Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series

Page

Explanation
Overview
Books in the “Xanth” series

  1. A Spell for Chameleon
  2. The Source of Magic
  3. Castle Roogna
  4. Centaur Aisle
  5. Ogre, Ogre
  6. Night Mare
  7. Dragon on a Pedestal
  8. Crewel Lye
  9. Golem in the Gears
  10. Vale of the Vole
  11. Heaven Cent
  12. Man from Mundania
  13. Isle of View
  14. Question Quest
  15. The Color of Her Panties
  16. Demons Don’t Dream
  17. Harpy Thyme
  18. Geis of the Gargoyle
  19. Roc and a Hard Place
  20. Yon Ill Wind
  21. Faun & Games
  22. Zombie Lover
  23. Xone of Contention
  24. The Dastard
  25. Swell Foop
  26. Up in a Heaval
  27. Cube Route
  28. Currant Events
  29. Pet Peeve
  30. Stork Naked
  31. Air Apparent
  32. Two to the Fifth
  33. Jumper Cable
  34. Knot Gneiss
  35. Well-Tempered Clavicle
  36. Luck of the Draw
  37. Esrever Doom
  38. Board Stiff
  39. Five Portraits
  40. Isis Orb
  41. Ghost Writer in the Sky

Links to Xanth pages

Explanation

I started the reviews of this series some years ago.  Initially I attempted to keep the reviews of the individual books fairly brief, but found myself writing longer reviews as time went on.  As at 2017, I am rereading the series, and writing two versions of the review for each book: a short description on this page, and a long description – on a separate page for each book.  Some of the longer ones for the later books will remain on this page until I reread and review the books.

Overview
Xanth is a magical land, which is somehow in our world, but not easily accessible. It occupies the same area as the state of Florida, although somehow removed from it. The inhabitants of Xanth refer to our own world as Mundania.  (However, later in the series, the relationship of Xanth to Earth/Mundania changes, in conjunction with Ida’s moons.)

The land is populated by various magical creatures and part humans: eg centaurs, dragons, elves, ogres, harpies, goblins, nymphs, fauns and merfolk. The humans who live there each have a single magical talent – a different one for each person. For example [for characters early in the series], Trent can transform any creature into another creature, Iris can project illusions, Dor can communicate with inanimate objects, Irene can make plants grow instantly, and Grundy Golem can translate the language of any creature, including plants.

The stories generally involve the characters in adventuring through the Xanthian wilderness, which is rather hazardous, with dangerous animals and plants, which have evolved magical ways of catching their prey. There are other hazards, such as the love spring, which if you drink from it, causes you to immediately fall in love with the first being of the opposite sex that you see. Or you could be captured by a tribe of goblins.

Each story generally has a central character, who has to go on a quest, usually with companions, travelling across Xanth, having various adventures, having to make significant decisions, and making use of magic if possible.  Generally there are romances as well.  Usually the central character will begin by consulting with Humfrey, the Magician of Information (also known as the Good Magician).  There are three Challenges to get into the Magician’s Castle.  Then Humfrey provides an Answer for any Question, in exchange for some Service. The stories are often resolved in unexpected ways.

Although all humans born in Xanth have a magical talent, only a few have really strong and useful talents. Those who have are called Magicians (if they are male) or Sorceresses (if they are female). Only a Magician can become king. As a result, the monarchy does not necessarily follow the hereditary line. Ruling queens are not permitted. This convention is eventually circumvented in the book “Night Mare”, by the declaration that a female Magician (ie a Sorceress) can become the ruler, but must be referred to as “King”, not “Queen”.

As the series continues, the focus changes to different characters from book to book, so that the minor characters of one book may become the central characters of a later book. Also, as time passes, some of the characters have children, and the series continues with the lives and adventures of the children.

A major feature of the series is puns. The author goes a bit overboard with puns as the series goes on, as he tries to accommodate all the suggested puns that his readers send in.  On the other hand, some of the readers’ contributions are quite good – generally the ideas and scenarios, rather than the puns.

One of the types of beings in the Xanth universe are demons.  There are two levels:

  1. Demons, spelled with a capital D (and occasionally referred to as Senior Demons), who are associated with the planets and the forces of the universe.

These Demons are constantly trying to increase their status. This is the reason for the infamous Demon Wagers.  There is a hierarchy within these Demons: Major Demons, Dwarf Demons and Minor Demons.

In the beginning of the series, these Demons’ names are given in the format of mathematical formulae, eg X(A/N)th.  Initially the idea is that the Demons increase their status by modifying the variables. A bit later in the series, an increase in status results in a Demon getting more ornate brackets in their name.   But later in the series, this format is abandoned, and their names given in normal print, eg “Demon Xanth”.  (The word “Demon” is normally included, to distinguish the Demon’s name from the realm they rule, but may be omitted when it is not ambiguous.)

  1. demons (or lesser demons), spelled with a small d, who are generally confined to the Land of Xanth, or the other magical realms.

However, with both types of demons, a capital D is used when referring to them by name.  Often (generally only with the lesser demons) their names form a word when combined with an initial D, eg, Demon Fiant = D. Fiant = defiant.

Also, of course, a capital is always used when beginning a sentence, eg “Demons don’t dream.”  All of the above also applies to the feminine form, “demoness”.

As well as the land of Xanth, the stories describe a place called “the gourd”, or the Realm of Night, or the dream realm, where bad dreams are manufactured, and carried to their intended recipients by night mares – ie black female horses, who can pass through material objects. This land is ruled over by the Night Stallion. Ordinary people cannot usually go to this place physically, but if they look into the peephole of a hypnogourd, they are projected into the realm in spirit form, with their bodies remaining behind, although they feel as if they are physically present in that realm.

Starting from the book “Faun & Games”, a new series of worlds are introduced – the Moons of Ida. Princess Ida has a tiny moon, Ptero, orbiting her head. It is possible for people to travel to this world in soul form, by releasing their souls from their bodies and leaving their bodies behind. Ptero also contains a Princess Ida, who has another moon orbiting her head, and so on. This provides virtually unlimited settings for adventures to occur.

A theme often mentioned is the Adult Conspiracy (to Keep Interesting Things from Children), whereby adults conceal certain facts from children, such as how to summon the stork which brings babies. In particular this is emphasised in “The Color of Her Panties”, when Gwenny Goblin has to take on the responsibilities of becoming the first female chief of her tribe.  The Adult Conspiracy is also responsible for adults enforcing rules on children, such as making them eat healthy meals, go to bed on time and attend their lessons.

There is a certain amount of sexual innuendo in the series. This mostly takes the form of flirting and teasing, and descriptions of nudity. There is occasional sexual activity, usually described in discreet language, using euphemisms like “summoning the stork”, since it is storks which deliver babies in Xanth. The inclusion of sexual activity seems to be becoming more frequent and obvious (although still not described explicitly) in later books such as “Two to the Fifth” and “Jumper Cable”, which I find a disturbing development, especially since I imagine most of the readership are children. However, the author makes the following statements in the Author Note of “Jumper Cable”:

“I have tried to slowly age the material, so that some four-letter words are used though generally bleeped out, and some adults signal the stork onstage instead of in the unmentioned background. But in general this remains a fun series, suitable for mature children if not for the freakable mothers of teens.”

As the series continues, Xanth’s historical background is filled in, and reasons are given for many of the magical features of the land. The book ‘Question Quest’ has a history of Xanth up to that point, compiled by a reader, which the author has adopted, and to which he remains consistent. The history can also be found at http://www.hipiers.com/timeline.html.

Books in the “Xanth” series
A Spell for Chameleon (1977)
Bink is exiled to Mundania because he apparently has no magical talent. He meets Chameleon, a girl with a changeable nature, and Trent who wishes to take the throne of Xanth. The three of them travel together, back to Xanth.

[A Spell for Chameleon – long description]

The Source of Magic (1979)
Bink, Magician Humfrey and several companions travel across Xanth, in search of the source of the magic of Xanth. Bink finds himself forced to make a decision which threatens the magical nature of their land.

[The Source of Magic – long description]

Castle Roogna (1979)
Bink’s son Dor is sent through the magical tapestry, on a quest back in time, to obtain a potion to restore a zombie to life. His travelling companion is a giant spider called Jumper. He meets King Roogna, and his rival Magician Murphy, whose magical talent is making things go wrong. He becomes involved in a war between the goblins and the harpies.

[Castle Roogna – long description]

Centaur Aisle (1982)
King Trent and Queen Iris go on a trade mission to Mundania, and leave Dor, as heir to the throne, in charge. When they haven’t returned within a reasonable time, Dor and his companions go looking for them. This is made possible by a centaur, whose talent is a magical aisle which exists around him, enabling magical powers to work in Mundania.

[Centaur Aisle – long description]

Ogre, Ogre (1982)
The civilised ogre Smash escorts several females of various half-human species to their destinations, as he travels on his own search for identity.  But during his travels, he discovers the Realm of Night (also referred to as “the gourd”) accessed via the hypnogourd, where he undergoes various ordeals.

[Ogre, Ogre – long description]

Night Mare (1983)
Night Mare Imbri is sent by the Night Stallion as a messenger to King Trent, to warn him of an impending invasion from Mundania. The Mundane barbarians arrive, assisted by a mysterious character called the Horseman. The Horseman casts a spell on King Trent from afar, putting him into an enchanted sleep. Dor takes over the throne, but is also enchanted. A series of people (male and female, human and non-human) then ascend to the throne, but each in turn is enchanted. It is up to Imbri to save the kingdom.

[Night Mare – long description]

Dragon on a Pedestal (1983)
King Dor and Queen Irene’s two-year-old daughter Ivy goes missing along with Humfrey’s son Hugo, at a time when the dreaded Gap Dragon is on the loose. Irene and her companions go searching. The Dragon, however, has been accidentally splashed with water from the Fountain of Youth, has become smaller and younger, and has befriended Ivy and Hugo.

[Dragon on a Pedestal – long description]

Crewel Lye (1984)
The ghost Jordan in Castle Roogna describes his life history to Ivy, which they view on the magic tapestry (after it is cleaned with crewel lye). He was a barbarian warrior in a previous century, given a task by the Magicians Yin and Yang, to return the King’s daughter to the castle. He became the victim of a cruel lie.

[Crewel Lye – long description]

Golem in the Gears (1986)
Grundy Golem is a tiny man, who began his existence as a small doll made of wood and cloth, but was brought to life by Demon X(A/N)th. He goes on a trip to find Ivy’s friend, the missing Gap Dragon. He is accompanied by the Monster from under Ivy’s bed. (This species of creature lives under children’s beds, and tries to grab their ankles as they get into bed.) They rescue Rapunzel from the Ivory Tower where she is imprisoned by the Sea Hag.

[Golem in the Gears – long description]

Vale of the Vole (1987)
Three travellers meet as they go to consult Magician Humfrey. They are Esk, the ogre/human, Chex, the winged centaur, and Volney the Vole. They discover that Humfrey is missing, and the three cooperate to solve each other’s problems. This requires them travelling to various parts of Xanth.

[Vale of the Vole – long description]

Heaven Cent (1988)
Dolph, the son of Dor and Irene, goes searching for the missing Magician Humfrey, in the company of the walking skeleton Marrow Bones. In the process he manages to get engaged to two girls, Nada the Naga (who can transform between human and snake forms), and Electra, who has lain in an enchanted sleep for nearly a thousand years.

[Heaven Cent – long description]

Man from Mundania (1989)
Hoping to find Magician Humfrey, Ivy invokes the heaven cent, a magical device which sends the invoker to where they are most needed. Instead she finds herself in Mundania, and meets a young man called Grey Murphy. The two of them return to Xanth (and he is only too pleased to leave drear Mundania). She finds herself falling in love with him, especially after he rescues her from a tribe of goblins. But her parents say that as a Princess, she must only marry a Prince, or a person with a significant magical talent. And since Grey was born in Mundania, he hasn’t got a magical talent. Or has he?

[Man from Mundania – long description]

Isle of View (1990)
Che, the son of the winged centaurs Chex and Cheiron has been kidnapped, and everyone is out searching for him. When it discovered that the goblins have him, it appears there will be a war between the winged monsters, siding with the winged centaurs, and the land monsters, siding with the goblins. Also, Dolph finally makes his decision about which girl to marry.

[Isle of View – long description]

Question Quest (1991)
Magician Humfrey has been waiting in the anteroom of Hell, for a hearing with Demon X(A/N)th, so that his former wife might be returned to him from Hell. Lacuna, a woman with the talent of making writing appear, displays Humfrey’s life history on the wall at his dictation. Humfrey has led a long and interesting life, having several wives, at one time being the King of Xanth, and has even studied magic at the demons’ university.

[Question Quest – long description]

The Color of Her Panties (1992)
Gwenny Goblin, accompanied by Jenny Elf and Che Centaur, goes on a quest to become the first female chief of her tribe. Meanwhile, Mela Merwoman leaves the water in search of a husband (and of course she must wear panties while on land – but what colour will she choose?), and is joined by Ida Human (an orphan who may turn out to be something special) and Okra Ogress.

[The Color of Her Panties – long description]

Demons Don’t Dream (1992)
Dug and Kim, from Mundania, each separately enters Xanth via the computer game “Companions of Xanth”, as part of a game arranged by the demons of Xanth. (Demons don’t dream, they just get mortals to act out fantasies for them.) Their companions are Princess Nada Naga, the serpent woman, and Jenny Elf (formerly from the World of Two Moons). In their travels they are joined by Sherlock (a member of a group of black migrants from Mundania), and Cyrus Merman who is looking for a wife.

[Demons Don’t Dream – long description]

Harpy Thyme (1993)
Gloha, the winged goblin girl (a goblin/harpy crossbreed), is on a quest to find her ideal man. Retired King Trent takes youth elixir, and becomes young again, to accompany Gloha in her search. As they travel, they meet other people with goals of their own: Cynthia, a winged centaur, who has been in suspended animation for seventy-five years, Marrow Bones, the walking skeleton, who is looking for a soul, and Graeboe the giant, who is dying from an illness.

[Harpy Thyme – long description]

Geis of the Gargoyle (1994)
Gary the gargoyle has the duty of purifying the water of the river entering Xanth from Mundania, but recently it has been very polluted. Magician Humfrey sends him on a quest to find a better solution. This takes him into the Region of Madness. His companions are Iris (Sorceress of Illusion), Surprise (a 6-year-old girl, with a seemingly endless series of different talents), Demoness Mentia, and the man Hiatus, who is in love with a wood nymph.

[Geis of the Gargoyle – long description]

Roc and a Hard Place (1995)
Demoness Metria is sent on a mission to summons various characters to the trial of Roxanne Roc. This takes her all over Xanth, and into Mundania.

[Roc and a Hard Place – long description]

Yon Ill Wind (1996)
The Baldwin family (Jim and Mary, their children Sean, David and Karen, and their three pets), while trying to outdrive a tropical storm in Florida, in their RV, find themselves in the land of Xanth. Meanwhile, Demon X(A/N)th, because of a wager with his fellow Demons, has taken the form of a donkey-headed dragon called Nimby (which he can alternate with the human form), but must not reveal his true identity. Together the Baldwins, Nimby, the girl Chlorine, and others, try to combat the storm, which has entered Xanth, and is stirring up the magic dust, and causing chaos.

[Yon Ill Wind – long description]

Faun & Games (1997)
Forrest Faun has his own sandalwood tree, but when a neighbouring tree loses its faun, Forrest wants to find a new faun for the tree. Magician Humfrey sends him, with Mare Imbri, to the tiny moon Ptero. On Ptero are counterparts of Xanth’s characters, and also others who could potentially exist in Xanth. Forrest and Imbri discover that Ptero’s Castle Roogna is under threat of ‘marginalization’, and their quest takes them, with the Princesses Dawn and Eve, to other strange worlds, Pyramid and Torus.

[Faun & Games – long description]

Zombie Lover (1998)
Breanna of the Black Wave (the black migrants from Mundania), wants to escape from Xeth the Zombie King, who wants to make her his queen, and Humfrey sends her to the Isle of Women. (However, Breanna’s trip is to have further ramifications.) In the meantime, something has stirred the zombies up, and they are wandering around the country disturbing people. Bink, Dor and Dolph (“we three kings”) try to find the Zombie Master to solve the problem. This search takes them to Ida’s moons – the same worlds, and more, previously visited by Forrest Faun. Also, Humfrey has given Jenny Elf the task of sending out invitations to a wedding at Castle Roogna, but no one knows who is getting married.

[Zombie Lover – long description]

Xone of Contention (1999)
Edsel and Pia, a young unhappily married couple from Mundania, find a way into Xanth through the O-Xone on the computerised Mundane Mega Mesh, and exchange places with Nimby and Chlorine, who want to get to know Mundania. Edsel and Pia, accompanied by Breanna and Justin (a man who has spent some time as a tree), take on a quest to eliminate Demon CoTwo who is causing trees to suffer from flooding. In the meantime Nimby (actually Demon X(A/N)th) is discovered by Demon E(A/R)th, who raises a storm to prevent him from returning to Xanth.

[Xone of Contention – long description]

The Dastard (2000)
The Dastard is a young man who has sold his soul to a demon, in exchange for the talent of “unhappening”. Whenever he encounters someone who has received enjoyment through some lucky event, he travels back in time and undoes the event, thus preventing the person from experiencing that enjoyment. Humfrey sends Becka, the dragon girl, and the three princesses Melody, Harmony and Rhythm to stop the Dastard’s deeds. But things become more dangerous with the return of the Sea Hag, a malevolent spirit who takes over the bodies of young girls.

[The Dastard – long description]

Swell Foop (2001)
Demon Earth has been kidnapped, which could result in the loss of Gravity on Earth and therefore also in Xanth. Six adventurers – Cynthia and Che Centaur (engaged to be married), Breanna and Justin (also engaged to be married), Sim Bird (son of the Simurgh, the largest and wisest bird in the world), and Jaylin (a girl from Mundania) – must each go on a separate quest with a zombie guide to find one of the Six Rings of Xanth. Once gathered, these rings should guide the way to the Swell Foop, an object said to have power over the Senior Demons, and which should enable them to rescue Demon Earth.

[Swell Foop – long description]

Up in a Heaval (2002)
Umlaut, a good-natured but awkward young man, has been given the task of delivering a batch of letters from Mundania to various people in Xanth. He is accompanied in this by Jenny Elf’s cat, Sammy, who has the talent of finding people and things, another cat called Claire Voyante, and Sesame Serpent, with transport provided by the duck-footed boat Para. They hope by this task to discover how to avert Xanth’s destruction by Demon Jupiter. However there are also other puzzles – why is Demoness Metria thwarting their deliveries, and why can’t Umlaut remember his past? And to make things interesting, Umlaut meets and falls in love with Surprise, the daughter of Grundy Golem and Rapunzel.

[Up in a Heaval – long description]

Cube Route (2003)
The girl Cube is given the quest of finding the route to Counter Xanth, the contra-terrene territory won by Demon Xanth from Demoness Fornax. In the process she is to choose nine companions, who will be magically concealed within a pouch she carries, and may be brought out to assist her when necessary. The route takes her to various places in Xanth, to the world of Phaze, Mundania, and the Moons of Ida. However Demoness Fornax is determined to sabotage her mission.

[Cube Route – long description]

Currant Events (2004)
Clio, the Muse of History, discovers a book she has apparently written, but which is unreadable because the writing is blurred. Magician Humfrey sends her on a mission to Dragon World, to persuade dragons to come to Xanth to replenish the dragon population. Then back in Xanth she meets Sherlock of the Black Wave, who has developed a magic talent with reverse wood, despite coming from Mundania. Clio and Sherlock continue the quest to find the Currant, which should enable her to read the unreadable volume. Their travels take them far and wide in Xanth, Counter Xanth and the Moons of Ida. They meet interesting people and experience dangers – as Clio has a curse on her, which means that she will encounter deadly dangers daily when away from her home on Mount Parnassus. A tentative romance begins between Clio and Sherlock.

[Currant Events – long description]

Pet Peeve (2005)
Goody Goblin is a rarity – a good-natured male goblin. He is given the task of finding a home for the pet peeve, a bird which constantly insults everyone. So, accompanied by the warrior woman, Hannah Barbarian, he travels through Xanth. In return for a favour from some dragons, they bring a program back from Robot World (one of the Moons of Ida) to produce a robot to assist the dragons to produce a nest. However, before they realise it the program is producing large numbers of robots, who are threatening to overrun Xanth. Goody and Hannah have to summon the various creatures of Xanth to combat the threat. In the process Goody meets Gwenny Goblin.

Stork Naked (2006)
The stork delivers a baby to Surprise Golem. But then he takes the baby away again, thinking that Surprise is too young, and delivers it to Surprise’s counterpart in the Xanth of an alternative reality. Surprise and her companions must search several realities trying to find the baby. Then the three children travelling with Surprise go missing, and the several members of the group split up to search for them, each having a separate adventure. Surprise finds herself with several difficult decisions to make.

Air Apparent (2007)
Hugo, son of the Magician Humfrey, has disappeared from the castle, and the Magician’s Book of Answers has become scrambled, so is no help. Wira, Hugo’s wife, sets off to look for him, with Debra, a girl from Mundania, temporarily transformed into a winged centaur. In the meantime, the Random Factor, a man who is normally confined to a cell in Castle Maidragon, has escaped. His talent is to transport himself to random locations. Along the way, Debra and the Random Factor meet and fall in love, but the Factor detects that Debra may be a threat to him, allowing him to be recaptured. Later, the Factor and Hugo meet and travel together – however, the Factor’s talent gets them more and more lost, with them ending up in the Moons of Ida, with apparently no way to return. The two women follow, along with other companions.

Two to the Fifth (2008)
Ragna Roc, a huge bird with powerful magic, is threatening to take over the land of Xanth. Magician Humfrey sends Cyrus Cyborg on a mission to defeat Ragna Roc. He will have the help of the three powerful Sorceress princesses, Melody, Harmony and Rhythm. To disguise his intention, Cyrus sets up a travelling acting troupe, with himself as the playwright. He hopes that Ragna Roc will hear of their performances, and invite them to his castle. Cyrus soon finds himself surrounded by seductive actresses – but the girl he is really interested in is the young Princess Rhythm.

Jumper Cable (2009)
A spider called Jumper (a descendant of the spider of the same name in “Castle Roogna”) is somehow transported from the micro world of spiders and bugs to the macro world, where he finds himself to be a giant spider amongst the humans of Xanth. Wanting to return home, he joins a group of women travelling the enchanted path to Magician Humfrey’s castle. They all have problems they want the Magician to solve. Humfrey gives them a mission – to locate and repair the cable which joins the Mundane Internet to the Xanth Outernet. It had been severed in anger by Demon Pluto, when he was downgraded in status to Dwarf Demon – and he and his minions are likely to oppose their efforts. Princesses Dawn and Eve (aged nineteen) join the group. Jumper is given potions to transform himself to human and back. The group has a prophecy to guide them. The mission takes them to the gourd (the realm of dreams) where they must return a number of lost objects to their owners.

Knot Gneiss (2010)
Wenda Woodwife is given a mission by Magician Humfrey: to fetch the knot of petrified reverse wood from the Gap Chasm. She chooses several companions, including Jumper Spider. Jumper has been given a transformation spell: as well as spider and human forms, he is able to transform into a roc, and carry the group long distances.

The knot of petrified reverse wood (a big and heavy boulder) – the Knot Gneiss – makes everyone nearby terrified, so that no one can approach it, except Wenda, because of her association with all things to do with wood. It also seems to radiate a malevolent personality. (It is not nice.) Wenda surrounds it with normal reverse wood to counteract its effect, and then the group load it onto a wagon to transport it.

The group has a number of adventures, travelling through magic doors, to Comic World with its nasty puns, and to Reverse World, where characteristics such as appearance, direction and gender are reversed. As usually occurs in this series, each group member has a wish to be fulfilled, most of them to do with finding a life partner.

Well-Tempered Clavicle (2011)
Princess Dawn, the walking skeletons Picka Bone and his sister Joy’nt, and the three Baldwin pets (Woofer the dog, Midrange the cat, and Tweeter the bird) are sent on a mission to locate and bring back Pundora’s Box, which previously contained all the nasty puns. The box is located in Caprice Castle, which continually changes its position.  They meet an invisible giantess, Granola, who can carry them long distances. Another walking skeleton, Skully Knucklehead, joins them.

Picka’s magic talent is that he can detach his clavicles, and use them to play tunes on his ribs.  Picka and Dawn are developing a romantic relationship: but what future is there for a human princess and a skeleton?

Demon Pundit had built Caprice Castle to contain puns, and appointed a musician called Piper to collect them.  But when all the puns escaped, Pundit punished Piper by turning him into a goo monster; he can only be turned back if he marries a princess.

So now Piper wants to marry Dawn.  He has gas vents in his body which function as organ pipes; he can use his music to summon or stun people, throw fire balls, and disintegrate matter.  He sees Picka as his rival, so he is determined to destroy Picka.  Picka must learn to use his own music in the same way, to try to defeat Piper.

[Well-Tempered Clavicle – long description]

Luck of the Draw (2012)
Bryce is an 80-year-old man living in Mundania, who finds himself suddenly transported to Xanth, and youthened to 21 years old. He learns that as a result of a Demon wager, he is now one of six suitors for the 16-year-old Princess Harmony, who is expected to be the next ruler of Xanth.

The six candidates have to travel on a quest together to find six objects to be presented as gifts to the princess. The suitor with the best gift will marry her. They are accompanied by the servant girl, Mindy. The journey has the usual kind of dangers found in Xanth, as well as the challenges of locating and obtaining the objects of the quest.

Bryce has been given a magic pen and pad, which enables him to draw pictures of objects, which then transform into the real things. This, as well as his sensible advice, proves useful to the group as they travel.

But although Bryce has been youthened, he still thinks of himself as 80, and cannot accept the idea of marrying a girl the age of his granddaughter. And to complicate things, the 20-year-old Mindy says that she loves him.

Esrever Doom (2013)
Kody wakes up in hospital. He has been in an accident, and they need to operate. And then, while under the anaesthetic, he arrives in Xanth via a dream. The land of Xanth is under a curse. Beautiful people are perceived as ugly, and vice versa. Only Kody is immune. Magician Humfrey sends him on a quest to destroy the source of the curse. Accompanying him is Zosi, a zombie woman who has been transformed into a fully alive woman for the time being. She has her own quest, to solve the problem of the dwindling numbers of zombies since the Zombie Master retired.

Soon they gain other companions, the attractive girl Yukay, the griffin Zap, the beautiful naga woman Naomi, and the man Ivan. Kody enjoys the attentions of three attractive women, which they are pleased about, because other people perceive them as ugly. But it is Zosi that he is falling in love with. But what future do they have? When the quest is over, Kody will wake up in Mundania, and Zosi will return to being a zombie.

The group travel around Xanth by means of a magical travelling chessboard, testing the strength of the curse, to try to determine its location. They visit Princess Dawn at Caprice Castle, and Princess Eve in Hades. Maybe Eve’s little son Plato has part of the solution.

But there is an enemy. Someone is responsible for the curse, and will attempt to defeat their efforts.

Board Stiff (2013)
Kandy goes to a wishing well, telling it she is board stiff (making a mental typo), and wishes for adventure, excitement and romance. She gets turned into a stiff board. Then a man called Ease arrives at the well, and wishes for the perfect weapon, the perfect adventure or the perfect woman. When nothing seems to happen, he sees the board, and takes it with him, to use as a club, and for other useful purposes.

Ease then goes to the Good Magician Humfrey to ask for the same things. He is given a quest, to find the antidote to a virus which is destroying puns. Humfrey gives Ease a cryptic clue: “Merge the hair”.

Astrid is a basilisk who has been transformed into a human, in the hopes of finding a more fulfilling life. However she still has a deadly stare, so she wears dark sunglasses, and she has an intoxicating, and potentially poisonous, ambiance, which prevents people getting close to her for long. She wonders if this will prevent her forming a relationship with a human man. She accompanies Ease, to act as his bodyguard for the mission. She has a dress with sequins: the Sequins of Events. When a sequin is removed, and then replaced, an Event is triggered, transporting the questers to another location. As they travel, more people are added to the group.

Kandy (in her form as a board) discovers she can project her thoughts to Ease, and influence him, although he thinks they are his own thoughts. And she can only return to human form when Ease is asleep. She is attracted to Ease, and finds the current arrangement frustrating. As other people are added to the group she lets them know her identity, but she doesn’t inform Ease himself. However, Ease has dreams about her, and wonders if she is real.

Five Portraits (2014)
This novel continues on from the previous book, where the group of questers search for, and eventually find, the antidote to the anti-pun virus.

This story centres on Astrid Basilisk, who is now able to change between her human and basilisk forms. But in either form she still has a deadly stare, and poisonous ambiance. This is convenient for fighting enemies, but otherwise she wears dark glasses, and tells people to hold their breath when they come close to her.

Now they are just mopping up the remaining infestations.

Demoness Fornax wants to be Astrid’s friend. So the two of them decide to rescue some children from 50 years in the future, when there is a possibility that Xanth will be destroyed. But to avoid a paradox, they instead rescue five children from a parallel Xanth whose setting is 50 years ahead of them, and where the disaster is already in progress. They return with the children to the virus-fighting group of friends.

There is currently a Demon Wager between Demon Xanth and Fornax on whether the land of Xanth will survive the predicted disaster. Some of the other Demons are also wagering on this.

The five children all have talents with which they can defend themselves from danger. But they also have a joint talent of “communing”: when they come together, they are able to obtain guidance about what they should do in future. Using this talent, they determine that they are the solution to avoiding the future disaster; they each have to be adopted, and Art, Astrid’s boyfriend, must paint a portrait of each child with their adopted family.

But some of the Demons attempt to sabotage this plan. Astrid finds herself alone with the five children in “the Storage”, a dangerous place entered from the storage area of a playground. They must make a journey to escape, fighting off creatures which attack them. Fornax is sometimes present to help them, but she must do it secretly, to avoid disqualifying herself from the wager.

Astrid is becoming fond of the children, as they are of her, and she is not looking forward to the time when they must leave to be adopted.

Isis Orb (2016)
A young man called Hapless is dissatisfied with life, but doesn’t want to go to Magician Humfrey for help.  But then Humfrey turns up at his door and tells Hapless what he (Hapless) wants: to be able to play a musical instrument, a good girlfriend, and to make a difference to Xanth.  (Hapless has the talent of conjuring any instrument, but when he tries to play them it sounds awful.) He will get all of these by going on a quest.  Hapless has an appointment at the Magician’s castle for three days time. Humfrey gives him a box, which will generate a path to lead him safely to the castle.  Then Humfrey leaves.

So Hapless sets off, and after some adventures on the way, arrives at the Magician’s castle.  Humfrey gives him the quest: to get the Isis Orb, which can grant any wish – so it can grant Hapless’s wishes and those of his companions.  He will need to gather five companions for the quest.  Then the group will need to collect the totems of the five regions: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Void.

Now, opening the box will produce a picture of each companion, and a path to the companion.  The path will be magically safe, and also can cross water or travel through the air.

So Hapless leaves on his quest, and eventually gathers up his companions: Feline, a woman who can turn into a cat; Zed, a zebra-striped male centaur; Nya, a female naga/winged-dragon crossbreed; Quin, a male dragon/harpy crossbreed; and Faro, a female winged centaur who is afraid of heights.  All of them have wishes that they hope the quest will fulfil.  And Hapless and Feline become quite friendly.

As they travel along, Hapless conjures up instruments for his companions, and they play music together. They discover they can play better than they usually do – maybe this is part of Hapless’s magical talent: they play better when he is present.  They are also able to put creatures into a trance with their music.

After collecting all the companions, they proceed to collect the totems, visiting each of the regions in turn. They find that the guardians of the regions are reluctant to give up the totems, but the group makes use of their enchanted music to put each creature into a trance.   When a companion touches the guardian, that creature turns into the totem, which looks like a miniature version of the original creature.

And then they meet a woman called Merge (who appeared in “Board Stiff” and “Five Portraits”). Hapless and Merge fall instantly in love, which becomes complicated because Hapless is also quite fond of Feline.

Finally Hapless and his companions meet Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess, the keeper of the Isis Orb, who is very seductive.  She offers Hapless power, as her companion.  But Hapless realises that such power is very addictive, and tends to corrupt.

Ghost Writer in the Sky (2017)

Links to Xanth-related pages

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