Once upon a time, there was an eighth son of an eighth son who was, of course, a wizard. As if that wasn't complicated enough, said wizard then had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son . . . a wizard squared . . . a source of magic . . . a Sourcerer.
Sourcery is the fifth Discworld outing, and also one of my least favourites, although I did find it more entertaining than I remembered. A young but powerful child,
Eskarina Coin is preparing to
give the wizards of Unseen University the shock of their lives: for the first
time in History, and against all the rules of the Lore, a girl a
sourcerer has arrived in Ankh-Morpork, and her his presence is about to
turn the conservative wizarding world upside down. The Discworld is suddenly
threatened by ancient and devastating magic, with only the hapless Rincewind and
his trusty Luggage there to prevent Trymon the sourcerer from unleashing
the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions and initiating the dreaded Apocralypse.
As you can see, a large part of my problem with Sourcery is that it feels too much like a rehashing of both Equal Rites and The Light Fantastic, with nearly all its plot elements being ‘borrowed’ from one or the other. To be fair, in many respects it is better and more coherent (well, kind of) than either of those two books, yet it also suffers from many of the same flaws. For instance, it’s populated with unnecessary secondary characters who, although fairly likeable, have no real impact on the events of the story. It also follows the same routine as many other Discworld novels with regards to plot. There’s a nice quick prologue to set up the story, and then we’re thrown straight into events, which is great. Fast-paced and funny, saturated with chuckle-worthy one-liners, the first half of the story races by. From thereon in, however, it suffers from Pratchett-itis, as both story and momentum lose their thread and subsequently unravel in a series of pointless events and irrelevant sub-plots.
Nonetheless, as with most of the Discworld books, no matter how much mud there is there are still plenty of diamonds to be found. The sheer amount of throwaway comments, witty one-liners and godawful yet hilarious puns is, as always, thoroughly impressive; and I’m willing to overlook any amount of thin plot and mediocre characters for a book involving the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse getting drunk in a bar, having their horses stolen, and subsequently not turning up for their own apocalypse because they were too busy having ‘one for the road’.