Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony

Review of A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony

In a discussion of fantasy books my friend in Canada had told me that Piers Anthony was the American equivalent of Terry Pratchett. I’m not a huge fan of Pratchett, but this was sufficient to spark my interest. I’d read only one Piers Anthony book at that point (Digital Mode, I think) and remembered enjoying it, but not considering it a comedy. British bookstores don’t stock many of his books, so when I saw a shelf-full of them in Chapters in Ottawa, I decided to get this volume – the first of the Xanth books.

A Spell for Chameleon, is much along the same lines as a good Discworld novel: a pleasant, easy, sometimes quite amusing read. You know, I feel that the review should stop about there, but I’ll go on.

Xanth, like Discworld, is a distinctive land of magic. All the citizens are magicians to some degree – most, though, are of the spot on the wall variety: ie, their talent is essentially useless. The most powerful, however, are granted the title Magician – and the king of Xanth has to be one of these. Bink, the hero of the novel appears to have no talent at all. Any person over the age of twenty-five with no magic is exiled to Mundania – the real world. Bink, at the start of the book, is twenty-four years and eleven months old.

So the book is about Bink’s quest to find his magical talent. Many things that he encounters are not what they seem or what he expects – and this is eventually true of his own ability, once he discovers what it is. As Xanth is a magical land, everything in it uses magic. For instance, there doesn’t appear to be any agriculture or industry, as such – instead people harvest magical trees like the breadfruit tree, a trees whose fruit are loaves of bread.

The story is surprisingly intricately structured – as I said, things are rarely what the appear to be – and the humour is mild – not really laugh-out-loud stuff, but it’s likeable. I’d say that Terry Pratchett’s stuff is a little funnier, but Piers Anthony’s is a little better-written – but they’re very different otherwise: Pratchett goes in for parody and cultural references, while Anthony is more into invention.

Not a bad read, and I’d try another Xanth book if I saw one.

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