A Spell for Chameleon

Still kind of reeling from reading Campbell, I decided that this was a good time to go back and revisit one of my favorite books of all time, and one of the series of books that were a big part of the reason I started to get into reading.

A Spell for Chameleon is the first novel in Piers Anthony’s Xanth series.  This is a sprawling series very similar to Pratchett’s Discworld (except I like these books).  Each book is set in the same world, but tells the stories of different characters throughout the world.  Side characters in one book become the main characters in later books, and then go back to being side characters after their adventure.  Xanth is a fun world with a lot of interesting magical plants and animals, and I love the books.  This is also one of the biggest series that you’ll ever find, with 35 books already in print and several more either being written on planned for the future.  (I own and have read the first 32 Xanth books.)

This book won the August Derleth award in 1977, which is an award given by the British Fantasy Society for the best novel of the year, and it’s still a great book to read.  This is the beginning of a wonderful series of books.

Book Stats

344 pages

Fantasy

First book of the Xanth series

Setting

These books all take place in the magical world of Xanth, where a lot of magical creatures and plants exist.  One of the unique things about Xanth is that every character in the world has their own magical power.  These can range from simple and fairly useless such as putting a spot on a wall to complex and powerful such as being able to control the weather, or to transform a person or animal into another creature at will.  All of the books take advantage of this, and throughout the series there are a lot of different people with a wide variety of magical powers who all use them in interesting ways to complete their adventures.

Characters/Plot

The main character in this book is Bink, a young man who lives in the North Village.  Bink is a likable person who is kind hearted and cares for the people he knows.  Unfortunately Bink also has a huge problem, he doesn’t have a magical power.  While this has been simply an inconvenience for most of his life, it comes to a head as he nears his 25th birthday, as royal law has decreed that all citizens much demonstrate their magical power before the age of 25 or they will be banished from Xanth.  So as a result Bink starts on a quest to find the Good Magician Humfrey who will hopefully be able to find Bink’s magic power so that he can stay in Xanth.

Enjoyment

I love this book, it starts out as a fairly simple quest, but then each event leads seamlessly into the next until Bink has been on a truly memorable quest, complete with all the standard fantasy tropes of fighting the evil magician, saving the girl, and fighting off a horde of monsters in order to save the entire kingdom.  While there is a lot going on throughout the course of the book, Anthony does a great job of foreshadowing the reasons behind everything occurring, so that when he finally explains what happened, it makes perfect sense.  He also does an excellent job of telling a complete story in this book, while setting up the premise for the next book.

Overall Grade

One of my favorite books of all time, a delightful story with fun characters that introduces a fun series of books.

10/10

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6 Comments

  1. I haven’t read any of the Xanth books. Just read my first Discworld book, Thud!, a month or so ago and loved it though. Sam Vimes is a character I can relate to very strongly, perhaps because he is not only a good family man but is also so much like all the other copper/detective characters that I like it books and films. I have read one Anthony novel, a collaboration he did called Secret of Spring. It was fun and had just the right amount of romance and adventure to make it a novel I kept and go back to every so often.

    So is this a good place for a newbie to start in Xanth? I chose not to start at the true beginning of Discworld just because of the assumption that Pratchett got better later on.

    Reply
    • I think Anthony is a very good writer, I’ve only read his Xanth books but they’re all fun. Although I will admit that some of that later Xanth books are not as good as the earlier ones, but the first 16-20ish are all really good. They start to get really formulaic by the later books, but when the series is 35+ books long, that’s going to happen eventually.

      This is the first Xanth book and a great place to start.

      Reply
      • Thanks Adam, I’ll add it to my list. A friend of mine read these growing up and although he hasn’t really desired to return to the series in adulthood he has very fond memories of them. It is nice to see that you have maintained an affection for this first book and gives me hope that I’ll like it as well. Long-running series do have that formulaic tendency. I’m not sure how you’d avoid that, and if you did you’d probably anger loyal readers.

  2. 35 books in the series! That is impressive – but you have to wonder if the enthusiasm for the world of Xanth would be waning for the author. I have heard that Agatha Christie hated Poirot’s guts by the end of the series.
    Sounds like the first ones are good fun though. 🙂

    Reply
    • I don’t know if he got to the point where he didn’t like writing the books, but I know that in the author’s notes in one of the later books he mentions that the Xanth books are very easy to write. He’s still writing the books and they come out about 1 every year.

      Reply
  1. August 2012 Month in Review « Reviews and Ramblings

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