by Terry Pratchett



160pp/$35.00/November 2001

The Last Hero
Cover by Paul Kidby

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The vast majority of Terry Pratchett's Discworld stories have been novels with the (very) occasional foray into the realm of short story.  The Last Hero is an attempt at something in between.  A novella at only 40,000 words, The Last Hero is a profusely illustrated tale which isn't a graphic novel or a picture book, but rather a wonderful introduction to Pratchett's world with illustrations which enhance the story, although they are not necessary for enjoyment or understanding the tale.

Several of Pratchett's earliest characters appear in the pages of The Last Hero.  The ancient Cohen the Barbarian, currently king of the Agatean Empire, has gathered up the Silver Horde for one last outing:  an assault on Cori Celeste, the unimaginable mountain which serves as the official home of the gods.  Cohen's simple mission is to return to the Gods that which was stolen from them, Fire.

Meanwhile, back in Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari discovers Cohen's plans and becomes worried that they will result in the destruction of the world.  At the purported advice of guildmasters and wizards, Lord Vetinari creates a team of three men to attempt to overcome Cohen's plans.  This team consists of Captain Carrot of the City Watch, Leonardo of Quirm, and Rincewind, the Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography.

Much of the story focuses on the trio sent by Lord Vetinari and serves to mimic the Apollo missions of NASA as Leonardo of Quirm creates a ship to journey over the edge of the Disc in order to gain the trajectory which will allow them to arrive at Cori Celeste in time.

Pratchett handles a large cast with extreme skill, especially given the constraints the length imposed by The Last Hero.  As so often happens in his writing, Pratchett examines the myths and legends which make up modern civilization.  These are not necessarily the heroic sagas of Homer which are exemplified by the bard Cohen and his horde kidnap to chronicle their adventures, but rather the stories which are used to explain society as it currently is.

Paul Kidby's artistic work has graced many Discworld products including the annual Discworld Diaries and the Discworld Portfolio.  The full color illustrations used throughout The Last Hero demonstrate a wide range of styles which complement the text and give indication that the Disc is not homogenous when it comes to art.

The Last Hero suffers only from brevity.  The situations and characters could easily have sustained a full length novel.  However, Pratchett has chosen to present a more tightly plotted and constructed tale punctuated by the illustrations of Paul Kidby.  The story itself is an introduction to many of the recurring characters in the series as well as locations which have been visited or alluded to.  

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