Off the Shelf
A Spell For Chameleon
By Marcus Pan
I needed a break into the old
world again, so I went traipsing through Xanth! Somehow I actually managed to
pull the first Xanth book from my pile of rhetoric in the cabinet. A Spell
For Chameleon seems to be, as far as I can tell, the first novel
that stepped away from Mundania and into this magical realm.
Ive talked at length about Xanth before, so Im
not going to go into numerous details about the world at large as I already
have. Instead Im going to just discuss A Spell For Chameleon,
which can be a bit confusing for the both of us. Its hard to place this
novel in the timeline of Xanth. Castle Roogna, for example, is at first find
here a decrepit old castle ruins (though kept healthy by magic). Good Magician
Humphrey is here and he is actually the only character I recognize from
previous Xanth novels Ive read.
The story follows a young man named Bink, who is a lost soul
within Xanth for he seems to possess no magic. Everybody in Xanth has some kind
of magical talent, as you hopefully remember, from the transformation abilities
of Trent to the illusionary abilities of Iris. Everyone, that is, except poor
Bink. The young lad is about to be twenty-five years old and if you cant
prove to the king that you have some magical talent anything, really,
from making someones ass grow hot to manifesting holes at your feet
you are exiled from Xanth to live in Mundania. Our world.
Binks travels begin as a trek to Humphreys
castle where, for the price of one years service, you can ask the Good
Magician whos talent lies with divination any question and
receive any answer. After a few exploits against dragons, shades, pretty dumb
chicks and such Bink arrives at Humphreys to be told that while he does
have magic big magic nobody can tell what it is. So off Bink goes
home to the North Village where he is unable to demonstrate it and is sent
En route he runs into Trent, one of three of Xanths
most powerful magicians, just outside the shield border of Xanth. Trent was
exiled twenty years hence for trying to be King. Hes trying to get back
in now, and somehow makes it back with Binks help. Further travels,
continued exploits, dead kings and old haunted castles resume the ride to the
end of A Spell For Chameleon. The end result is a new king and queen for
Xanth, a new wife, new job and discovery of his magical talent for Bink.
Id tell you what it is, but nobodys supposed to know. Only Bink and
King Trent do, and I shant ruin that arrangement!
Its not a bad book. Piers always has a knack for
interesting characters, places and twisting mundane things into magical fun.
Like the last Xanth book Ive read(1), he has a tendency to dwell on
things very much and add too much teenager-ish bantering between characters
whos exception could have moved the novel along swifter. But its
getting common to me by now, so its become an expected attribute to the
writing of Piers Anthony that might actually affect his style if removed. It
can get annoying though
Bink, like Dor, tends to act childish and think
childishly. It wasnt nearly as pronounced as the antics of Centaur
Aisle however. The ending of the book was actually rather nice if a
bit expected. I particularly like Binks talent and the way it was with
him all along, subtly manipulating things as he moved along. Quite ingenious
really. A Spell For Chameleon is certainly not the best fantasy novel
out there, but its not half bad for a bit of light reading in between
somethings more serious.
A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony
Cover Art by Michael Whelan
Copyright © 1977 by Piers Anthony
Published by Ballantine Books
(1) Centaur Aisle,
reviewed in Legends #147.
Click to Buy!