Set on the Discworld, The Last Hero is written by Terry Pratchett and lavishly illustrated by Paul Kidby.

It deals with the quest of the elderly barbarian hero Cohen the Barbarian, and his cohort of equally aged marauders (collectively known as The Silver Horde) to return that which was stolen by the First Hero Mazdato the realm of the gods -- with extreme prejudice. This is not a quest that any of them plan to return from.

They take along a bard to write a saga about their glorious deaths, and along the way they run into a dark lord, and a warrior maiden, also well past their prime.

However, the quest puts the future of the Discworld at risk, so back in Ankh-Morpork a crack team of Leonard Da Quirm -- an artist, and gentle genius who designs weapons of mass destruction that he idealistically believes no-one would ever use -- and Captain Carrot --City watchman, latter-day hero, and rightful but not willing heir to the throne of Ankh)is put together to prevent The Silver Horde from reaching it's objective. Rincewind, the inept, cowardly, and much harassed wizzard (sic) voluntarily doesn't volunteer to join them to save The Patrician, Havelock Vetinari and the senior wizards from having to find him in order to draft him.

To outflank the Horde, the team will have to venture into space, and boldly go where no man has gone before -- and returned...

The book is good Discworld fare with the clever jokes, and allusions to literature, history and pop-culture that readers expect from Pratchett, with appearances by many of the favourite Ankh-Morpork based characters, and the inevitable cameo from Death.

The Kidby illustrations are a delight, with brilliant watermarks behind the text in addition to full-colour and brown/sepia plates, small illuminations and margin pictures. Unlike the surrealistic interpretations that Josh Kirby was known for on the covers of the UK editions, Paul Kidby (who produced The Pratchett Portfolio) is faithful to the text. The pictures of Cohen are particularly good, managing to show someone who is very old, very frail, and absolutely terrifying.

Perhaps the most telling praise of Paul's work is that on the newsgroup his portraits are considered to capture the essence of the characters with a much higher degree of agreement than is usually found on any subject within the froup.

This isn't the best place for a newcomer to the Discworld to start, as a knowledge of back story and previous character development is required to appreciate it, but if you are a Pratchett fan, buy it for the story, or the pictures, or both -- but buy it.