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"Rincewind always held that panic was the best means of survival; back in the olden days, his theory went, people faced with hungry sabre-toothed tigers could be divided very simply into those who panicked and those who stood there saying 'What a magnificent brute!' and 'Here, pussy.'"

--from The Light Fantastic

First published in 1986, three years after its predecessor, Terry Pratchett's second Discworld novel The Light Fantastic picks up the story where The Colour of Magic somewhat cruelly left off.

You may remember from that book that the former student of wizardry Rincewind is the unwilling carrier of one of the eight great magical spells recorded in the Octavo, after it escaped and lodged itself in his mind against anyone's better judgement. You may also remember that he was last seen plunging to his certain doom, along with his travelling companion Twoflower and the Luggage. The Octavo certainly has, and it's not interested in letting that spell in his head get away just yet.

So it launches a magical spell of its own, bringing all three of them back to safety -- but still a very long way from Rincewind's home city of Ankh-Morpork. Which is a good thing, because all the other wizards at Unseen University have found out where he is, and want that spell out of his head and into one of their own. It seems that whoever reads all eight of the great spells at the right time will be the savior of the entire Disc, but reading only seven of them will be another thing entirely....

The Light Fantastic stands on its own as a novel, but it's still a good idea to read The Colour of Magic to see how its main characters got where they are. Unlike that book, though, they actually go somewhere from there. Twoflower, over time, demonstrates genuine friendship towards Rincewind, his tour guide and translator. And Rincewind, after spending so much time around the trusting Twoflower and the loyal Luggage, has a certain amount of that good-naturedness rub off onto himself. He also has his pride in being a wizard, even one that only knows one spell, which drives him to do things that his innate cowardice never allowed. Both of them are genuinely changed by events in this story, and satisfyingly they're both the better for it.

Beyond that, we get another satisfying romp across most of the magically-powered Disc, including Rincewind's first encounters with the octagenarian Cohen the Barbarian and the orang-utan Librarian, talking trees, gingerbread houses, giant diamond-toothed trolls, druids working in primitive computer support, Death and his fellow Horsemen of the Apocalypse playing cards, and shops full of magical items which appear and disappear when nobody's looking. Interspersed with these adventures is a look inside the power structure of the wizards' Unseen University and Rincewind's place in (or more correctly, at the bottom of) it. Every page, of course, is filled with Pratchett's trademark parody and puns, but what's noteworthy is that the events and sightings in this book are just as important as those in the first, if not moreso, for setting up the Discworld that Pratchett uses in the years to come.

Rincewind puts in a brief appearance in the fourth Discworld book, Mort, and then plays a major role again in Sourcery. He's used infrequently after that, and by Pratchett's own admission it's just as well. Despite being a favorite among fans, Rincewind isn't that interesting a character after this book. His main character trait is cowardice; he confronts and deals with it in this story. The crisis ends, Rincewind's found some happiness, but he has no ambition to become the greatest of all wizards (well, he does, but it's no secret he has no talent for it whatsoever) and he's certainly not driven to make the Disc a better place. Despite his starring role in novels to come, it's clear that this is the best of the Rincewind stories.

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