Fantasy Review: ‘The Light Fantastic’ by Terry Pratchett

Part 2 of the Complete Disworld Reread

The Great A’Tuin(who is of course a giant turtle on which the world rests) appears to be flying right into a giant red star(and certain doom), and nobody knows why.  A book of eight spells left during the worlds creation may be needed, but one of the spells is lodged in the head of Rincewind, the most inept wizard in the land, who may be falling off the face of the earth.

A direct sequel to the The Color of Magic, this book continues to follow Rincewind and Twoflower around the disc.  But while the first book was a loose set of stories held together by the characters, The Light Fantastic acts like a more traditional novel with a single major story line the isn’t resolved until the end.  Unfortunately for Rincewind that resolution may be the end of the world.

Pratchett really shows he can craft a detailed story around his humor.  The greatest strength of the book is that even plot points played for humor at first can have a lasting impact on the story.
 The pacing is quick and the book is still quite short, but bloat is kept out in unique ways.  For instance when Rincewind decides it is time to go home it is done in a couple of pages, but in a way that fits the story rather than rushes it(which I am finding very hard to describe without spoilers).  The final showdown is well crafted.  The reason for the flight to the red star is completely surprising and a great moment.

The humor has really evolved from the first book.  The Color of Magic relied on the easy joke.  It would take a trope, then exaggerate it to the point of absurdity.  In The Light Fantastic the humor is more intelligent, more subtle, and twists tropes rather than just exaggerate them.  A highlight involves a discussion of the practicability of the outfits fantasy artist tend to paint on female warriors, but allowing that disappointed readers can picture her henchmen in leather if necessary.

4 Stars. In almost every way this outing is an improvement over its predecessor.

*Possible Spoilers Below*

While the second in the series, in many ways this feels like the first Discworld novel, and certainly more typical of the rest of the series.  When reading CoM i had forgotten just how silly some of it was, and I saw why many have problems recommending it.  In TLF Pratchett crafted a much stronger story, and really started showing his strengths.

The land and people of Discworld are starting to show their unique personalities in this book, rather than being typical fantasy tropes.  Death loses his malevolence and starts acting like the Discworld Death that is so well loved.  Rincewind goes from pure coward to reluctant hero who happens to be a coward.  Cohen the Barbarian is introduced, and is the same character that we see in later books.  We start to see some names that will crop up later, such as a gnome with a name of Squires and a wizard named Weatherwax, Pratchett likes to recycle names.

As mentioned in the review the humor here is much more typical of what is to come in his better books.  TLF doesn’t have too many groaners, nor some of the pop culture in Discworld jokes that bogged down several titles.  For me Pratchett is at his best in stories like these, a tight plot where humor is in the background, rather than some later books where he tries to be a humorist first and the plot hits a slog of bad puns.

Notable Firsts: Cohan the Barbarian, Ysabell, the name Mort(though it seems to refer to Death himself at this point).  This is also the book where Rincewind receives luggage.  And I may be proven wrong, but I believe it is the only book of the series where Rincewind is actually home, rather than in another dimension, falling of the world, etc.  Something to watch out for I guess.

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