Monday, August 24, 2009

Xanth

It is time for another book review, actually a series review! The Xanth series by Piers Anthony is one of Diana's favorite (perhaps her very favorite) series of books. She compelled me to read them, and I have been chugging along through the series off and on for the last few years. I just today finished book 21, Faun & Games.

Although your views may vary, and Diana's views certainly do, I find a lot of problems with these books. First, they do not hold my attention. I can never seem to pin down exactly what the problem is. There is fantasy. There are interesting plots. The books are filled with unique characters, and yet, it is very easy for me to put the books down. I honestly think it is the writing style.

Note, this isn't a problem with Piers Anthony in general. I loved the Incarnations of Immortality series which I read in its entirety in one fell swoop. I have also read other random Piers Anthony novels with no problems. It seems to be the Xanth novels in particular that I have a problem with. They do not seem completed. It is more like someone had an idea for a book and just wrote about it off the top of their head with no proper plot development, character development, subtle foreshadowing, etc. I think I like my novels a bit more complex.

I also have a problem with the stereotyping. Others seem to find it a form of social commentary, but I just find it trite and not creative.

A bit of background for those of you who are not familiar with Xanth, Xanth is a world that looks rather similar to the state of Florida. In Xanth, all people have magic talents. There are also a host of magic creatures like centaurs, dragons, fauns, and griffins. Plots tend to revolve around various quests that the characters need to complete, and figures from our world (Mundania) figure prominently in many of the books. In some ways, Xanth is a Utopian world. The material things that people need grow on trees so it is not necessary for people to work for those things in the typical "mundane" way. The literalization of puns plays a huge part in the world of Xanth and the plots of the novels.

Faun & Games tells the story of a faun, Forrest, who is the caretaker of a sandal tree. His best friend is the faun who is the caretaker of the clog tree near his. When the clog tree faun disappears, Forrest heads out on a quest to find a new faun for the clog tree so that the clog tree will not suffer the horrible fate of becoming mundane. The book was not the worst of the series nor the best.

If you choose to read this series, I do find it best to read all the books in order. Many say that they don't, but there is a lot of background information built into the earlier novels, and all of the novels regularly refer to things that took place in the earlier novels with an expectation that you will have some inkling what is being talked about. I think if you just jumped in, you would miss out on a lot!

If you like fantasy and puns, you may want to give this series a try. The first book A Spell for Chameleon has a particularly nice plot and very lovable characters. When I have complained about the lack of complexity in the plots, Diana has stated that they are children's books, but I definitely disagree on this point. The books are not marketed to children or teens. There is a lot of sexual innuendo, which although we do not mind it in our family, I know many people would feel was inappropriate for children, but most importantly, if I find a book boring, I think that kids would find it even more so! I would not recommend these books to my kids although they are welcome to read them if they so choose.

If you try the Xanth books, and don't find them to your liking, don't give up on Piers Anthony. You may want to give the Incarnations of Immortality a try (again the first book, On a Pale Horse is stand alone good) or one of his other series. Please don't judge this talented and prolific author on one series that seems like just a fill in to the good stuff to me.

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