Off the Shelf—“Dragon On a Pedestal”

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

Dragon on a PedestalOnce again Piers Anthony takes us on one of his famous journeys through Xanth. For those unfamiliar with Xanth – and that’s sad, really – it’s a wonderful place just past the horizon of Mundania (where we live) filled with strange and interesting magic, infuriatingly interesting yet flaky people and riddled with puns and clichés. It’s a place where you go to pick a ladyfingers plant just after it finishes painting its nails, or to speak with a yak who won’t shut up unless you know how to make it so. The Furies ride about on their broomsticks whipping you with guilt and six legged baby dragons womp around huffing steam. It’s truly a nice place to visit.

The story opens with King Dor of Xanth, his wife Irene and daughter Ivy, along with a party of travelers, heading to Castle Zombie for a birthday party. Additionally, the high ranking dignitaries of Xanth, the king and Zombie Master, are expecting a visit from Good Magician Humphrey so that a couple of new problems in the realm can be discussed. After this short and dull meeting, Humphrey finds himself being baby-ized – that is, overdosing on the fabled Water of Youth. Helplessly infantile, he’s out of the good fight while the terrible Gap Dragon, who escaped from the crevice that bears his name, goes tromping around Xanth making quite a mess of things. Fortunately, Humphrey’s final effort ends in not only his ODing on the water, but the dragon as well. Meanwhile Ivy, the King and Queen’s toddler, gets lost in the woods and so does Hugo, Humphrey’s dimwitted son. Irene and some folks go out looking for her and what follows is a fantastic story of interesting creatures, characters, places and things.

While Ivy meets up with both the baby Gap Dragon, who becomes her friend Stanley Steamer, and Hugo, who becomes her Night in Shiny Armor, the children go walking about the landscape running into various dangers and surmounting them only by the fact that Ivy’s powers are to enhance things around her. All humans of Xanth have some magical capability – Irene can grow plants at an alarmingly fast rate, Hugo can conjure fruit, as some examples – and it turns out that Ivy’s is to increase the powers of those around her simply by believing it to be in her childish naiveté. Stanley Steamer grows stronger and dimwitted Hugo is suddenly near to genius level and can conjure all kinds of perfectly fresh fruit rather than the rotten examples he has in the past. By Ivy’s believing they can, they simply can and they hurdle one problem after the other from bugbears to Cyclops, wiggles to plant traps.

Now there isn’t much more I can say about Dragon on a Pedestal without giving too much away – the story is something that must be read to be enjoyed. And if you think it sounds silly – that’s because it is. Magic users that grow plants and conjure fruit may not seem like that big a deal, but in Xanth the fruit is everything from the exploding cherry bombs and pineapples to the huge and rolling greatfruit. And there is virtually no limit to the plants in Xanth – especially with the party’s visit to the Tree of Seeds which gives Irene a new plethora of strange and unusual plants that can be quite aggressive.

The way Piers Anthony can string together and give new meaning and life to words we use normally, creating interesting creations that can wander around Xanth, is quite unique and very enjoyable. Anyone looking for some lighthearted fantasy reading should check into the Xanth novels, including this one, Dragon on a Pedestal.

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“Dragon on a Pedestal” by Piers Anthony
Cover Art by Darell K. Sweet
Copyright © 1983 by Piers Anthony Jacob
A Del Rey Book
Published by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0-345-31107-8

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