The story opens by describing the Discworld as a very large and flat disc that rests on the backs of four gigantic elephants and an even bigger turtle in space. Inside the disc there are many lands and continents, reminiscent of our more realistic medieval earth.
The most evocative locations that are visited in this gripping tale include the Broken Drum in Ankh-Morpork, Bel-shamharoth, Wyrmberg and the edge of the world. The Broken Drum is your cliché tavern with wooden furnishings and crowded with people from all walks of life. Bel-shamharoth is the home of the soul eater; a creepy temple where each stonewall has angles, producing eight sided walls. Wyrmberg is an upside mountain where transparent dragons are in abundance. The edge of the Discworld is defined by the kingdom of Krull, a metropolis where magic can be seen dissipating and playing all kinds of colours and patterns on the edge of the world. Terry Pratchett's strange world alone makes The Colour of Magic interesting.
The main characters we follow are Rincewind, Hrun, Twoflower and his luggage. Rincewind is an inept wizard and an extremely reluctant hero. He failed at the Unseen University for wizards in Ankh-Morpork and the only spell he does know leaped out of a forbidden tome and has stayed in his brain ever since. Rincewind claims that he only knows the one spell because the one inside him scared the others away. Twoflower is a very naïve and optimistic little man from the counterweight continent, Ankh-Morpork's first real tourist. The insurance agent has travelled across the Disc to see adventure and to follow up local heroes, despite Rincewind's objections, Twoflower believes he can be the spectator of danger without getting hurt or involved.
Twoflower's luggage is a character in its own right. A little treasure chest made of iron and sapient pearwood with tiny legs for it to follow its master. The luggage contains Twoflower's belongings and vast wealth. Throughout the story the luggage has eaten a few thieves.
The last main character is Hrun the barbarian. A man with bulging muscles, naked except for a loincloth and his recently acquired sword by the name of Kring. Kring isn't just an ordinary blade it talks as well. Hrun joins Rincewind and Twoflower to plunder and to get more photos of himself, courtesy of Twoflower's camera (a cube with a small demon inside). Terry Pratchett's characters are all very entertaining in their own quirky ways.
The plot is fairly straightforward. Rincewind is hired to be Twoflower's guide. The very generous pay which Twoflower offers for this service quickly persuades the unwilling gutter wizard (known as the gutter wizard for being a failure) to tag along. After a minor mishap in Ankh-Morpork, Rincewind and Twoflower go on a perilous journey and meet Hrun later on. Where Twoflower is seeking adventure and dragons, Rincewind is trying his best to keep himself and his friends alive. This odd and quirky party provides an entertaining read in their own right.
The Colour of Magic is structured a little differently to your average novel. It comprises a prologue followed by a chapter, then another prologue followed by another three chapters. These chapters are more like short stories in that they are each set in a different location. The narrative is linear where each short story follows a chronological order. The structure of this book is strange however, it makes it clear to the reader where one adventure begins and one ends without making everything too confusing.
There are several points of view to be aware of in the The Colour of Magic. At the beginning and at intermittent times, there is an omniscient observer who narrates. For the vast majority of the novel, we see the strange Discworld through Rincewind's eyes. In the final part of the book, Rincewind and Twoflower are separated from each other so the point of view shifts between one another until they are reunited. In addition, the second last chapter (short story) is taken from a minor character's point of view. The main reason for this would be to provide plenty of exposition (via dialogue) for the reader to understand the history and background of Wyrmberg. Different points of view helps provide a more involving and thorough set of adventures.
While reading the novel, a very subtle social comment was made. The question does insurance increase property damage is raised very early in the book. The character Twoflower makes a wager with the owner of the Broken Drum that his tavern will never be burnt down. In essence, the owner of the establishment was insuring his tavern. Not long after doing so the Broken Drum caught on fire. This is just one example of how Terry Pratchett has applied underlying themes to his literature, providing a richer and more thought provoking experience.
The Colour of Magic is very appealing to more than just young adults. Obviously the target audience for this particular novel is wide however, the amount of humor contained within its pages was clearly intended for a more mature crowd, especially for those who understand the numerous references to literature. For example, Hrun's sword Kring sounds very much like Frodo's blade Sting from J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It is parodies like this that make this book great
With an outlandish array of settings, a variety of strange characters, an easy plot to follow, linear structure, differing points of view, subtle themes and clever humour, The Colour of Magic is a great beginning to a long series.