Mark Reads ‘Sourcery’: Part 4

In the fourth part of Sourcery, Conina reveals who her father was, and Coin makes some changes and some demands. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Sourcery.



When Rincewind wonders why Conina not only is a super badass barbarian thief, but feels to compelled to put down literally any human being who approaches her in any fashion, she says it’s because of her father, and I am already done with this book 60 pages in.

“Who was he, then? Coehn the Barbarian?” Rincewind grinned to show it was a joke. At least, his lips moved in a desperate crescent.

“No need to laugh about it, wizard.”


“It’s not my fault.”

Rincewind’s lips moved soundlessly. “Sorry,” he said. “Have I got this right? Your father really is Cohen the Barbarian?”

WELL, THIS IS EVEN BETTER THAN IT WAS BEFORE. Conina is Bethan and Cohen’s daughter!!! That’s neat enough all by itself, but I’m more interested by the fact that Conina doesn’t want to be who she is. In essence, certain traits were passed to her from her parents: beauty and physical prowess. And while she is undeniably good at what she does, she actually wishes she were a hairdresser. I think this fits in well with the motif of destiny in Coin’s story, but it also means that both Conina and Rincewind are about to embark on a journey that they don’t really want to go on. They’re reluctant participants in Fate. No matter how hard they try to resist the pull of what happens to them, they’re swept up in this story regardless.

And we can’t forget that the Luggage is a part of this journey, too. Even the Luggage is compelled to follow along. Does obsessive loyalty count as agency? Does the Luggage choose to follow Rincewind, or can it not help it? I also have a lot of questions about the Archchancellor’s hat. How literal should I take what it says? I like the concept of it being the true house of Lore for wizards, almost as if it is a sentient body of law. Is it also a source of magic, or does it merely save it up? I can’t forget that symbolism in the Discworld series, while often used for humor, is actually very important! It’s the basis for headology, and it has a vital role in modern wizardry, too!


Unseen University

Which is why the growth of magic in Unseen University unnerves me, y’all. I think I’m pretty confident in saying that at the very least, Ipslore is manipulating his son’s magic to bring about a new era of dawn of magic or something. I quietly think it’s cool that the wizards are now able to do some real magic that isn’t so constrained or stifling. I get that, and I understand their excitement. But the growth in the wake of Coin’s appearance just feels wrong. I think the mood in the library is evidence of that. Why would the books suddenly begin to feel scared? It’s a shift in the balance of power. Wizards had had limits on how much magic they could utilize for thousands of years, and given what little we’ve learned of sourcery in the old ages, it seems like that was for a good reason. A Disc with sourcery run rampart on it seems disastrous, no?

I suppose that it’s easier for me to view these new developments negatively only after getting to the scene in the Great Hall. From Coin’s appearance in the senior wizard’s quarter to the big confrontation, we’re treated to one unsettling reaction after another. Coin just SHOWS UP as soon as Carding speaks about him, and then… oh lord. I appreciate that Pratchett points out that while it’s horrifying to watch Carding be thrown across the room by a staff that also bit him, it is kind of his fault.

It was a shocking breach of etiquette in any case; no wizard should even think of touching another’s staff without his express permission. But there are people who can’t quite believe that children are fully human, and think that the operation of normal good manners doesn’t apply to them.

This behavior appears throughout the remainder of this section, too. Wizards condescend down to Coin, despite that Coin CLEARLY KNOWS WAY MORE THAN ALL OF THEM DO ABOUT MAGIC, because they can’t fathom someone so young being intelligent. But how much of what this kid does is his own mind or his father’s influence? When he eliminates all the statues of past Archchancellors, is that Ipslore’s revenge or his own? I CAN’T FIGURE THIS OUT. And I’m sure that’s the point of all this. Does Ipslore not even trust his own son to plot out his own destiny? Is that what he was referring to in his conversation with Death?

The scary part about this is that Carding is so willing to do exactly what I feared: exploit Coin’s arrival for his own purpose. In this case, it’s the perfect chance for the wizards to break free from their structure. Though not all wizards agree to this, and I spent the entire confrontation between Hakardly and Coin believing that at any moment, Hakardly would be killed. But holy shit, this is not the direction this conversation took:

“But I am well aware of the need for wisdom, foresight and good advice, and I would be honored if you could see you way clear to providing those much-valued commodities. For example – why is it that wizards do not rule the world?”


“It is a simple question. There are in this room –” Coin’s lips moved for a fraction of a second – “four hundred and seventy-two wizards, skilled in the most subtle of ars. yet all you rule are these few acres of rather inferior architecture. Why is this?”

Oh. OH. OH, THIS IS WHAT COIN/IPSLORE ARE PLANNING, ISN’T IT? It’s not that his questions aren’t valid. He cuts straight through the bullshit that Hakardly offers him, points out that wizards only ever seem in conflict with other wizards, notes that wizards have more power than practically anyone outside of the University, eviscerates the clothing they where, and then demands to meet with the Patrician, Lord Vetinari. No, that’s not right. Coin simply states that he is granting the Patrician an interview, which is an intentional way of framing himself as the one in power.

This is about changing who runs the world, isn’t it? And since the wizards locked Ipslore out of the world of magic thirty years prior, then Ipslore is going to unlock magic to the whole world, putting wizards at the top of the food chain.


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

Video 1

Video 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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