The fifth Discworld
novel and a return to Rincewind as central character. Very much a sequel to The Light Fantastic
in style, plot and humor.
Wizards (in early Discworld books at least) are the eighth sons of eighth sons
, and they are forbidden to marry. Why? Well, one wizard, Ipslore, runs away and defies the rules by wedding and having children. The first seven are as powerful from birth as any wizard in the world (and are never mentioned again). The eighth... the eighth is the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son. A wizard cubed... a source
of magic, not merely one who can manipulate the magic already present in the world... a Sourcerer
Unfortunately, there's a very good reason why the Discworld has no Sourcerers. The Sourcerer's powerful magic makes him into a Physical God
, and he unites the wizards of the Unseen University in an attempt to Take Over the World
. The ensuing all-out magical war threatens the very existence of the Discworld itself. Once again, it falls upon the reluctant Rincewind to save the world... somehow.
The preface includes Pratchett's story about the Luggage being inspired by an American woman tugging a large, recalcitrant suitcase on wheels (which he later admitted he wasn't sure he hadn't made up or not) and adds, "This book does not contain a map
. Please feel free to draw your own."
Pratchett has commented that Sourcery
is his least favorite book of the series, saying he wrote it out of pressure by fans to do another Rincewind book.
Preceded by Mort
, followed by Wyrd Sisters
. Preceded in the Rincewind series by The Light Fantastic
, followed by Eric
Contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Ipslore cows Coin into committing evil actions and uses magical Electric Torture on him when he tries to disobey. It's implied that Ipslore treated his first seven sons no better, and possibly even worse.
- Action Girl: Conina. She'd rather be a hairdresser.
- Apocalypse Maiden: Coin, of course, is an Apocralypse Boy.
- Arabian Nights Days: Klatch.
- Aroused by Their Voice: Conina's voice can make "Good morning" sound like an invitation to bed.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Coin's ultimate fate, and apparently the usual fate of Sourcerers.
- Barbarian Hero: Deconstructed with Nijel. Conina is more of a straight example, though she just wants to be normal.
- Bewitched Amphibians: Lord Vetinari spends most of the novel as a small yellow lizard after refusing to submit to the Sourcerer.
- Big Bad: Ipslore the Red, as Coin's staff.
- Bittersweet Ending : The world is saved, the gods are re-released out into the world, Coin is free from the possession of his dead father, Ankh-Morpork is restored... but Coin has Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence and Rincewind, the one who saved the entire world, is trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions.
- Book Ends: The book begins, "There was a man and he had eight sons," and this is repeated as the first line of the story the barmaid tells to Creosote near the end.
- Brick Joke: In the beginning of the book, Rincewind mistakingly thinks that a geas is a type of bird. In the conclusion of the book, the narration mentions a flock of geas.
- Captain Obvious: "The thing about the Ice Giants were that they were, well, giants. The other thing about them was that they were made of ice."
- Characterization Marches On: Vetinari isn't nearly as much a Magnificent Bastard as he would eventually become, and as a result, comes off as a bit thick. At the very least he usually has a better grasp of knowing when to fold em.
- Chess with Death: More like a wager, but Death lampshades this trope when Ipslore expresses interest in negotiating with him.
- Children Are Innocent: It becomes very obvious early on that Coin is not the real villain here, just being manipulated by Ipslore.
- Color-Coded Wizardry: Ipslore the Red is a straight example, although Pratchett parodies this trope in other novels.
- Combat Haircomb: In Conina's hands, even a normal comb can be lethal.
- Conscience Makes You Go Back: Literally. Rincewind is controlled by his conscience as if it was a split personality.
- Continuity Nod: Rincewind mentions that the Luggage once ate a spellbook, and was sick for three days before spitting it up.
- Also when told that the world is about to end, Rincewind responds with, "What, again?"
- Correspondence Course: in Barbarian Heroism.
- Dastardly Whiplash: Abrim is Dastardly Whiplash meets Evil Vizier. "He twirled his mustache, probably foreclosing another dozen mortgages."
- Defusing The Tykebomb: Coin benefits from a textbook example of this.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Conina fell for Nijel instead.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
- Rincewind, twice. First, knocking Coin's staff out of his hand with a heavy object in a sock. Then using the exact same tactic on an Eldritch Abomination.
- The Librarian even gets in on the act. After Coin offers to turn him back into a human, the Librarian's reaction has Coin quickly back off. Bear in mind that Coin is perhaps the most powerful being on the Disc.
- Durable Deathtrap: Averted - the jokey Temple of Doom traps Creosote's ancestor hid in the catacombs have decayed and are no longer functioning, and even so, only consist of kick me signs and buckets of white-wash above doors. Except the last one, a giant slab of stone that falls out of the ceiling on you, with the words LAUGH THIS ONE OFF engraved on the side.
- Editorial Synaesthesia / Tastes Like Purple: Used with all senses simultaneously, to describe the bizarre reality-twisting effects when supercharged wizards' barrage of spells and counterspells reach critical mass.
- "It looked the way a piano sounds when dropped down a well. It tasted yellow, and felt paisley. It smelled like a total eclipse of the Moon. Of course, closer to the Tower it got really weird."
- Empathic Weapon
- The End of the World as We Know It: Very nearly happens this time.
- Evil Chancellor: Creosote's grand vizier, Abrim. Rincewind has him pegged as one on sight (the mustache was kind of a giveaway).
- Evil Sorcerer: Ipslore the Red
- Expecting Someone Taller: Rincewind with Conina and later, Coin.
- Expospeak Gag: The magic carpet flies to the command "down". When Conina asks why is that, Rincewind responds that it's because of "certain fundamental details of laminar and spatial arrangements", or in non-wizard talk because it was put on the floor upside-down.
- Extreme Doormat: Coin, having grown up as his father's mindslave, has elements of this.
"Please tell me what to do!"
- Face-Heel Turn: The Archchancellor's Hat. How good it is at the beginning is already debatable (it threatens to freeze Rincewind solid if he disobeys, for one), but its outright evilness is not outright exposed until it manages to possess a worthy mind, whereupon it becomes as destructive to the world as the sourcerer it opposes.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Klatch as the generalized 'cultured but decadent oriental state', evoking the Ottoman Empire, Xanadu, etc.
- Follow the Chaos: Nijel is once described as the kind of person who, if he was lost in a trackless desert, could be located by leaving out some valuable old heirloom and then hurrying back as soon as you heard it smash.
- Foreshadowing: Death asking Ipslore about his relationship with his other seven sons is this. They all got fed up with their father's manipulations and left him behind, just as Coin eventually does.
- Funetik Aksent: The Ice Giants get a vaguely Scandinavian one.
- Geas: Parodied. And then it turns out Rincewind was right and a geas is a type of bird.
- Genre Savvy: Of course - it's Discworld. Rincewind is particularly genre savvy, as always; Abrim explains doing something evil by saying that the vizier has to be evil; Nijel is very aware of what's expected of a barbarian hero, since he's been studying for the role.
- A God Am I: This would actually be a serious step down for Coin.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The only thing that is described when Carding dies from a horrible curse that is his skin began to blister.
Most of the wizards managed to turn their heads away. A few - and there are always a few like that - watched in obscene fascination.
- Hello, Nurse!: Conina. Her appearance is stated to be "calculated to hit the male libido like a lead pipe."
- Heroic BSOD: Rincewind, upon returning to the Library after Coin orders it to be burned.
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Famine and Pestilence get their horses stolen, and Death refuses to let them all ride on Binky. So they just get drunk instead.
- I Am the Trope: the Archchancellor's hat states at one point: "I AM magic!"
- I Am X, Son of Y: Nijel introduces himself to Rincewind "Nijel the Destroyer, son of Harebut the Provision Merchant". When he meets Conina, he changes it to "Harebut the Mighty".
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Barbarian heroine Conina claims she just wants to be a hairdresser.
- Improvised Weapon: When all you have is a pair of scissors and a comb...
- Or a sock and some debris...
- Or, according to Conina's description in The Discworld Companion: a hairgrip, a piece of paper, a hamster...
- Incredibly Lame Pune: See Instant Soprano, below.
- Instant Soprano: The slaver leader asks Rincewind if he can sing, then starts making coy references to the unique opportunity he'll face as a harem servant.
- Klatchian Coffee: first reference in the series. Also, first appearance of Desert Orakh, a Gargle Blaster that was actually created to mitigate the effects of said coffee.
- Lampwick Joke
- Let's Get Dangerous: The Disc gods, usually cruel, lackadaisical and indolent, get a briefly described Crowning Moment of Awesome at the end when they are released and throw back the Ice Giants' glaciers.
- Also arguably the wizards themselves under the effects of sourcery, when people are used to them being stuffy background characters.
- Love at First Sight: Parodied when Nijel and Conina first meet: "The world had suddenly separated into two parts — the bit which contained Nijel and Conina, and the bit which contained everything else. The air between them crackled. Probably, in their half, a distant orchestra was playing, bluebirds were tweeting, little pink clouds were barreling through the sky, and all the other things that happen at times like this."
- Mage Tower: Towers are deeply rooted in a wizards' psyche. Even Rincewind, who is barely a wizard at all, instinctively tries to make one in his sleep. Though, true to form, he isn't very good at it.
- Magical Seventh Son: Except on Discworld, the magic number is eight. And while the eighth son of an eight son is just a wizard, the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son is a sourcerer, and almost too powerful for the world to bear. (This is one of the reasons wizards are discouraged from having sex.)
- Magic Hat: The Archchancellor's Hat.
- Mind Hive: the Archchancellor's Hat houses the spirits of hundreds of deceased Archchancellors.
- Mood Whiplash: Done deliberately by Creosote's ancestor in designing his deathtraps: the first few are all pathetic jokes along the line of a bucket of whitewash tipping on your head, while the last one catches you off guard by being a massive slab of stone crashing down.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: parodied with Nijel the Destroyer. He chose the title according to a chapter in his book on Barbarian Heroism.
- Nerd: Nijel, though he would much rather be a Barbarian Hero.
- No Man of Woman Born: Ipslore's deal with Death that he can have a kind of life until Coin throws away his staff.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: Referenced when Rincewind is on a Flying Carpet and says he's "afraid of grounds." When asked "don't you mean heights," he replies that it's the grounds that kill you.
- Perspective Magic: When the wizards are up in Coin's tower of sourcery, one of them remarks that the mountains at the Hub look almost close enough to touch... and Coin reaches out and touches one of them.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: In-universe example; after the Archchancellor's Hat is stolen, Spelter and Carding create a fake one that looks a lot more like an Archchancellor's hat than the actual one did.
- Reality Warper: Coin can do pretty much anything. Anything. Including imprisoning the entire Discworld pantheon.
- Recursive Reality: At one point, the supporting cast end up inside the lamp that they themselves are carrying. The genie asks them not to think too hard about it, as the trick relies on the laws of physics not catching on.
- Redemption Equals Death: Out of sight for Spelter and in plain sight for Carding. Both had spent most of the book enabling Coin's rise to power, and each realizes what a mistake that was. Spelter is presumably vanished while striking against Coin's staff with a meat cleaver, and Carding realizes that they've opened a highway to the Dungeon Dimensions, goes somewhat mad to the point of frightening Coin, and makes a grab for the staff (which ends badly).
- Reset Button: What Coin does at the end.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder:
Ipslore: And what would humans be without love?
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Rincewind's hat bears the word "WIZZARD" in sequins.
- Royal Harem: The Seriph has a seraglio, and Conina is sent there. Rincewind doesn't know what one is, having mistakenly formed the impression that it's something like an iron maiden. For that matter, it doesn't seem that the Seriph himself has much idea what it's supposed to be for, since what he mostly does there is be told stories and recite bad poetry.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: just when he was supposed to die, Ipslore the Red seals himself inside his son's staff and becomes a sort of spirit guide to him (read: his corrupter).
- Sequel Hook: A wizard always comes back for his hat.
- Shout-Out: Rincewind and Creosote use expressions from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" when they talk about Creosote's "Wilderness". There's also a few ShoutOuts to The Rubaiyat and the Arabian Nights. Combined with It Will Never Catch On when Rincewind says "Telling stories in a harem? That's not bloody normal! It'll never catch on!"
- Rincewind describes his half-brick in a sock with 'it kills people, but leaves buildings standing', which is a famous description of the neutron bomb.
- Snake Pit: The method of last resort for execution. It contains one snake that doesn't want any trouble.
- The So-Called Coward: Played straight, then subverted: Rincewind fights the monstrous Things from the Dungeon Dimensions with a handful of sand in a sock, allowing Coin to escape. Then he runs for his life.
- Mostly played straight, really - no matter how reluctantly, Rincewind ends up saving the world after all he even pulls a Heroic Sacrifice of sorts by getting stuck in the Dungeon Dimensions so Coin can escape). Part of it is because the world would end anyways (along with him) if he didn't. Another part is trying to live up to his status as a wizard.
- Sock It To Them: Rincewind uses this technique twice. First against the sourcerer—his staff, specifically. Then later against the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions.
- Stealth Pun: Conina wants to be a hairdresser. Which would make her Conina the Barber.
- This Banana Is Armed: Played with. Rincewind is desparate enough to attack Coin with...a half-brick in a sock. Not that it actually works or anything, but Coin is so fascinated by the concept (half-bricks in socks don't ever really occur to you when you have limitless magic at your disposal) that he spares Rincewind.
- Truth-Telling Session: While watching Rincewind incompetently trying to build a tower in his sleep (because all wizards are doing that) Nijel confesses that he's "not exactly a barbarian hero", Conina says that she lacks "a certain something when it comes to hairdressing" and Creosote admits that his poetry "leaves a lot to be desired".
- Tykebomb: Coin, of course.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: 90-lb. weakling and nerd Nijel with Hello, Nurse! Conina.
- The Unreveal: When Rincewind and the Librarian are at the bar, Rincewind wonders how the Librarian is paying for his drinks. The Librarian gives him an explanation, but since the Librarian is an Intelligible Unintelligible, the explanation is "Oook."
- Well, This Is Not That Trope: "Have you ever been bitten by a snake?" "No." "Then you'll know exactly what it feels like, because it isn't like a snake bite at all."
- Wham Line: "All the wizards were wazards".
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Rincewind says he doesn't like snakes much, and promptly gets thrown in the snake pit. Justified in that it was apparently the only functioning torture device in Al-Khali that day.
- Also hilarious, in that there's really only one snake, and that one doesn't attack. The narration is split on whether it's because the snake sees Rincewind as a sort of possible mongoose, or whether it's just got a good thing going and doesn't want to spoil it by going around biting people.
- The Worf Effect: Kind of a hindsight example, in that Coin easily dispatches Lord Vetinari, that most Magnificent of Magnificent Bastards. But at the time the book was written, the Patrician's character had not yet been developed to this, being merely an intelligent politician rather than the nigh omnipotent figure of the later series, so it was probably unintentional. Although, given his remark about how a wise man would want to be safely locked in a dungeon if the wizards took control, it can be argued that Vetinari's transformation into a lizard wasn't wholly to his disadvantage under the circumstances. And when he was transported to the Unseen University, he was in the process of reading a report of a conversation by the head of the Thieves' Guild that was said in a secret, soundproof room. Coin took him as easily as he did because... well, he could bend reality with a thought.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The customers of the Mended Drum might murder each other, but "a child could go in for a glass of lemonade and be certain of getting nothing worse than a clip round the ear when his mother heard his expanded vocabulary."
- Wrote the Book: It's said of the Evil Vizier that he wrote the book on dirty tricks — or, more probably, stole it from someone else.