Pratchett puts the "character" in character-driven fantasy. Review by Violet Kane

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Small Gods provides fantasy readers with an entertaining change of pace. If you're looking for a breather after dire-fate sweeping epics, or if you're tired of fantasy that takes itself too seriously, Pratchett will be a welcome addition to your reading list.

Small Gods opens at the Omnian citadel in Discworld. It is a monastery, of sorts, that houses ambitious (and not so ambitious) monks, strict rules and dire consequences. Pratchett constructs a monastery culture, devoted to the Great God Om, that lampoons all the major Western institutionalized churches—and a few Eastern faiths as well. The realities professed by the Omnian leaders, however, are turned on their head one day when Brutha—a novice stuck in novicehood by an inability to read or write, despite a near superhuman memory—hears the voice of Om out in the gardens. But this is no prophetic revelation. It just so happens that Om is not a Great God, after all, but a small god who got stuck in the body of a tortoise. After three years of tortoise living, Om is relieved to find Brutha, the only true believer he has left, and hence the only person who can hear him. Brutha and Om end up on a journey across Discworld, where they meet philosophers, uncover the true metaphysical nature of Discworld, and dodge men who would feast on tortoise stew.

Pratchett's book moves forward, ultimately, on the strength of his humor. The standout character in this story is Pratchett, as comedian and humorist, sketching a world that pokes fun at cultural institutions and fantasy genre conventions. Those readers looking for a more traditional fantasy story will find this book problematic. The plot, as an advancing line of events, does not take center stage. The event-based line of the story picks up in the second half, but it is slow getting started, as the opening of this book is devoted to establishing the fictional church of Om. The most engaging part of this story was not, in fact, the story itself, but the character of Om. His voice and interaction with Brutha carries most of this book. Stuck inside the tortoise, Om is both endearing and objectionable, and readers should find his character worth "the price of admission."

Small Gods is ultimately an antidote for the ordinary. The majority of fantasy fans will find it a welcome respite from the serious tones their usual selections. Pratchett's writing, however, is by no means fluff, and the more philosophically minded will find a smattering a deeper ponderings among its humor.
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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.