Eye live inn the Land of Xanth, witch is dis-stinked from Mundaina inn that their is magic inn Xanth and nun inn Mundania. Every won inn Xanth has his own magig talent; know to are the same. Sum khan sore threw the heir. Butt inn Mundania know won does magic, sew its very dull. They're are knot any dragons their. Instead their are bare and hoarse and a grate many other monsters. Hour ruler is King Trent, whoo has rained four seventeen years. He transforms people two other creatures. Know won gets chaste hear; oui fair inn piece. My tail is dun.
- Dor (not the greatest speller, but he does a great summary)
Xanth (pronounced Zanth) is a fantasy world created by the prolific author, Piers Anthony. It is a land of mythical beasts and of magic. Maps of Xanth look suspiciously like the state of Florida and while inhabitants of Xanth have knowledge of our world - which they refer to as Mundania - the two worlds have little in common. At times, humans have been able to cross from our world into Xanth, and in fact, this is where all of the humans living there originally came from. All Xanthian-born humans have a single unique magical ability. Many of them have a simple and useless ability that is referred to as the "spot on the wall" magic (the person can magically cause a spot to appear on a wall), but the most rare individuals have what is considered a Magician (male) or Sorceress (female) caliber talent. For a time, there was a law which stated that when coming of age, all Xanthian citizens must display their magical talent to the king or face exile.
In addition to magic, Anthony makes very generous use of puns. For example:
- While you might find centipedes in Mundania, you will find additional species including nickelpedes, dimepedes, and quarterpedes in Xanth
- You may visit the Isle of View (hint: say it out loud) or go on a quest for the heaven cent while walking along the cube route
- A night mare is actually a horse that delivers bad dreams, while a day mare brings daydreams
- You might meet Maiden Taiwan, Hannah Barbarian, Anna Gram, or Justin Case
In the early books, this is a great part of the appeal of the series, but after you've read more than a few of the books, it is taken much too far - often overshadowing the plot.
Nearly all of the protagonists of the books are adolescents, so there are a lot of coming of age type themes. This is handled with the concept of the Adult Conspiracy. Kids will be kids, and they continually want to know about things that adults think they do not need to learn about until they are "older". Some of these topics includes how to conjure the stork (where else would babies come from in a world of magic?), sowing wild oats, and panties.
A Quick History
Around the year -2200, a rare occurrence allows a small group of humans somehow make their way from Mundania to Xanth. These first humans have no magical talents, but they notice that their children do. After several generations, a few magician-caliber talents appear. This human colony eventually fails due to magical interspecies breeding which brings about the human/animal hybrids such as centaurs, harpies, mermaids, naga, sphinxes, fauns as well as countless other cross breeds. Starting at the year 0 and continuing for hundreds of years, numerous Waves of humans invade Xanth, each bringing change to the land. Shortly before the Forth Wave, the first King of Xanth is chosen. It was decided that only a king (never a queen) could rule, and each king must have a magician-caliber talent (never fear ladies, women could be chosen to rule, they were just given the title of "King"). This is unique in that the royalty of Xanth was not decided by blood, but rather by talent. Centuries pass, and there is relative peace in the land - the Waves have stopped. The peace brings about a different kind of unrest - disloyalty and hunger for power. The Magician Trent (talent: transformation of others) attempts a coup d'etat against the king and is exiled to Mundania.
This short history basically brings us to the start of the first novel, A Spell for Chameleon. It should be noted that the history prior to this book is greatly expanded upon in future books of the series because in a land of magic, time travel is possible...
Xanth uses a 12 month calendar much like our own; however it wouldn't be Xanth without more puns:
- The Kings of Xanth
As stated above, only a king can rule Xanth. Therefore, a female ruler is called a king instead of a queen.
- King Merlin (talent: knowledge) - First king of Xanth. After abdicating the throne, he retired to Mundania where he tutored a young man named Arthur who was aspiring to be king himself
- King Roogna (talent: adaption) - married Tapis, the daughter of Merlin. Built Castle Roogna with the help of the centaurs
- King Rana (talent: creation) - the first female king of Xanth
- King Reitas (talent: solving problems)
- King Rune (talent: evocation) - son of Rana
- King Jonathan (talent: creation of zombies) - due to his own talent, Jonathan actually assumed the throne as a zombie himself and was commonly referred to as the Zombie Master
- King Vortex (talent: summoning demons)
- King Neytron (talent: bringing paintings to life) - he painted pictures of elaborate furnishings and made them real to furnish Castle Roogna. In times of famine he would paint pictures of bountiful food to feed his people
- King Nero (talent: animating golems)
- King Gromden (talent: divining the history of an object)
- King Yang (talent: creating invokable spells) - had a dual personality (Yin Yang), married Threnody, daughter of Gromden
- King Muerte A Fid (talent: alchemy)
- King Elona (talent: longevity) - second female king of Xanth
- King Warren (talent: creating ghosts) - commonly known as the Ghost King
- King Ebnez (talent: inanimate adaption) - help to create the Shieldstone to protect Xanth from further Waves
- King Humfrey (talent: curiosity, later information) - known as Good King Humphrey, and later Good Magician Humphrey
- King Aeolus (talent: creating storms) - commonly known as the Storm King, Aeolus was the king that created the law that stated that anyone over 18 who did not possess a demonstrable magic talent must be exiled to Mundania
- King Trent (talent: transformation) - attempted to take over the throne from Aeolus, and was commonly known as Evil Magician Trent, he later became a hero
- King Dor (talent: communicating with inanimate objects)
The Basic Plot
While each of the novels is unique, if you break them down, they all have a similar format:
- Young hero(ine) has a problem/question
- Hero is directed that the Good Magician Humphrey can aid them in solving said problem
- More puns
- Hero must pass three challenges to get to Humphrey to ask him a question (after which he must serve the magician for one year)
- A few more puns
- Hero goes on a quest (with one or more other companions)
- Can somebody say "pun"
- Hero meets significant other and falls in love
- Oh, what a pun time we are having
- Hero and party complete quest
- Hero and significant other make baby/babies
- Pun, pun pun...
- Very long author's note
- Another Book: Baby grows up. GoTo Step 1, this time inserting twice the amount of puns