Mark Reads ‘Sourcery': Part 2

In the second part of Sourcery, Coin arrives at Unseen University, and the only non-spoilery way I can describe this is to say that he makes a scene. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Well, I still don’t know what Coin is doing here. I wondered if we’d quickly get his POV narration in this section, but nope! We’re seeing Coin through other characters’ eyes, and it’s pretty unsettling. What is Ipslore telling his son while all this is going on? I mean, I don’t doubt that he was communicating with him the entire time in the Great Hall! I am beginning to suspect that this might be a revenge narrative, at least for Ipslore. UGH, I’m not even 50 pages into this and I already wish I could binge read this to find out what’s going on.

What the hell was this, by the way?

Further along the University wall there was a faint clink as a grapnel caught the spikes that lined its top. A moment later a slim, black-clad figure dropped lightly into the Univeristy Grounds and ran soundlessly toward the Great Hall, where it was soon lost in the shadows.

No-one would have noticed it anyway. On the other side of the campus the Sourcerer was walking toward the gates of the University.

HAHAH OKAY, WHAT. WHAT. Did someone – or something – know that the Sourcerer was coming? What on earth did they steal, and why did it talk to them? Did they also appreciate the clever name of the sorcerer because they’re a source too DID YOU GET THAT? I did. I GOT IT I feel like an adult.

Despite that this is not the first novel about wizards, I appreciated that this section of Sourcery took the time to help explain the “perilous” nature of wizardry. We knew wizards were competitive. Actually, typing that definitely confirms it as an understatement. There was a lot of wizard peril in The Light Fantastic, let’s be real. It’s not surprising, then, that years and years later, the wizards are still unable to trust one another and are constantly looking for a way to basically level up. Unfortunately, that means that some wizards just plain aren’t going to make it through this novel, and the first to go is the god-chosen next Archchancellor, Wayzygoose, who died because his name is really fun to say. Well, okay, no, not true. Coin roasts him, which, in hindsight, should be a pretty clear indication that Coin is here for revenge. I THINK??? Without knowing what Coin is thinking, I don’t actually know if the kid is doing all of this OR Ipslore is manipulating his son and using his magic.

Meanwhile, Rincewind ostensibly survives Coin’s arrival by getting drunk with the Librarian and the Luggage. He then damns the world by saying:

“All this books and stuff, that isn’t what it should all be about. What we need is real wizardry.”

That last remark would have earned the prize for the day’s most erroneous statement if Rincewind hadn’t then said:

“It’s a pity there aren’t any of them around anymore.”

OH, RINCEWIND. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE.

But the best thing here is Coin’s dramatic entry and even more dramatic display of magic. Pratchett has cleverly avoided ridiculous displays of magical ability that litter fantasy novels, and that’s why this scene was so intense. The wizards of the Disc aren’t the kind of powerful we’re accustomed to. They’re bumbling, foolish, silly, petty, and absurd, and it’s only rarely that we get full-on magic battles of any sort. Even then, it’s still pretty ridiculous. (I’m specifically thinking of Granny and Cutangle’s fight in Equal Rites.

So Coin walks into the Great Hall after magically unlocking the doors, challenges Skarmer Billias to a magical fight, and then… well, shit. Billias’s use of Maligree’s Wonderful Garden is a perfect demonstration of what a wizard’s idea of power is. It’s impressive visually… sort of. It’s more like the wizards believe difficulty and complexity equals power, but Coin not only takes the alternate universe globe from Billias, he expands it to fit the entire Great Hall, and then he wipes Billias out of existence. JUST LIKE THAT.

There’s always been an element of cowardice to the wizards. Sometimes, that’s played with an affectionate sense of humor, like with Rincewind. Other times, cowardice is meant as a wholly negative trait to demonstrate how petty and slimy some wizards can be. So it was not surprising that Spelter and Carding viewed Coin’s arrival as a situation to take advantage of. They fight over this, and Pratchett imbues the whole thing with their jealousy for one another, as well as the competitive nature of wizardry levels. But what I was most interested in was their intent. Specifically? Carding. He fascinates me. He doesn’t want to kick Coin out of the University; he wants to constantly humor him. Let him wear the Archchancellor’s hat! Let him be taught by his peers!

But why? I have no doubt that Carding sees something to gain from this. My guess? If Coin is a source of magic, maybe he wants to exploit that.

The original text contains use of the words “mad” and “craze.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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