Terry Pratchett’s Discworld: Imaginarium by Paul Kidby (book review).

Few fantasy novelists are as easily associated with their cover art as Terry Pratchett, through the 1980s and 90s with Josh Kirby and, thereafter, with Paul Kidby. Of course, they both had completely different styles and, inevitably, the younger artist went back to Pratchett’s earlier works and created his own illustrations for them. So what we have here in ‘Terry Pratchett’s Discworld: Imaginarium’ is Kidby’s interpretation of the Discworld universe, from the landscapes on the grandest scale all the way through to intimate domestic portraits.

© Paul Kidby 2017

Of course, the sad passing of Terry Pratchett a couple of years ago also gives this collection a certain completeness it might not otherwise have.What we see in these paintings is the entire Discworld and all we’ll ever see of it.

© Paul Kidby 2017

It’s a love letter really, from one fan of Pratchett’s work to all the others. Don’t expect this book to be a guide to the people and places found on the Discworld. In fact, the layout of the book is positively hostile to those outside the cognoscenti. The paintings are laid out according to which of the Discworld’s continents they are associated with, the names of those continents doubling up as the chapter headings. So if you want to find out how Kidby portrays Nanny Ogg or Captain Vimes, you better know where they live!

© Paul Kidby 2017

The quality of the printing is superb. Kidby’s art has a certain bright fragility to it that needs space to work and the large format of the book and the heavy paper used ensure that nothing here feels cramped or muddy. Kidby starts the book with a couple of pages about himself and how the paintings were produced and, at the end of the book, there’s a couple more pages of text, this time touching on his relationship with Pratchett. There’s an especially interesting insight into one particular painting that has Pratchett playing chess against Death, an homage to a similar scene in ‘The Seventh Seal’. This was painted in 2011, when Pratchett was already struggling with Alzheimer’s and Kidby made the effort to position Pratchett’s chess pieces in such a way that he can win.

© Paul Kidby 2017

Of course, fate wasn’t to be so kind to Pratchett as Kidby, but nonetheless his legacy will surely be that of one of Britain’s most loved writers. This affectionate and nostalgic retrospective comprehensively makes the case that Kidby deserves to be recognised as one of Britain’s most talented illustrators.

Neale Monks

December 2017

(pub: Gollancz. 272 page very large hardback. Price: £35.00 (UK), $50.00 (US), $60.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-473-22337-0)

check out websites: www.orionbooks.co.uk and www.gollancz.com

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