A Spell for Chameleon is the first book in a LONG series of novels set in the magical land of Xanth. I first read this book when I was very young. Maybe when I was 11 or 12?. Too young to really understand it, but I enjoyed it because it was such an interesting idea and compelling plot. Now that I’m older I decided to re-read it. I have issues, but we’ll get to that later.
A Spell For Chameleon is a high fantasy novel set in the magical land of Xanth. Xanth is so hard to describe. There’s a bunch of history cleverly packed into this novel. One of the main things to note is that everyone in Xanth has a magical ability they refer to as a talent. Very similar to X-men, or if you an anime fan, My Hero Academia. These talents range in power, so some can be Magician caliber talents with the ability to control the weather, or transform living objects, and some are completely useless, like making a coloured spot appear on the wall. But, no matter what the talent is you must have one in order to stay in Xanth. If you are talentless you are exiled.
The main character is a twenty-five year old man named Bink and so far he seems to have no talent and if he cannot demonstrate one very soon he will be forced into exile in the non-magical land of Mundania (aka Earth). So, in order to discover his talent Bink sets out to visit the Good Magician Humphrey, whose talent is knowledge. He meets a lot of people along the way, including two girls named Wynne and Dee. Once he finally gets to the Good MAgician’s castle he is thrilled and also disappointed to find out that he does, in fact, have a talent. A Very powerful talent that would put him in Magician class, but for some reason his talent remains hidden and the Good Magician Humphrey cannot figure out how to reveal it.
Unfortunately, the letter from Humphrey stating that Bink has a very powerful hidden talent isn’t good enough for the rapidly deteriorating Storm King and Bink is exiled anyway. Once he is across the border to Mundania, which is protected by a magical Shield to protect Xanth from Mundanian invaders, he is captured by the Evil Magician Trent and meets a woman named Fanchon. Trent was exiled twenty years ago for trying to take over the throne, but now he wants to go back to Xanth and… take over the throne. But for different reasons. Twenty years ago he wanted the power to rule Xanth. Now, however, he wants to help Xanth grow and prosper. Something the current Storm King cannot do any longer.
The rest of the novel is the story of how Bink, Trent, and Fanchon make it back into Xanth and make their way through the wilderness into populated areas. Throughout their adventures Trent figures out Bink’s talent, Bink figures out Fanchon’s secret, and all’s well that ends well.
Things I like about A Spell For Chameleon:
- There’s a map in the front of the book. I love maps.
- The story is really compelling and fun to read. There are also a bunch of puns written into the prose, which I didn’t really understand when I was younger.
- I’m a big fan of X-men and My Hero Academia, so I love the idea of each person having their own unique magical ability in Xanth. It always makes me think what mine would be if I had one.
Things I didn’t like about A Spell For Chameleon:
- Sometimes it can get pretty wordy. I ended up skipping some paragraphs because they would be too boring to read. I don’t need to read a page long description of every small detail about the land of Xanth. My imagination will fill in the gaps, thanks.
- My biggest dislike of this novel is how completely and obviously sexist it is. Piers Anthony was a male chauvinist with a complete lack of respect for women. There is even a self proclaimed “woman-hater” character in the novel. The character Bink is a shallow man who says he would get bored of an average woman and wants variety in a woman. The women in the novel are portrayed as either untrustworthy or not worthy of any of the men in the story. Take the three women I mentioned. Wynne is extremely beautiful but extremely stupid. Dee is completely average. Fanchon is incredibly intelligent but hideous to look at. None of these women are good enough for Shallow Bink the Talentless Wonder. It makes me so angry the way women are treated and portrayed in this novel. So much so that I have decided to get rid of all the Piers Anthony novels I have collected over the years.
Overall, I like the story and the idea behind Xanth, but I just can’t get over the blatantly sexist attitudes portrayed in this novel. I originally had this novel marked as four out of five stars on Goodreads, but now it’s only two stars in my opinion. Bye Piers Anthony. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life, kay thanks.