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Updated on October 22, 2009

"I meant," said Iplsore bitterly, "what is there in this world that makes living worthwhile?" Death thought about it. "CATS," he said eventually, "CATS ARE NICE."

In many ways, I feel bad for wizards. What good is all that power if you can't get chicks? On the other hand, I suppose that if your children have the potential to destroy the world, then maybe procreation isn't such a hot idea. In the fifth Discworld novel, we revisit both the wizard Rincewind and the reasons why wizards are discouraged from having children.

As we know the eighth son of an eighth son is destined to be a powerful wizard, even if she's a she, not a he (see Equal Rites). What happens when that child has eight sons? The wizard Iplsore finds out you get a sorcerer squared, a sourcerer. A sourcerer is a source of magic, more powerful than anything else on the Discworld. When Death comes for the wizard, Ipslore finds a way to escape the chill grasp of Death by placing himself in his staff, to be passed along to his son. And eventually the son grows up.

As Coin, the sourcerer, makes his way to the halls of magic at the Unseen University, the wizards are engaged in a long standing tradition, electing the new Archchancellor. Things go awry when the chosen wizard is attacked and disappears. It is into this leadership vacuum that Coin makes his entrance. Of course wizards are unlikely to accept the leadership of an untried boy, so they put him to the test. After a few top wizards are soundly defeated, the others soon accept, with fear if not grace, Coin's ascension to the top spot. The only problem is teh Archchancellors Hat seems to have gone missing.

Enter Rincewind, coward and wizard, master of no spell, but with a great turn of speed. He and the University Librarian are taking the evening to enjoy a pint at the pub when Conina, the daughter of the great barbarian hero Cohen, appears. It seems that the Hat has gained a degree of sentience from sitting atop the heads of so many wizards and it at least realizes the peril that they face in the form of Coin. The Hat implores Rincewind to take it and do what he does best: run. And run they do, straight to the Al Khali, away from the power building up in Ankh-Morpork. When they are all captured by the Grand Vizier, things look grim.

And sure enough they are. Coin has convinced the wizards that they need neither restraint nor the University, so they destroy both. With the power unleashed, they realize that only the gods can stop them. Easily taken care of, the gods of the disc are a jovial and lazy lot, so capturing them in a separate dimension is no challenge. Of course, THAT unleashes the Ice Giants, who have long been held in check until the end of the world. So, I guess its that time. And the four horsemen ride forth.

Rincewind, joined by Creosote, Conina and Nijel the barbarian head back to Ankh-Morpork to confront Coin. I would hate to give away the ending but the line "It's going to look pretty good, then, isn't it," said War testily, "the One Horseman and Three Pedestrians of the Apocralypse." is too good not to mention.

Once again, its the characters that make the story. Conina, the daughter of the aging barbarian hero, who really prefers hair to blood. Nijel, who answers the question of how hero's get started in the first place. And Rincewind, the eternal coward. The way Mr. Pratchett can shape characters that show us our worst traits as well as show how they can be used for good is inspiring, really. The way the wizards react when given the least bit of release raises the question of how we would respond in the same situation, a question that we have seen answered, horribly, so many times in the past.

Another great story by a great author. Read it, enjoy it, then read it again.


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