This is a slightly different entry in the Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon. Like Eric, it’s a shorter story with illustrations, but the similarities end there. this book feels much more like a collaboration between Terry and artist Paul Kidby, and is all the better for that. I have the original hardback edition, which is quite beautiful, and worth buying in preference to the currently available paperback if you can find a used copy in good condition.
Anyway, the story involves Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde, who, having grown bored of all that tedious business of ruling the Agatean Empire which they stole in Interesting Times, have decided to embark on one final quest. They plan to return fire to the gods. In Discworld mythology (which is generally Discworld reality, what with that magical field and all), fire was stolen by Mazda, who was punished in the usual manner of having his liver pecked out by an eagle every day for eternity. Cohen and his crew plan to take it back in the form of some Agatean explosives. Of course, the gods are immortal, and a bit of blowing up shouldn’t bother them much, but the bang would be big enough to turn Dunmanafestin, the abode of the gods into the top of a volcano. Oh, and do nasty things to the Disc’s magical field which would lead to the end of the world.
An urgent message is sent to Ankh-Morpork, where a plan is hatched. A dragon-powered device which I won’t describe, as it’s more fun to read about (and see, in those lovely illustrations) is designed by Leonard of Quirm, and crewed by Leonard, Captain Carrot of the Watch and, err, Rincewind, is launched in an attempt to prevent the Silver Horde doing the world-ending business.
This leads to a good fun story with two interlocking threads, and more jokes (including some brilliant visual gags), references and general stuff than most people would squeeze into a trilogy.
The artwork includes a lovely take on the Bayeux Tapestry, a Vitruvian Rincewind, and excerpts from Leonard’s lovely notebooks, which are at least as bonkers as you might hope. All the usual characters appear, and generally look just the way they probably should.
Just a couple of quotes to give you a feel of what’s going on:
Rincewind, the Eternal Coward, is trying to get out of being sent on the insanely dangerous mission
“Is this the time to resign from the crew?” said Rincewind, staring at his fellow voyagers.
“No,” said Lord Vetinari.
“Possibly on grounds of insanity?”
“Your own, I assume?”
“Take your pick!”
Vetinari beckoned Rincewind forward.
“But it could be said that someone would have to be insane to take part in this venture,” he murmured. “In which case, of course, you are fully qualified.”
“Then… supposing I’m not insane?”
“Oh, as ruler of Ankh-Morpork I have a duty to send only the keenest, coolest minds on a vital errand of this kind.”
He held Rincewind’s gaze for a moment.
“I think there’s a catch there,” said the wizard, knowing that he’d lost.
“Yes. The best kind there is,” said the Patrician.
And if that’s not bad enough, there’s a slight lunar episode which includes the immortal line
I told you. Small steps, I said. Not giant leaps.
So there it is. Shorter than most Discworld books, but perfectly formed. Definitely one to have with the pictures (not that a non-illustrated version was ever produced, as far as I recall).
 While I have a great affection for the earlier works by Josh Kirby, they never really looked the way I was expecting the characters to look. Paul Kidby’s images are, for me, spot on.