Before becoming a world of its own, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series was a straightforward parody of such fantasy staples as Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders and Robert Howard’s barbarian. The first two books, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, comprise one story about Rincewind, the world’s worst wizard, as he takes the Discworld’s first tourist, Two-Flower, through various fantasy parodies. Sourcery (as with “Colour,” a British spelling) reveals why Rincewind is such a terrible wizard as he attempts to run away from Discworld’s first sorcerer since they killed themselves off centuries before.
Running away is a recurring theme in the Rincewind books. He’s cowardly, lacks any real skills, and expects the worst (because it often happens, usually to him). Somehow, he manages to survive and save the world, even though nobody believes it.
Faust Eric takes up where Sourcery left off, with Rincewind trapped in another dimension. Eric, a young warlock, summons Rincewind by accident while attempting to sell his soul to a devil. The two travel through time and space as Rincewind attempts to make Eric’s dreams come true.
The problem with Rincewind as a character is that he fundamentally doesn’t change. He’s always cowardly and cynical. This might explain why Pratchett wrote several books after
Faust Eric that include the wizards of Unseen University but not Rincewind. These books, Moving Pictures, Reaper Man, Soul Music, and Hogfather, mostly involve the wizards banding together (complaining all the while) to help protect the world from a supernatural threat. Moving Pictures is a parody of the origins of Hollywood, while the others are part of the Death cycle.
Another strategy that Pratchett used to keep Rincewind interesting was to focus on the countries Rincewind found himself in. For example, Interesting Times takes Rincewind to Two-Flower’s home country, a nation surprisingly like ancient China. As Rincewind explores the Aurient, he encounters the Silver Horde, a group of ancient barbarians who will reappear in later books.
Rincewind’s last basic adventure was described in The Last Continent, which is basically Australia. As with Interesting Times, the entertainment is more about the environment than Rincewind himself. The wizards of Unseen University also make an appearance as Rincewind tries to bring rain to the desert continent in spite of himself.
In addition to novels, Rincewind appears in an illustrated novel by Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby, The Last Hero. In this beautiful story, Rincewind works with the wizards of Unseen University and Vetinari, the leader of the city, to keep the Silver Horde from accidentally destroying the universe. This book really has to be seen to be appreciated, so I encourage you to check it out for yourself.
Overall, Rincewind is a less complex character than the best of the Discworld canon. Nevertheless, the first novels are funny and in the later ones, Rincewind acts a great foil for more interesting characters and situations.