- A Spell for Chameleon
- The Source of Magic
- Castle Roogna
- Centaur Aisle
- Ogre, Ogre
- Night Mare
- Dragon on a Pedestal
- Crewel Lye
- Golem in the Gears
- Vale of the Vole
- Heaven Cent
- Man from Mundania
- Isle of View
- Question Quest
- The Color of Her Panties
- Demons Don’t Dream
- Harpy Thyme
- Geis of the Gargoyle
- Roc and a Hard Place
- Yon Ill Wind
- Faun & Games
- Zombie Lover
- Xone of Contention
- The Dastard
- Swell Foop
- Up in a Heaval
- Cube Route
- Currant Events
- Pet Peeve
- Stork Naked
- Air Apparent
- Two to the Fifth
- Jumper Cable
- Knot Gneiss
- Well-Tempered Clavicle
- Luck of the Draw
- Esrever Doom
- Board Stiff
- Five Portraits
- Isis Orb
- Ghost Writer in the Sky
- Fire Sail
- Jest Right
- Skeleton Key
- A Tryst of Fate
- Six Crystal Princesses
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. I have now reread the series, and written 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.
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, from the end of “Air Apparent” onwards, the relationship of Xanth to Earth/Mundania changes, in conjunction with Ida’s moons. And Xanth becomes a world in its own right.)
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.
There are many islands off the coast of Xanth. Some of them appear and disappear, and are not all accessible from Xanth at the same time. (These are first mentioned in “Zombie Lover”, They are referred to in “Jest Right” as the Sometime Islands.) The author uses this as a way to extend the number of locations the questers have adventures in.
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).
The main political entity in the Land of Xanth is the Kingdom of Xanth, also called the Human Kingdom of Xanth, especially by non-humans, who are not under its jurisdiction.
Only a Magician can become king of the Kingdom of Xanth. 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”. Again, eventually, as described in “Jest Right”, when Harmony comes to the throne, she takes the title of “Queen” instead of “King”, thus ending the practice of female rulers being called “King”. (However note that this is 9 years in the future of “Jest Right”‘s main story.)
Other species have their own forms of government. Some of these are monarchies, with a king or 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. Some readers send in short narratives, which the author embeds in his stories, seemingly without much modification, which adds an interesting flavour to the stories.
One of the types of beings in the Xanth universe are demons. (All of the following also applies to the feminine form of the word, “demoness”.) There are two levels:
- Demons, spelled with a capital D (and occasionally referred to as Senior Demons, Great Demons, Capital Demons etc), who are associated with the planets (or other astronomical objects) and the forces of the universe.
(In “The Source of Magic”, the listed Demons are related to abstract concepts rather than planets. Besides X(A/N)th and E(A/R)th , there are D(E/A)th, D(E/P)th, and T(E/N)th.)
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, as described in “The Source of Magic”, the idea is that the Demons increase their status by modifying the variables. A bit later in the series, in “Golem in the Gears”, 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.)
- demons (or lesser demons), spelled with a small d, who are generally confined to the Land of Xanth, or the other magical realms.
In “Five Portraits”, Demoness Fornax (a Senior Demon) describes lesser demons as “infinitesimal fragments associated with a particular Demon” and that Metria, for example, “is a figment of Demon Xanth’s imagination, crafted somewhat in his image but of no actual consequence.”
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.”
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. But there are also some large gourds where the peephole is large enough for a person to enter the dream realm physically.
There is also the Day Stallion, who is the counterpart of the Night Stallion. Under his jurisdiction are the day mares, whose job it is to deliver pleasant dreams or daydreams.
Starting from the book “Faun & Games”, a new series of worlds are introduced – the Moons of Ida (or the Worlds 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. On Ptero are counterparts of all Xanth’s characters, and also others who could potentially exist in Xanth. 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. The understanding of the nature of these worlds changes at the end of “Air Apparent”, and other ways of travelling to them are possible – eg magic doors in “Knot Gneiss”, and the Fire Sail Boat, Fibot, making use of Santo’s talent of creating tunnels through space, in “Jest Right”.
In a few stories from “Stork Naked” onwards, alternative realities are introduced – also referred to as alternative universes. Under certain restricted circumstances, characters travel to alternative versions of Xanth, where history has taken different courses.
Some of the alternative universes are shifted in time relative to the primary universe. This concept is introduced in “Five Portraits”. There is a series of universes, each shifted one second from the universe next to it. So by travelling through this series, it is possible to get to a universe whose setting is at a different point in time than a character’s own universe. This travel is only possible with the assistance of a Senior Demon. It is similar to time travel, but avoids the problem of paradox.
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. To a lesser extent, 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. Often the Adult Conspiracy acts as an impersonal force, compelling people to follow the rules.
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 many 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.”
“…Xanth is and always was an adult series…”
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. A copy of the history, which continues to be updated, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Golem in the Gears (1986)
Grundy Golem is a tiny man, who began his existence as a small doll made of clay, 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. They rescue Rapunzel from the Ivory Tower where she is imprisoned by the Sea Hag.
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.
Volney’s problem is that demons have straightened the Kiss-Mee River, making the Vale of the Vole dry and barren. Esk, Chex and Volney resolve to work together to get rid of the demons. They will all go to the beings of their races to ask for help. This requires each to go on a separate adventure, travelling to various parts of Xanth.
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 Naga (the naga are a snake/human crossbreed, able to take either snake or human forms), and Electra, who has lain in an enchanted sleep for nearly a thousand years.
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?
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 is 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.
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.
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 a young human woman called Ida (an orphan who may turn out to be something special) and Okra Ogress.
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 and Jenny Elf. 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.
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.
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. Their quest takes them to the ruins of the ancient city of Stone Hinge.
Yon Ill Wind (1996)
While trying to outdrive a tropical storm in Florida in their RV, the Baldwin family find themselves in the land of Xanth. The family consists of Jim and Mary, their children Sean, David and Karen, and their three pets.
Meanwhile, because of a wager with his fellow Demons, Demon X(A/N)th has taken the form of a donkey-headed dragon called Nimby. He meets a girl called Chlorine, who becomes his companion. During the subsequent adventure he is able to alternate his dragon form with the human form, but must not speak or reveal his true identity.
Together the Baldwins, Nimby, Chlorine, and others, try to combat the storm, which has entered Xanth, and is stirring up the magic dust, and causing chaos.
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 version of 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.
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. 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.
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 a young couple called Nimby and Chlorine, who want to get to know Mundania. Edsel and Pia, accompanied by Breanna and Justin, take on a quest to eliminate Demon CoTwo who is causing trees to suffer from flooding. In the meantime Demon Earth discovers Nimby (who is actually Demon Xanth) trespassing in his realm, and raises a storm to prevent him from returning to Xanth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 join the group. Jumper is given potions to transform himself to human and back. 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 – the Knot Gneiss – 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 any creature. The group has a number of adventures, travelling through magic doors, to the world of Comic with its nasty puns, and to Reverse World, where characteristics such as appearance, direction and gender are reversed.
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?
But now Picka has a rival – a goo monster called Piper, who wants to marry Dawn and is determined to destroy Picka. Piper can use music to summon or stun people, throw fire balls, and disintegrate matter. Picka must learn to use his own music in the same way, to try to defeat Piper.
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. They are accompanied by the servant girl, Mindy.
Bryce has been given a magic pen and pad, which enables him to draw pictures of objects, which then transform into the real things.
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 granddaughters. And to complicate things, the 20-year-old Mindy says that she loves him.
Esrever Doom (2013)
Kody 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: he sees people as they really are. Good 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.
Kody falls in love with Zosi. 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.
Kody, Zosi and their companions travel around Xanth by means of a magical travelling chessboard, testing the strength of the curse, to try to determine the location of its source. 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.
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. But she can only return to human form when Ease is asleep.
Ease then goes to 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 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.
Five Portraits (2014)
The questers from “Board Stiff” have now found the antidote to the anti-pun virus. Now they are travelling around, destroying the virus, and reseeding the locations with new puns.
Astrid, the basilisk transformed into a human, is the central character in this story.
Demoness Fornax wants to be Astrid’s friend. 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.
The five children 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 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.
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. He wants to be able to play a musical instrument, to have a good girlfriend, and to make a difference to Xanth. (Hapless has the talent of conjuring any instrument, but when he plays them it sounds awful.)
Good Magician Humfrey gives him a quest: to get the Isis Orb, which can grant any wish.
So Hapless leaves on his quest, and eventually gathers up five companions. As they travel along, Hapless conjures 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.
Next, the group must collect the Totems of the five Regions of the Elements: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and the Void. The guardian creatures of the Regions are reluctant to give up the Totems, but the questers’ enchanted music puts each creature into a trance.
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)
Tartan and Tara, a man and woman from Mundania, find a way into Xanth through a picture. There they are sent on a quest to defeat the Ghost Writer in the Sky, an unpleasant Mundane man, who is forcing people to play roles in his own twisted versions of fairy tales. The quest will take Tartan, Tara and their companions to different realities. Their companions also have goals of their own, generally hopes for romance.
Fire Sail (2019)
Two people – Dell, a young man, and Nia, an old woman – are sent on a mission by the Good Magician, to deliver Fibot, a magical flying boat, with a fiery sail, to its new proprietors. They don’t know who or where the proprietors are, and have to pick up clues to places they should go to as they travel. They take on various crew members and passengers, and have various adventures.
Jest Right (2020)
Jess has a curse – nobody can take her seriously. She meets a man, Magnus, whom she’d like to have a relationship with, but because of the curse, he can’t return her feelings. But he agrees to fake it, and to give her a job in his travelling show as a stand-up comedienne. The Good Magician Humfrey gives them a mission. They join the crew on board the Fire Sail Boat, Fibot. Ragna Roc (refer “Two to the Fifth”) will escape his confinement 9 years in the future, and attempt to take over Xanth again. Jess, Magnus and their companions must work to prevent this. This involves a visit from two princesses from the future, and some complex time travel.
Skeleton Key (2021)
Caprice Castle, the travelling castle, goes missing, and with it six adults – two from the castle and four from Fibot, the Fire Sail Boat. It is suspected that a rogue Demon has captured them. A group of children are left in charge of Fibot.
One of these children is Squid, an alien cuttlefish, who takes the form of an 11-year-old girl. She has been told that she is the most important person in the universe – the continuing existence of the universe depends on her.
The crew of Fibot engages in a search and rescue mission, which takes them to the Sometime Islands, through a gender-swapping portal and to various Moons of Ida.
Squid and Demon Chaos fell in love with one another when Squid convinced Chaos not to destroy the universe.
Larry is the host for Demon Chaos, and Laurelai is the friend and sometime host of Demoness Fornax.
Fornax takes Squid and Laurelai to an alternative Xanth, 7 years in the future, where the counterparts of Squid and Larry had been murdered the night before they were due to be married.
They catch the killer, Goar Golem. Goar had been under the control of two Demons, and is now repentant, having been affected by a cloud of conscience vapour. Squid requires him to be the protagonist of the story, until he has earned his forgiveness from her.
Goar is sent to work with Incident, a woman who is trapped in a job of distributing deadly tumours. She has three animal companions: Bird, Rabbit and Turtle, who have the ability to transform into other creatures.
The team grows as each of the animals gets a girlfriend: Birdie, an elf princess; Ruby, a rabbit/human crossbreed; and Terza, a telepathic turtle.
They get involved in various adventures: preventing a nuclear explosion in Mundania, preventing an invasion of the dragons of the Sea Kingdom, travelling to the distant past to fetch a dinosaur egg, and defeating an invasion from Bug Eyed Monsters.
Six Crystal Princesses (2022)
Prince Ion and Princess Hilda are the children of King Hilarion and Queen Ida of the island kingdom of Adamant. Ion’s girlfriend Vinia and Hilda’s boyfriend Benny are living with them in Castle Adamant.
Ion and Hilda tell Vinia and Benny how their mother Ida had once been captured by a dragon and frozen in crystal (in “The Color of Her Panties”). She had been rescued, but there had been six other princesses also frozen in crystal. The four of them decide to go on a quest to rescue them.
Travelling on a flying carpet, they arrive at the lair of the dragon, Dragoman. He requires them to find six princes as partners for the princesses before he will release them. The princesses are of all different species, and are feminists.
Vinia, as the protagonist and quest leader, communicates telepathically with the princesses, to find out what they are like, and what they require in a partner. It is decided that once released, the princesses would form a new feminist queendom called Thanx.
The questers travel all over Xanth, finding suitable princes, and in one case a princess, since one of the crystal princesses is a lesbian.
But after the princesses are released and the new queendom formed, the six neighbouring kingdoms declare war against them. Vinia must seek out allies from various species to defend the queendom.
- Hi Piers – The official homepage of Piers Anthony and Xanth
(includes pages with Character database and timeline)
- Xanth Wiki Timeline – more detailed and up to date than on the author’s website.
- Ivy’s World of Xanth
- Ðêmøñ «ÐÅXLÔVË§» Xanth Page
- Xanth Wiki