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Wizards (in early Discworld books at least) are the eighth sons of eighth sons, and they are forbidden to marry. Why? Well, one wizard, Ipslore, runs away and defies the rules by wedding and having children. The first seven are as powerful from birth as any wizard in the world (and are never mentioned again). The eighth... the eighth is the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son. A wizard cubed... a source of magic, not merely one who can manipulate the magic already present in the world... a Sourcerer.
Unfortunately, there's a very good reason why the Discworld has no Sourcerers. The Sourcerer's powerful magic makes him into a Physical God, and he unites the wizards of the Unseen University in an attempt to Take Over the World. The ensuing all-out magical war threatens the very existence of the Discworld itself. Once again, it falls upon the reluctant Rincewind to save the world... somehow.
The preface includes Pratchett's story about the Luggage being inspired by an American woman tugging a large, recalcitrant suitcase on wheels (which he later admitted he wasn't sure he hadn't made up or not) and adds, "This book does not contain a map. Please feel free to draw your own."
Pratchett has commented that Sourcery is his least favorite book of the series, saying he wrote it out of pressure by fans to do another Rincewind book.
Contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Ipslore cows Coin into committing evil actions and uses magical Electric Torture on him when he tries to disobey.
- For being a guy with eight sons, you'd figure he would have gotten better at this parenting thing over the years. But then, he threw out the other seven when they dared to question him.
- Action Girl: Conina. She'd rather be a hairdresser.
- Anticlimax Boss: The Archchancellor's hat. It takes over the Grand Vizier and a big show is made of his ability to effortlessly annihilate even the sourcery-empowered wizards. He's engaging in open warfare with Coin...and then Carding essentially trips him, causing him to lose control of the magic he was using and annihilate himself. Considering how much effort went into stealing the hat, transporting the hat, recovering the hat, etc, you'd think that more time would go into stopping him when it's revealed that he's Knight Templar willing to end the the rule of sourcery by force, even if it destroys the world in the process.
- Apocalypse Maiden: Coin, of course, is an Apocralypse Boy.
- Arabian Nights Days
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Coin's ultimate fate, and apparently the usual fate of Sourcerers.
- Audio Erotica: Conina's voice can make "Good morning" sound like an invitation to bed.
- Barbarian Hero: Deconstructed with Nijel.
- Bittersweet Ending : The world is saved, the gods are rereleased out into the world, Coin is free from the possession of his dead father, Ankh-Morpork is restored... but Coin has Ascended to A Higher Plane of Existence and Rincewind, the one who saved the entire world, is trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions.
- Book Ends: The book begins, "There was a man and he had eight sons," and this is repeated as the first line of the story the barmaid tells to Creosote near the end.
- Brick Joke: In the beginning of the book, Rincewind mistakingly thinks that a geas is a type of bird. In the conclusion of the book, the narration mentions a flock of geas.
- Captain Obvious: "The thing about the Ice Giants were that they were, well, giants. The other thing about them was that they were made of ice."
- Characterization Marches On: Vetinari isn't nearly as much a Magnificent Bastard as he would eventually become, and as a result, comes off as a bit thick. At the very least he usually has a better grasp of knowing when to fold em.
- Chess with Death: More like a wager, but Death lampshades this trope when Ipslore expresses interest in negotiating with him.
- Color-Coded Wizardry: Ipslore the Red is a straight example, although Pratchett parodies this trope in other novels.
- Conscience Makes You Go Back: Literally. Rincewind is controlled by his conscience as if it was a split personality.
- Correspondence Course: in Barbarian Heroism.
- Defusing the Tykebomb: Coin benefits from a textbook example of this.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Conina fell for Nijel instead.
- Durable Deathtrap: Averted - the jokey Temple of Doom traps Creosote's ancestor hid in the catacombs have decayed and are no longer functioning, and even so, only consist of kick me signs and buckets of white-wash above doors. Except the last one, a giant slab of stone that falls out of the ceiling on you, with the words LAUGH THIS ONE OFF engraved on the side.
- Editorial Synaesthesia: Used with all senses simultaneously, to describe the bizarre reality-twisting effects when supercharged wizards' barrage of spells and counterspells reach critical mass.
- "It looked the way a piano sounds when dropped down a well. It tasted yellow, and felt paisley. It smelled like a total eclipse of the Moon. Of course, closer to the Tower it got really weird."
- Empathic Weapon
- The End of the World as We Know It: Very nearly happens this time.
- Evil Chancellor: Creosote's grand vizier, Abrim.
- Evil Sorcerer: Ipslore the Red
- Expecting Someone Taller: Rincewind with Conina and later, Coin.
- Extreme Doormat: Coin, having grown up as his father's mindslave, has elements of this.
"Please tell me what to do!"
- Eyes of Gold: Coin.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Klatch as the generalized 'cultured but decadent oriental state', evoking the Ottoman Empire, Xanadu, etc.
- Follow the Chaos: Nijel is once described as the kind of person who, if he was lost in a trackless desert, could be located by leaving out some valuable old heirloom and then hurrying back as soon as you heard it smash.
- Funetik Aksent: The Ice Giants get a vaguely Scandinavian one.
- Geas: Parodied. And then it turns out Rincewind was right and a geas is a type of bird.
- Genre Savvy: Of course - it's Discworld. Rincewind is particularly genre savvy, as always; Abrim explains doing something evil by saying that the vizier has to be evil; Nijel is very aware of what's expected of a barbarian hero, since he's been studying for the role.
- A God Am I: This would actually be a serious step down for Coin.
- Heroic BSOD: Rincewind, upon returning to the Library after Coin orders it to be burned.
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Famine and Pestilence get their horses stolen, and Death refuses to let them all ride on Binky. So they just get drunk instead.
- I Am X, Son of Y: Nijel introduces himself to Rincewind "Nijel the Destroyer, son of Harebut the Provision Merchant". When he meets Conina, he changes it to "Harebut the Mighty".
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Barbarian heroine Conina claims she just wants to be a hairdresser.
- Improvised Weapon: When all you have is a pair of scissors and a comb...
- Or a sock and some debris...
- Or, according to Conina's description in The Discworld Companion: a hairgrip, a piece of paper, a hamster...
- Inferred Holocaust: A huge number of implied fatalities, though there is debate as to whether the Reset Button covers these or not.One could say that a reason why the wizards change from amoral Vancians to magical Oxonians is that Coin/Ipslore killed all of the former.
- Klatchian Coffee: first reference in the series. Also, first appearance of Desert Orakh, a Gargle Blaster that was actually created to mitigate the effects of said coffee.
- Let's Get Dangerous: The Disc gods, usually cruel, lackadaisical and indolent, get a briefly described Crowning Moment of Awesome at the end when they are released and throw back the Ice Giants' glaciers.
- Also arguably the wizards themselves under the effects of sourcery, when people are used to them being stuffy background characters.
- Lampwick Joke
- Love At First Sight: Parodied when Nijel and Conina first meet: "The world had suddenly separated into two parts -- the bit which contained Nijel and Conina, and the bit which contained everything else. The air between them crackled. Probably, in their half, a distant orchestra was playing, bluebirds were tweeting, little pink clouds were barreling through the sky, and all the other things that happen at times like this."
- Mage Tower: Towers are deeply rooted in a wizards' psyche. Even Rincewind, who is barely a wizard at all, instinctively tries to make one in his sleep. Though, true to form, he isn't very good at it.
- Magic Hat: The Archchancellor's Hat.
- Mood Whiplash: Done deliberately by Creosote's ancestor in designing his deathtraps: the first few are all pathetic jokes along the line of a bucket of whitewash tipping on your head, while the last one catches you off guard by being a massive slab of stone crashing down.
- No Man of Woman Born: Ipslore's deal with Death that he can have a kind of life until Coin throws away his staff.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: Referenced when Rincewind is on a Flying Carpet and says he's "afraid of grounds." When asked "don't you mean heights," he replies that it's the grounds that kill you.
- Perspective Magic: When the wizards are up in Coin's tower of sourcery, one of them remarks that the mountains at the Hub look almost close enough to touch... and Coin reaches out and touches one of them.
- Redemption Equals Death: Out of sight for Spelter and in plain sight for Carding. Both had spent most of the book enabling Coin's rise to power, and each realizes what a mistake that was. Spelter is presumably vanished while striking against Coin's staff with a meat cleaver, and Carding realizes that they're opened a highway to the Dungeon Dimension, goes somewhat mad to the point of frightening Coin, and makes a grab for the staff.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder:
Ipslore: And what would humans be without love?
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Rincewind's hat bears the word "WIZZARD" in sequins. An interesting example, in that at the time this was just one of the many examples of the Disc folk's use of Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe and creative spelling, yet when Rincewind returns in Interesting Times, his bad spelling is particularly pointed out by the other wizards (as Pratchett had moved away from presenting all Disc spelling as bad).
- Sequel Hook: A wizard always comes back for his hat.
- Shout-Out: Rincewind and Creosote use expressions from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" when they talk about Creosote's "Wilderness". There's also a few ShoutOuts to The Rubaiyat and the Arabian Nights. Combined with It Will Never Catch On when Rincewind says "Telling stories in a harem? That's not bloody normal! It'll never catch on!"
- Snake Pit: The method of last resort for execution. Very ineffective.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: In-universe example; after the Archchancellor's Hat is stolen, Spelter and Carding create a fake one that looks a lot more like an Archchancellor's hat than the actual one did.
- Reset Button: What Coin does at the end.
- The So-Called Coward: Played straight, then subverted: Rincewind fights the monstrous Things from the Dungeon Dimensions with a handful of sand in a sock, allowing Coin to escape. Then he runs for his life.
- This Banana Is Armed: Played with. Rincewind is desparate enough to attack Coin with...a half-brick in a sock. Not that it actually works or anything, but Coin is so fascinated by the concept (half-bricks in socks don't ever really occur to you when you have limitless magic at your disposal) that he spares Rincewind.
- Truth-Telling Session: While watching Rincewind incompetently trying to build a tower in his sleep (because all wizards are doing that) Nijel confesses that he's "not exactly a barbarian hero", Conina says that she lacks "a certain something when it comes to hairdressing" and Creosote admits that his poetry "leaves a lot to be desired".
- Tyke Bomb: Coin, of course.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: 90-lb. weakling and nerd Nijel with Hello, Nurse! / Hot Amazon Conina
- Wham! Line: "All the wizards were wazards".
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Rincewind says he doesn't like snakes much, and promptly gets thrown in the snake pit. Justified in that it was apparently the only functioning torture device in Al Khali that day.
- Also hilarious, in that there's really only one snake, and that one doesn't attack. The narration is split on whether it's because the snake sees Rincewind as a sort of possible mongoose, or whether it's just got a good thing going and doesn't want to spoil it by going around biting people.
- The Worf Effect: Kind of a hindsight example, in that Coin easily dispatches Lord Vetinari, that most Magnificent of Magnificent Bastards. But at the time the book was written, the Patrician's character had not yet been developed to this, being merely an intelligent politician rather than the nigh omnipotent figure of the later series, so it was probably unintentional. Although, given his remark about how a wise man would want to be safely locked in a dungeon if the wizards took control, it can be argued that Vetinari's transformation into a lizard wasn't wholly to his disadvantage under the circumstances. And when he was transported to the Unseen University, he was in the process of reading a report of a conversation by the head of the Thieves' Guild that was said in a secret, soundproof room. Coin took him as easily as he did because... well, he could bend reality with a thought.