Terry Pratchett – The Last Hero (illustrated)

The nice thing about staying in a holiday apartment that is owned by English people is you find tons of books lying around. In my case, the bright cover of an illustrated Terry Pratchett novel jumped into view on day one and was read immediately. I have half a mind to buy some other of the fully illustrated Discworld books – it really made the experience even more bizarrely fun.

last hero illustratedTHE LAST HERO
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Harper Voyager, 2001
Illustrated by: Paul Kidby
ISBN: 9780060507770
Paperback: 176 pages
Series: Discworld #27

My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: The place where the story happened was a world on the back of four elephants perched on the shell of a giant turtle.

Cohen the Barbarian. He’s been a legend in his own lifetime.
He can remember the good old days of high adventure, when being a Hero meant one didn’t have to worry about aching backs and lawyers and civilization. But these days, he can’t always remember just where he put his teeth…So now, with his ancient (yet still trusty) sword and new walking stick in hand, Cohen gathers a group of his old — very old — friends to embark on one final quest. He’s going to climb the highest mountain of Discworld and meet the gods.It’s time the Last Hero in the world returns what the first hero stole. Trouble is, that’ll mean the end of the world, if no one stops him in time.

dividerThe end of Discworld is near and the only people who can save the world are well-known – although not necessarily for their heroism or use. When Lord Vetinari finds out that Cohen the Barbarian and his aged gang are planning to give fire back to the gods, thus destroying the entire world, he goes to Leonard of Quirm for help. The crazy inventor and genius comes up with a plan that involves heavy machinery powered by dragons and a circumnavigation of Discworld… under the elephants, that is.

discworld deathLeonard of Quirm, being the daVinci of Discworld, lends himself wonderfully to this illustrated novel. And I must begin with the illustrations. With a mere 176 pages, the pictures did as much to bring the story to life as did the words. Anybody who’s had one of the newer Discworld novels in their hands is familiar with Paul Kidby’s strange yet realistic style (not to be confused with the even stranger Josh Kirby who did the covers for most of the older novels). These pages are filled to the brim with images, even on pages without character sketches, dragons, or the truly funky ship Quirm builds, the background offers a little eye candy. All the pages are sepia colored, making them look a little like vellum. There are sketches in the background (and yes, sometimes that was annoying when I was trying to make out the print), anatomy studies of dragons, and – my favorite – the Vitruvian Man featuring a bewildered Rincewind.

Oh yes, did I mention that? Leonard of Quirm’s ship only holds three passengers which are duly selected by Lord Vetinari. Captain Carrot, as a volunteer, is an obvious recruit. Rincewind kind of volunteers because he knows he’s going to end up on this deadly mission anyway. And let’s just say, the trip holds more than one surprise in store.

carrot leonard rincewindIt took me a while to warm to Pratchett’s humor, or rather I never really liked the earlier Discworld novels. With The Last Hero I found myself chuckling on every page and reading random passages to my boyfriend out loud because they wanted to be shared and laughed about. What I enjoyed was the range of humor. You get silly one-liners, clever wordplay, and most of all jibes at the job of being a Hero. This is Discworld doing what it does best, subverting the fantasy genre by turning it on its head, laughing at it, and sometimes just rolling with it because, hey, we all love the genre with all its tropes and bumps and problems.

On 176 (large format) pages, Pratchett managed to tell an adventure story, first and foremost. But especially the storyline about Cohen the Barbarian and his gang, all old men by now, wearing the gear and garments of their younger selves (which makes for hilarious images, as you can imagine), talk about what being a hero means. After they got everything they ever wanted, ended up rich, with families and comfortable lives to lead, there is still something missing. It was these scenes that gave the book a nice balance between silly and serious, and it is for this balance that I have come to love Discworld to death. Speaking of which – of course he makes an appearance, in text as well as art.

There wasn’t a single page I didn’t thoroughly enjoy and even though Rincewind and Captain Carrot are well-known characters with their own sub-series, I would say this is a good novel to start if you haven’t read any Discworld yet. Even if you don’t like the story as such, just the description of the dragon species are worth the read.

THE GOOD: Hilarious fun, fantastic illustrations that make up almost half of the book, a story that is both funny and deep.
THE BAD: While I consider it a good starter novel, if you don’t know any of the characters, some jokes will be lost on you. Side characters don’t get a lot of personality because, on less than 200 pages, there simply is no time.
THE VERDICT: A highly recommended Discworld novel, especially the illustrated edition. After this, I kind of never want to read a text-only Pratchett again.

RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good!

divider

The Discworld Series:

  1. The Colour of Magic
  2. The Light Fantasticcohen
  3. Equal Rites
  4. Mort
  5. Sourcery
  6. Wyrd Sisters
  7. Pyramids
  8. Guards! Guards!
  9. Eric
  10. Moving Pictures
  11. Reaper Man
  12. Witches Abroad
  13. Small Gods
  14. Lords and Ladies
  15. Men at Arms
  16. Soul Music
  17. Interesting Times
  18. Maskerade
  19. Feet of Clay
  20. Hogfather
  21. Jingo
  22. The Last Continent
  23. Carpe Jugulum
  24. The Fifth Elephant
  25. The Truth
  26. Thief of Time
  27. The Last Hero
  28. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
  29. Night Watch
  30. The Wee Free Men
  31. Monstrous Regiment
  32. A Hat Full of Sky
  33. Going Postal
  34. Thud!
  35. Wintersmith
  36. Making Money
  37. Unseen Academicals
  38. I Shall Wear Midnight
  39. Snuff
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4 thoughts on “Terry Pratchett – The Last Hero (illustrated)

  1. Hi Nadine, THE LAST HERO is the only fully illustrated Discworld book but THE ILLUSTRATED WEE FREE MEN has almost as much art work and it is fantastic. I would recommend that one very much! – Ali

    • Hey, thanks for the tip. I’ve already read The Wee Free Men but I can see how it would translate to an illustrated version. It’s now on my to-buy list.

      • There is also the fully-illustrated Eric, but it was done by Josh Kirby, the earlier artist, and it’s also hard to get.

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