This book follows the events of Sourcery in which the Wizard Rincewind was trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions.
Rincewind wakes in a strange place, having been summoned by the 13-year-old demonologist, Eric Thursley, who wants the mastery of all kingdoms, to meet the most beautiful woman who ever existed, and to live forever. He is disappointed when Rincewind tells him he is unable to deliver any of these things, and embarrassed when Rincewind sees through his disguise. Rincewind is disheartened to learn that the spells to confine the demon summoned are working on him; Eric’s parrot tells him that because he was summoned as a demon, he is subject to the same terms.
The arrival of Rincewind’s Luggage causes Eric to suspect deceit on Rincewind’s part. Eric’s demands are renewed; he makes three wishes of Rincewind. Rincewind insists he cannot grant wishes with the snap of a finger, and discovers to his horror that snapping his fingers really does work.
To be Ruler of the World. Eric and Rincewind find themselves in the rain forests of Klatch, in the Tezumen empire, a parody of the Aztec empire. The local people come forward to pay tribute to Eric and declare him Ruler of the World. During this tribute, Rincewind and the parrot explore the temple of Quezovercoatl (a parody of Quetzalcoatl), where they find a prisoner, Ponce da Quirm (a parody of Juan Ponce de León), who is to be sacrificed. Da Quirm tells Rincewind about the terrible fate the Tezumen have planned for the Ruler of the World, on whom they blame all life’s misfortunes. Shortly, Rincewind, Eric and da Quirm find themselves tied up at the top of a pyramid, waiting to be sacrificed, when Quezovercoatl makes his appearance. Unfortunately for him, the Luggage also makes an appearance, trampling the six-inch-tall Quezovercoatl in the process. The Tezumen are pleased to see Quezovercoatl destroyed, release the prisoners, and enshrine the luggage in the place of their god. At the end of the book, the Tezumen are revealed to have abandoned worshipping the Luggage as well (since it never returned) and had turned atheist, “which still allowed them to kill anyone they wanted, but they didn’t have to get up so early to do it”.
To Meet the Most Beautiful Woman in All History. Rincewind snaps his fingers again, and they find themselves in a large wooden horse (a parody of the Trojan Horse). Exiting, they are surrounded by soldiers, who take them for an Ephebian invasion force. Rincewind manages to talk their way out of the Ephebian guards and out of the city, only to fall into the hands of the invading army. Rincewind and Eric are taken to Lavaeolus, the man who built the horse—having sent the horse in as a decoy so that he and his men could sneak in around the back while their enemies waited around the horse for them to come out—who tells them off in ironic fashion, for ‘spoiling the war’. They reenter Tsort through a secret passage, and find Elenor (a parody of Helen of Troy). Both Eric and Lavaeolus are disappointed to find that it has been a long siege, and Elenor is now a plump mother of several children, with the beginnings of a moustache, and that serious artistic licence had been taken in her description. The Ephebians escape the city while Tsort burns, and Lavaeolus and his army set out for home, with Lavaeolus complaining about voyages by sea (further reference to the Iliad and subsequent Odyssey). Eric notes that “Lavaeolus” in Ephebian translates to “Rinser of Winds”, hinting that perhaps Lavaeolus is a relative of Rincewind.
To Live Forever. Rincewind snaps his fingers, bringing Eric and him outside time, just before the beginning of existence. Rincewind meets the Creator, who is just forming the Discworld and is having trouble finishing some of the animals. Rincewind and Eric are left on the newly formed world, with the realization that “to live forever” means to live for all time, from start to finish. To escape, Rincewind has Eric reverse his summoning, taking them both to hell.
They discover hell steeped in bureaucracy, where the Demon King Astfgl had decided boredom might be the ultimate form of torture. Rincewind uses his university experience to confuse the demons at their own game, so he and Eric can try to escape. While crossing through the recently reformed levels of hell (satirical forms of Dante’s Inferno) they encounter da Quirm and the parrot, as well as Lavaeolus, who tells them where the exit is.
The source of Rincewind’s demonic powers is revealed to be Lord Vassenego, a Demon Lord leading a secret revolt against Astfgl. Using Rincewind to keep Astfgl occupied while gathering support amongst the demons, Vassenego confronts his king just as Astfgl finally catches up to Rincewind and Eric. Vassenego announces the council of demons has made Astfgl “Supreme Life President of Hell”, and that he is to plan out the course of action for demons. With Astfgl lost to the bureaucratic prison of his own making, Vassenego takes over as king and releases Rincewind and Eric, so that stories about hell can be told.
I love the sense of humor, the parody, and the constant cultural and literary references in Pratchett’s books. Being as I live in Mexico and am familiar with the Mayan god, the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl, I found the Tezumen’s Quezovercoatl particularly clever.
On to the next. Maybe for the next book I will again be willing to give you a plot summary in my own words without resorting to stealing … er, borrowing…. from other sources. I forget who said it, but I subscribe to the belief that copying from one source is plagiarizing; copying from several is research.