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

All is not well within the Unseen University. The endemic politics of the place have ensured that it has finally got what it wished for: the most powerful wizard on the disc. Which could mean that the death of all wizardry is at hand. And the world is going to end, depending on whom you listen to. Unless of course one inept wizard can take the University's most precious artefact, the very embodiment of magic itself, and deliver it halfway across the disc to safety...


There was a man and he had eight sons. Apart from that, he was nothing more than a comma on the page of History. It’s sad, but that’s all you can say about some people. But the eighth son grew up and married and had eight sons, and because there is only one suitable profession for the eighth son of an eighth son, he became a wizard. And he became wise and powerful, or at any rate powerful, and wore a pointed hat and there it would have ended …

Should have ended …

But against the Lore of Magic and certainly against all reason – except the reasons of the heart, which are warm and messy and, well, unreasonable – he fled the halls of magic and fell in love and got married, not necessarily in that order.

And he had seven sons, each one from the cradle at least as powerful as any wizard in the world. And then he had an eighth son . .. A wizard squared. A source of magic. A sourcerer.

Summer thunder rolled around the sandy cliffs. Far below, the sea sucked on the shingle as noisily as an old man with one tooth who had been given a gobstopper. A few seagulls hung lazily in the updraughts, waiting for something to happen. And the father of wizards sat among the thrift and rattling sea grasses at the edge of the cliff, cradling the child in his arms, staring out to sea. There was a roil of black cloud out there, heading inland, and the light it pushed before it had that deep syrup quality it gets before a really serious thunderstorm.

He turned at a sudden silence behind him, and looked up through tear-reddened eyes at a tall hooded figure in a black robe.

IPSLORE THE RED? it said. The voice was as hollow as a cave, as dense as a neutron star. Ipslore grinned the terrible grin of the suddenly mad, and held up the child for Death’s inspection. ‘My son, ’ he said. ‘I shall call him Coin. ’ A NAME AS GOOD AS ANY OTHER, said Death politely. His empty sockets stared down at a small round face wrapped in sleep. Despite rumour, Death isn’t cruel – merely terribly, terribly good at his job. ‘You took his mother, ’ said Ipslore. It was a flat statement, without apparent rancour. In the valley behind the cliffs Ipslore’s homestead was a smoking ruin, the rising wind already spreading the fragile ashes across the hissing dunes. IT WAS A HEART ATTACK AT THE END, said Death. THERE ARE WORSE WAYS TO DIE. TAKE IT FROM ME. Ipslore looked out to sea. ‘All my magic could not save her, ’ he said.


‘Ah. ’ The wizard stood up, carefully laid the sleeping baby down on the thin grass, and picked up a long staff that had been lying there. It was made of a black metal, with a meshwork of silver and gold carvings that gave it a rich and sinister tastelessness; the metal was octiron, intrinsically magical.

‘I made this, you know, ’ he said. ‘They all said you couldn’t make a staff out of metal, they said they should only be of wood, but they were wrong. I put a lot of myself into it. I shall give it to him. ’ He ran his hands lovingly along the staff, which gave off a faint tone.

He repeated, almost to himself, ‘I put a lot of myself into it. ’ IT IS A GOOD STAFF, said Death. Ipslore held it in the air and looked down at his eighth son, who gave a gurgle. ‘She wanted a daughter, ’ he said. Death shrugged. Ipslore gave him a look compounded of bewilderment and rage. ‘What is he? ’ THE EIGHTH SON OF AN EIGHTH SON OF AN EIGHTH SON, said Death, unhelpfully. The wind whipped at his robe, driving the black clouds overhead. ‘What does that make him? ’ A SOURCERER, AS YOU ARE WELL AWARE. Thunder rolled, on cue. ‘What is his destiny? ’ shouted Ipslore, above the rising gale. Death shrugged again. He was good at it.

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One of the best and funniest English authors alive


Pratchett is a comic genius

Daily Express

May well be considered his masterpiece... Humour such as his is an endangered species

The Times

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