Xanth Book 1: A Spell for Chameleon

xanth book 1 a spell for chameleon first edition piers anthony
4.0 Overall Score

First in the Xanth series

Very generic fantasy feels like a hodgepodge of events

Book Info

Book Title:  A Spell for Chameleon (Xanth Book 1)

Publisher:  Ballantine Books

Writer:  Piers Anthony

Release Date:  September 1977


Piers Anthony

Bink is an outsider…he shows no magical talent in Xanth, a world of magic. When he is forced into exile into Mundania, Bink finds himself with another exile named Fanchon and the prisoner of a evil magician exile named Trent. In Bink and Fanchon’s escape attempt, Bink, Trent, and Fanchon are all pulled back into Xanth and facing a potential death penalty for returning. Trent however has his own goals in Xanth, he sees Xanth as open to attacks from the outside world and vows it needs to change. Deciding to take the kingdom by force, it is up to Bink and Fanchon to stop him. Can Bink find his hidden magic and what secret is Fanchon hiding about herself?

Written by Piers Anthony, Xanth Book 1: A Spell for Chameleon (just normally titled A Spell for Chameleon) was the first book in Anthony’s long running fantasy series. Released in September 1977 by Ballantine Books, A Spell for Chameleon did receive some criticism (along with many of Anthony’s books) for its portrayals of women.

I had heard of Piers Anthony and seen his books over the years but never actually sat down to read one. I am a fair weather fan of fantasy and dislike when fantasy really just is “fantasy” and comes off as a cheesy genre book…unfortunately, A Spell for Chameleon is one of those books.

It feels like every fantasy creature is shoved in A Spell for Chameleon. There are centaurs, unicorns, salamanders, giants, etc., etc., etc. It would be one thing if there seemed to a hierarchy to Xanth, but it just seems like a hodgepodge of fantasy. I can’t really tell who the books are targeting (I’m guessing pre-teen, but some of the subject matter seems older).


A Spell for Chameleon (First Edition)

The story is essentially an adventure story with Bink and his characters just meeting danger after danger in Xanth. It all seems very generic and like it was made up on the spur of the moment. Oh no! Vines are attacking…Oh no! A dragon! Anthony also cannot name characters. Bink is an ok name, Trent is ok, Chameleon is ok…but you also have things like Chester Centaur and Cherie Centaur.

The books have criticism of the portrayal of women. In this story you have Fanchon (who’s really Chameleon) who as she grows more beautiful, she becomes dumb. You also have other female characters who all seem to be either controlling (and evil) or just submissive to the men…they are almost just tools of the guys who get to choose who they want in their lives.

Despite finding A Spell for Chameleon bad, I am halfway intrigued by the Piers Anthony phenomenon it started. I read it and didn’t get anything from the story other than bad fantasy names, every lame fantasy creature, and a story which had difficulty finding a balance between serious and lightness. I might be inclined to read the sequel just to see if I’m missing something.  A Spell for Chameleon was followed by Xanth Book 2: The Source of Magic in February 1979.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response