedbugs, gargolyes, ravens, and cocrouches leaving the UU, he decided to go out and get quietly drunk. While there, that certain wizard meet Corina, daughter of Cohen the barbarian, (who wants to be a hairdresser, but whose instincts keep getting in the way) who stole the Archchalcellor's Hat (which was the first thing that not only asked to be stolen, but gave instuctions in an athoritive tone as to how it would be disposed of.) Rincewind the wizard isn't much of a wizard, but he's the only hope the Dic has as the powers of the Hat fight with the powers of Sourcery,(both of which care nothing for what their stuggles do to the land.) After The Hat betrays him, this cowerdly wizard myust find a way to stop the Disc from being destroyed by the magical wars, the dungon dimensions from eptying into the universe, and somehow destroy Coin's staff, with only the help of the Luggage, a magic carpet, (One of Rincewind's greatest fears is heights) and a half-brick in a rubber sock. The ending left me hankering for Eric, the next book in the series.
on September 5, 1999
Some hard core Pratchett fan is reading this right now and wondering why I gave this book a three, well... My first Pratchett book was Feet of Clay, having said that it is self explanatory that all other Pratchett books I read were a let down. Feet of Clay is weighted against all the rest of the series in humor and writing. After being somewhat deeply disapointed with the newer books I searched in the earlier works to try and match some of the brilliance of Feet of Clay, so far I read about half the discworld and finaly arrived at Sourcery. Pratchett is almost always a mediocare writer- his excellence lies in the compensating humor which in this book is mostly not there(with the notable exception of the horseman- this part also was a little overdone). So one star goes to the horseman (and one or two other worthwhile joks), one star for being discworld, and one star for the rich imagination- which later on in the series fades to a monotonous scenery of "the woods" - some well harvested charachters- and some repeating puns. All and all Ive been nice on this review mainly because the book although not well planed takes on some unexpected turns and is hence interesting (again as comparable to lack of this in other d.w. novels). If Pratchett happens to read this than-"stops the series before you run what's left of your credit to the ground", "take a summer off- combine some of your unique charachters and humor to one single concentrated novel like feet of clay". To the rest of humanity- forget this b.s. and read FEET OF CLAY.