The book, A Spell for Chameleon, first published in 1977 was my introduction to Piers Anthony. I was immediately bewitched by his fantastical vision of a truly magical world, and I loved the fact that he placed it in Florida. His world of Xanth was a world where magic is as intrinsic to life as is oxygen, and that notion has intrigued me ever since. The concept of making magic a fundamental requirement for life is one that makes complete sense to me. Not only that, he did it with laugh-out-loud humor using puns and hokey jokes that were transformed into hilarious prose under his pen.
At the beginning of the novel Bink is facing exile from the magical land of Xanth and separation from his fiancée Sabrina for his lack of a magic talent. All human residents of Xanth possess some unique form of magic that ranges from incredibly powerful (such as the current King Aeolus’s ability to summon and control storms) to relatively useless (such as the ability to make a spot appear on a wall). In the hopes of discovering his talent Bink sets out to see the Good Magician Humfrey, a magician whose talent has to do with the gathering of information. Of course, things don’t go the way Bink hopes–it wouldn’t be a good story if they did!
Bink meets three women: Wynne who is pretty but stupid, Dee an average girl and also the sorceress Iris, whose power is the creation of illusions. Wynne and Dee are actually different aspects of the same woman, Chameleon, although Bink does not realize this at the time. Chameleon’s intelligence and beauty vary inversely according to the time of the month and she has been unable to find a man who is willing to be with her through all 3 phases. He also meets the Evil Magician Trent, and discovers that he actually likes him.
This book is one of the better books I had ever read, and I began a lifelong love affair with the works of Piers Anthony. Besides the witty prose and creative plots in this series, the COVERS of his books were AWESOME. I have been well-known as a person who will buy a book for the cover, and that is exactly how I stumbled onto this series. The Xanth series is one long running pun after another.
I bought A Spell for Chameleon for the same reason I purchase any book–I saw it on the rack in my local Albertson’s grocery store and fell in love with the cover.
I learned several things from Piers Anthony and his Xanth series, the first of which is that Great Covers Sell Books. I also saw that a true artist can take the most common, overused puns and turn them into the framework for a really fun adventure. I admit I did lose interest at about book ten, but even so, Piers Anthony still manages to have fun with it, and he still sells books. The Xanth series is incredibly popular, and deservedly so.
The series Anthony wrote that really captured my imagination, and which in my mind still reigns as his best works is the Apprentice Adept series, beginning with Split Infinity, Blue Adept and Juxtaposition.
This man has had one of the most prolific and highly regarded writing careers ever, with more than 150 published works to his credit. His sharp wit and amazing gift for world building are legendary, and he has won numerous awards for his work.
But what reading his incredible body of work and following his career has taught me is that even when things around you have gone to hell (as things are wont to do) the writer has the craft of writing fantasy to provide his mind with an escape from the TRUE weirdness of real life. Anyone who has read his official Wikipedia biography knows that Piers Anthony has had a long life with many personal challenges, through all of which I am sure writing was and is his refuge. This gives me hope and the impetus to just keep on doing what I can, trying to make silk purses from the sows’ ears of my work when I feel a bit discouraged.
Writing is a journey and you never know what lies around the corner.
If a writer is lucky, his works will eventually be beautifully covered and on sale in the racks at the local Albertson’s store, just waiting for a girl like me to pick it up for the art.