Anthony (Well-Tempered Clavicle, 2011, etc.) serves up the 36th entry in his pun-packed Xanth fantasy series.
The series, set in the fictional realm of Xanth, a place full of magic, crude humor and wordplay, has had an admirable longevity; its first installment, A Spell for Chameleon, was published some 35 years ago. This time around, Bryce, a sickly 80-year-old widower, is magically transported to Xanth, where he is given the body of a 21-year-old and the power to see briefly into the future. He is told by Princess Dawn that Demons have made a bet involving him, and as a result, Bryce must compete with other suitors for the hand of Princess Harmony, a teenage girl whom he is compelled by magic to desire. Among those that assist him in his dangerous quest are a talking German short-haired pointer dog named Rachel and a 19-year-old young woman named Mindy. He comes to discover that in Xanth, all is not what it seems. The novel stands alone quite well and doesn’t require readers to be experts in the Xanth mythos to understand the basic story. However, newcomers should be warned that Anthony’s work is not for everyone. A very high tolerance for puns and bad jokes is required; at one point, for example, the characters encounter the Pie Rats of the Carry Bean. Some readers may also find the overall plotline—an old man in a young man’s body forced to pursue a 16-year-old girl—rather questionable, as well as the constant mentions of women’s panties. On top of it all, Anthony’s prose, and especially his dialogue, can be clunky and artless at times. That said, he does have his devoted fans, and he thanks a few of them personally, in the closing Author’s Note, for puns and ideas that they submitted.
A fantasy that will mainly satisfy dedicated Xanth aficionados.