Book Review: The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Confession – It has taken me over a decade to start reading the Discworld novels!

I wrote a blog post, oh, about two years ago now about starting the Discworld novels (you can read it here!) but I’m only just getting around to it. If you’ve read the post then you’ll know that this isn’t my first experience of Pratchett’s writing or even of the Discworld but I’ve finally started the adventure from the beginning.

I have heard from more than one source that The Colour of Magic is not in fact the best place to start, however, as it’s the first novel released I thought I’d start there. I met Rincewind and the luggage many, many years ago in the Discworld computer game so I was glad to have a known companion with me for the beginning of my journey!

As with most Fantasy novels, there is an entire world to be introduced to, a whole new landscape to familiarise yourself with, this often leads to the awkward information dump. Not here. Pratchett’s conversational style of narration makes any background introduced a well written and witty side note. You are immersed in the world in a way that makes you endlessly curious about the workings of the Discworld.

Something that Pratchett manages to do, which I think is probably why the world he created is so popular, is cement Discworld in reality. By this I mean, the novel is populated with normal people. Yes, there are wizards and mystical objects and races we don’t recognise, there’s even the skeletal form of Death but they all appear to be living normal lives, at least normal for them. You appreciate that Pratchett has planned out every minute detail of the world he has created so that it functions properly. This is also one of the things I loved so much about the Harry Potter novels, I bet you could ask J K Rowling anything about the magical world and she could answer it. That precision planning makes for a rich, detailed narrative that makes you believe every second of it.

Rincewind and Twoflower’s adventure underpins the novel but doesn’t consume it as it jumps between characters and situations. Fantasy novels often fall into one category, the hero’s tale, The Colour of Magic doesn’t shy away from this but also doesn’t seek to mimic it in the traditional sense. Pratchett cleverly created a setting so that, although the characters have a story to tell, the world itself does too. 

You get the overwhelming feeling that you are reading a history book and that is no bad thing. You are following multiple lives all interlocking in the way that reality does. The novel doesn’t have a one track mind, it has a varied, detailed mind of its own. 

Of course, a huge reason why the novel is so enjoyable is the voice of the author, making you feel like he is an old friend letting you in on a secret. The voice of the narrator can be a difficult thing for authors to perfect and I’m not sure I have read many other novels where it is achieved to the standard that it is here. Perhaps the best likeness would be Lemony Snicket. Instead of just telling the story, the narrator becomes a character in its own right.

I may not review every novel in the series as I get the feeling that it is a continuing story that I may just stop and reflect on every now and again. I’m so glad I finally started! I sped through the first book faster than I have read anything else in a while, in part due to the wonderful storytelling. If you like fun, intelligence, adventure and plain silliness than I recommend you start your Discworld journey now as well!


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