XIn my quest to talk about world-building from A to Z I was expecting trouble when it came to X.  Fortunately, before I was reduced to building my own planet beginning with X for the Viridian System series, I found an alphabetical list of fantasy worlds, and there (among a couple of others I didn’t check out) was Xanth – the location Piers Anthony devised for his wonderful magic series, which starts with a Spell for Chameleon.  I knew of Piers Anthony of course, but he came on the scene after I’d left this genre, and they didn’t appeal to the more serious me.  Big mistake!

Imagine a world in a bubble where magic exists, and everyone can do a spell.  Usually only one spell, but if you can’t demonstrate your magic ability, you are doomed to leave.  And Bink can’t do a spell for the life of him, not even to please the lovely Jessica, who he hopes will be his wife if he can only prove himself worthy of staying.  It is early in the book when the reader decides Bink is worth twice any of the characters who can do magic, although as  he journeys to get help from a particular magician, we meet a lot of magical creatures who just are magical, and don’t need to do magic.  The richness of this world is demonstrated by spells that plants put on the unwary traveller to protect themselves from harm – or to trap him for nourishment.  Plants may not be sentient, (or are they?) but they have an internal logic that enhances the ordinary predator-prey relationships into something, er, magical.

Bink fails to get any satisfaction from the magician so wends his weary way home, and gets exiled – only to fall into the clutches of the evil magician, the very embodiment of evil as he has been taught from birth, the destroyer of Xanth, who was exiled a considerable time earlier.  Who wants back.  The loops, jumps and turnings inside-out that move the story on to an inevitable conclusion despite Binks’ best efforts to preserve Xanth – even though he does start to wonder whether some of the idiots are worth saving – are a masterpiece of writing and plotting.

Xanth is a sparkling, brighter-than-life land, with strange apparitions around every corner.  Fantastic Beasts strange and familiar turn up when least expected, and the absolute vision of a bedraggled harpie hoping that the hero will drink from an enchanted stream is described so brilliantly that any Hollywood imagining would be plain boring in comparison.  This is majestic writing in a comfortingly familiar tone.  I enjoyed it more and more as I went on, and although I may take a rest before the next one, I am slightly worried that I will be adding all six further adventures in the world of Xanth to my already over-burdened to-read list.

All I can say is, how did I miss this one?  It’s brilliant.

X is for Xanth
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11 thoughts on “X is for Xanth

  • 28 April, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Hi Jemima – Xanth is around for the X day … and Piers Anthony is a great find for you … and those six extra books … cheers Hilary

  • 28 April, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Wow, that does sound good and I haven’t read a truly excellent fantasy novel since Game of Thrones. Thanks for the review.

    • 29 April, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Yes, it was, Elizabeth 🙂 Thanks for visiting!

  • 29 April, 2016 at 8:57 am

    J here, of the #atozchallenge Arlee Bird’s A to Z Ambassador Team.
    Have you enjoyed the challenge? Did you hop to other blogs? The end of the alphabet here! Reflections sign up is May 9– mark a calendar.
    My blog’s giveaway is still going. I’m encouraging everyone to visit more stops.
    Awww. All but one person can do a spell? That’d suck.

    • 29 April, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Hi, J. Yes it’s been as much fun as always. Never get to as many blogs as I want, and never to the ones I really like as many times as they deserve, but hey… they’ll be there next month! Now that I’ve finished Camp Nano I’m getting to a lot more.
      I’ve got my reflections post scheduled for Monday. Is that too early?

  • 29 April, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Like you, I read Anthony long ago, then drifted away (I think I was out off by some rape in one book,but no longer recall just what it was about). I’ll take a look at this. Anthony has a good sense of humor most of the time, as I remember it.

  • 2 May, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I have read some of the Xanth books although not this particular one I don’t think. I will have to check it out.

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