Illustrated by Paul Kidby
Synopsis: Cohen the Barbarian is angry with the Gods for letting men grow old and die. With him he has the silver horde. They are all old. Their plan is discovered and the Wizards are asked for help in stopping Cohen and the horde. Yes they asked the wizards of the Unseen University. Mayhem ensues. A big bird is built. It is Pratchett what do you expect?
My Thoughts: Please excuse me while I go and sit in a corner and marvel over the pictures in this book for a while.
They are absolutely amazing.
Pratchett is Pratchett and I have much love for him and the illustrations in this book just makes the book even better. Pratchett’s writing is flawless as usual. All the normal characters appear with a cameo by Death pondering Schrodinger’s cat but he ultimately dismisses it because “I DON’T HOLD WITH CRUELTY TO CATS” (pg69).
As usual Pratchett’s book connects with something in our world (or several somethings), in this case the hero myth. In stories heroes never grow old and die. Yet a tenant of the hero myth seems to be that they are invincible. So what does a hero that has grown old do? Why he has to go down in a blaze of glory, that is what heroes do. This is the premise of this story. Throw in some Leonardo da Vinci, pardon me, Leonard da Quirm, the brilliant but slightly spaced inventor/painter and you have a story that is supremely recognizable yet very very fresh.
I’m going to go back to the illustrations for a bit (did I mention that they are awesome?) because they reminded me of my first contact with the Discworld. My first contact with the fantastic world of Terry Pratchett was sometime in the mid ‘90s when we played the Discworld computer game. I grew up playing PC games. And the Discworld was one of the games we played as a family with my brother or me at the controls and whom ever wasn’t controlling the game and our mum telling the controller what they should be doing (aka “helping”). We loved that game. Along with the Kings Quest games (primarily Kings Quest VI: Heir today, Gone Tomorrow). Anyway this was a side point to say that when I finally got my hands on the books a few years later (1998 or there about) I already had a familiarity with the characters. I knew how the world worked…or you know…What I guess I am trying to say is that computer games aren’t always bad, sometimes they are gateways into the world of books too. And I am glad that the illustrations in this book reminded me of that.
Back to the book: This is a fairly short book (175 pages) and I read it in one day. For anyone who is looking for a quick Pratchett fix this is a great read. I am however not sure that this is a good first book. It skates over some things that the longer books explain in greater detail such as why the wizards are the way they are. I’m glad I had a passing understanding of the world before I read it. And as always with Pratchett’s work it helps to be well read in general as much of his wit and irony would be lost on those who do not know our world.