The Last Hero - Terry Pratchett

The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable (Discworld, #27) - Terry Pratchett

I love this book, it's definitely one of my favourite Discworld stories. It's a short Discworld "fable" - a sort of fairytale (with a Pratchett twist, of course) with some beautiful illustrations by Paul Kidby that complement and even help tell the story.

The Last Hero follows the irrepressible hero Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde (a bunch of old men who never died) as they plan to storm Dunmanifestin, the home of the gods upon Cori Celesti, in order to return what the first hero stole. With a vengeance. (You may remember that the first hero, Prometheus in our culture, Mazda on Discworld, stole fire from the gods.) Rincewind the cowardly wizard, Captain Carrot of the Watch, genius Leonard of Quirm and the orangutan Librarian must try to stop them with the help of the Disc's first flying machine.

It's funny, with all those little Pratchetty jokes you don't get until at least the second time around because you're concentrating on the more obvious antics of Rincewind and the wizards. And the story itself is inspired and truly mythical (Cohen cheating Fate!), and there are some bits that you just want to read aloud to yourself (well, I do, anyway):

The reason for the story was a mix of many things. There was humanity's desire to do forbidden deeds merely because they were forbidden. There was its desire to find new horizons and kill the people who live beyond them. There were the mysterious scrolls. But mostly there was the knowledge that one day, quite soon, it would all be over.

A lot of people tend to think that Pratchett's books are just funny, with nothing beyond the humour. But I don't think that's true. This one, for instance, has some raging satire about gods and humanity's capacity to make them up, and also a serious point about stories, their power and their immortality. There's actually a great song that sums this up rather well - The Bard's Song by Blind Guardian, which just blew my mind when I first heard it because it's so Pratchetty!

But I'll leave you to discover the delights of The Last Hero. Because

No-one remembers the singer. The song remains.