And oldie but a goodie, the first edition of A Spell for Chameleon came out in 1977 and marks the first book in the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. I’ve head this book for ages – along with numerous others in the series, and I enjoy a good re-read now and again. I love the Xanth series because they are FULL of puns – although not so much the first one, as I realized on my latest re-read. I think they peak around book three and I honestly don’t know how many there are now.
Xanth is a magical land suspiciously shaped like Florida. All manner of enchantments, spells, and fantastic creatures live in Xanth (Dragons, sea serpents, Tangle trees, zombies, lightning bugs that shoot lightning, centaurs, etc. etc.). The human population is ruled by the Storm King, and each citizen has a special talent – magic that only he or she possesses. There are all sorts of these magics – something as mundane as making a dust devil and something as elaborate as summoning huge storms, transforming living things into other living things, or creating intricate illusions that fool all senses but touch.
Bink, a young man approaching his twenty-fifth birthday, is from the North Village. Unfortunately, he has no apparent magic, which means that he will be exiled from Xanth after his birthday. Bink decides to visit the Good Magician Humphrey. After an adventure to GET to Humphrey, Bink is heartened because the Good Magician is convinced that Bink does have magic, strong magic, but it is unclear what it is.
The adventure continues from there. Bink meets some startling women, the Evil Magician Trent, and explores more of Xanth than he ever intended.
- Bink is an impressively moral character – he sticks to his convictions but isn’t afraid to ask questions and consider new ideas.
- Good Magician Humphrey. He shows up in pretty much every book after this, and I find him hilariously grumpy, though he’s always got a somewhat minor role.
- The Evil Magician Trent. Actually, I don’t think he’s bad at all, but he does have a bad reputation. Can it be changed?
- Wiggle Swarms. (Wiggles are these creepy almost invisible grub type things that shoot through the air, creating holes in whatever they pass through. Very problematic).
- Fanchon, a spectacularly ugly woman who is as smart as she is ugly.
- Good Magician Humphrey is pretty ugly as well – he’s pretty much a gnome.
I definitely recommend giving Xanth a try – and would also recommend trying out a few to see what you’d enjoy. I think my favourite is Dragon on a Pedestal which is actually book 7. I believe it was the first one I read of the series, so maybe that just biased me. I did find that some of the later books (because seriously there are a TON) were more focused on puns than a strong storyline, but they are all fun, relatively light-hearted fantasy reads. 4/5