In the previous book the last we see of our heroes is them falling off the edge of the world. But Rincewind can't die because the spell from the Octavo is lodged inside his head and won't allow him to die. So the next thing Rincewind and Twoflower know they are in a forest of talking trees. They come across The Gingerbread house but unbeknownst to them they are being hunted by wizards from the Unknown University who ambush them inside. They escape and meet Cohen the Barbarian, aged eighty and with no teeth, but still up to rescuing maidens in distress, which is lucky because the druids are about to sacrifice one and she needs rescuing.
After a while it becomes apparent that there is other trouble afoot in the shape of a red star which is on a collision course with the discworld. It also becomes apparent that the one with the key to saving the planet is Rincewind. The spell in his head is linked to the other spells in the Octavo and Rincewind needs to be in Ankh-Morpok if disaster is to be averted. But how is he to get there and once there how will he find the courage to confront the new head wizard of the Unknown University whose idea it was to kill Rincewind...
It's so easy to see what Terry Pratchett's discworld books will become from these first two books. The humour is already very well developed:
In fact Rincewind never spoke to this particular tree again, but from that brief conversation it spun the basis of the first tree religion which, in time, swept the forests of the world. Its tenet of faith was this: a tree that was a good tree, and led a clean, decent and upstanding life, could be assured of a future life after death. If it was very good indeed it would eventually be reincarnated as five thousand rolls of lavatory paper.
'Yeah,' said the most junior wizard, 'but who keeps talking to us? They say this is a magic wood, it's full of goblins and wolves and--'
'Trees', said a voice out of the darkness, high above. It possessed what can only be described as timbre.
It's also in this book that we meet for the first time The Librarian - an Orang-utan who can only say, 'Oook' - Cohen the Barbarian who I believe is a regular character in other books, and Death's daughter, Ysabell - I assume the mother of Susan in Hogwatch but I haven't quite figured that out yet because it might not be the case...
Anyway, great fun and very enjoyable and I've now made a list of all the Rincewind books I haven't read and plan to work my way through them, starting with Sourcery and then Eric. I can see I'll be reading far more than the six to eight books I'm supposed to read for this challenge!