Why you don’t start your Discworld journey with Book One

I knew I wanted to read Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discword series. I brought book one, The Colour of Magic, expecting that I would fall in love. What happened instead was that – it confused me. Years later, discussing it again with students who were doing the library technician course with me, I was told to start with one of thee character narratives – particularly their favourite character Death. So, I got Hogfather but didn’t end up reading it. It wasn’t until last year that it came up again.

It started with talking to a friend who I was talking about Macbeth, because it was lockdown, The London Globe were streaming past productions, which included this play. I was going through a Shakespeare phase again and they happened to mention that the Terry Pratchett book, Wyrd Sisters, was based on that play. I had found my door into the Discworld.

Once I read the book (and as of writing this post – I finished The Colour of Magic) I now understand why so many fans say don’t start there. In the Back in Black, a Terry Pratchett documentary, Neil Gaiman agreed, saying:

“Part of the problem with Terry’s fiction, is a lot of people wind up starting that <picks up copy of The Colour of Magic>…it’s a romp, and it’s a terrible place to start…it’s a collection of jokes and in The Colour of Magic, they aren’t even very good jokes. The Terry Pratchett of fine and beautiful plots built like Swiss watches was a long way from turning up.”

Neil Gaiman
Rincewind (David Jason) in the movie adaptation

I liked The Colour of Magic; however, what helped me enjoy it more was knowing the type of world these characters live in. It may be just me, but I prefer listening to the stories, rather than reading them.

Reading the first book though is great, as a writer, I can see how Terry’s skills developed and changed. How his jokes became more elaborate and satisfying. Also, once you have read it, you can see the foundations of what the series is built on.

So – read The Colour of Magic, but read it after you have read a few of the other books first.

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