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First appearanceA Spell for Chameleon (1977)
Last appearanceApoca Lips
Created byPiers Anthony
In-universe information
TypeFantasy world
RulerKing of Xanth
Race(s)Elves, centaurs, demons, dragons, fauns, gargoyles, goblins, golems, harpies, merfolk, naga, nymphs, ogres, zombies
CharactersBink, Chameleon, Trent, Iris, Dor, Irene, Ivy, Grundy Golem, Smash Ogre, Tandy Nymph, Demoness Metria

Xanth (/ˈzænθ/ ZANTH) is a series of novels by author Piers Anthony, also known as The Magic of Xanth. The novels are set in the fantasy world of Xanth, in which magic exists and every human has a magical "talent."[1] The books have been noted for their extensive use of wordplay and puns.[2]

Anthony has stated that he has kept the series going as long as he has (currently 47 books) because the Xanth novels are "just about all that publishers want" from him.[3]

Since the peak of its popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, the series has been criticized by many scholars and reviewers for what they characterize as misogynist and pedophilic undertones; one reviewer has called it the "most divisive non-media publishing enterprise in all of fantasy."[4][5][6] Anthony has downplayed these critiques.

The series was optioned in 2017 for a film and TV series.[1]


As of 2023, there are 47 published novels.

Number Title Pub. year Main characters
1 A Spell for Chameleon 1977 Bink
2 The Source of Magic 1979 Bink
3 Castle Roogna 1979 Dor
4 Centaur Aisle 1982 Dor
5 Ogre, Ogre 1982 Smash Ogre
6 Night Mare 1983 Mare Imbrium
7 Dragon on a Pedestal 1984 Ivy
8 Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn 1984 Jordan the Barbarian
9 Golem in the Gears 1986 Grundy Golem
10 Vale of the Vole 1987 Eskil
11 Heaven Cent 1988 Dolph
12 Man from Mundania 1989 Grey, Ivy
13 Isle of View 1990 Chex Centaur, Jenny Elf, Dolph, Electra
14 Question Quest 1991 Humfrey
15 The Color of Her Panties 1992 Gwendolyn Goblin
16 Demons Don't Dream 1993 Dug
17 Harpy Thyme 1993 Gloha Goblin-Harpy
18 Geis of the Gargoyle 1994 Gary Gargoyle
19 Roc and a Hard Place 1995 Demoness Metria
20 Yon Ill Wind 1996 Demon X(A/N)th/Nimby
21 Faun & Games 1997 Forrest Faun
22 Zombie Lover 1998 Breanna
23 Xone of Contention 1999 Dug
24 The Dastard 2000 Becka Dragongirl
25 Swell Foop 2001 Cynthia Centaur
26 Up in a Heaval 2002 Umlaut Golem
27 Cube Route 2003 Cue (Cube)
28 Currant Events 2004 Clio
29 Pet Peeve 2005 Goody Goblin
30 Stork Naked 2006 Surprise
31 Air Apparent 2007 Debra
32 Two to the Fifth 2008 Cyrus Cyborg
33 Jumper Cable 2009 Jumper Spider
34 Knot Gneiss 2010 Wenda Woodwife
35 Well-Tempered Clavicle 2011 Picka Bone
36 Luck of the Draw 2012 Bryce
37 Esrever Doom 2013 Kody
38 Board Stiff 2013 Irrelevant Kandy
39 Five Portraits 2014 Astrid Basilisk
40 Isis Orb 2016 Hapless
41 Ghost Writer in the Sky 2017 Tartan
42 Fire Sail 2019 Lydell and Grania
43 Jest Right 2020 Jess and Magnus
44 Skeleton Key 2021 Squid
45 A Tryst of Fate 2021 Squid
46 Six Crystal Princesses 2022 Vinia
47 Apoca Lips 2023 Prince Nolan Naga
48 Three Novel Nymphs forthcoming[7]

World of Xanth[edit]

Inhabitants and talents[edit]

Each human character in Xanth is born with a unique magical ability, called a talent.[8] With the exception of the curse fiends, the winged centaurs, and the child Surprise Golem (Daughter of Rapunzel and Grundy Golem), these abilities never repeat exactly in individuals throughout the entire history of Xanth (although nearly identical talents show up on occasion). Though many talents are limited in scope (called the "spot-on-a-wall" variety), the series focuses mainly on individuals with "Magician" caliber abilities (one of the criteria for serving as King of Xanth).

In addition to the human characters, Xanth is populated by elves, centaurs, demons, dragons, fauns, gargoyles, goblins, golems, harpies, merfolk, naga, nymphs, ogres, zombies, curse fiends, and other fictional beasts. Though initially introduced as obstacles to the human characters, some individuals from those groups become main characters in later books of the series.

As the series progresses, some of the half-human species are discovered to have the potential to possess magical talents. The centaurs of the primary centaur community, Centaur Isle, exile any centaurs who demonstrate a magical talent (although some centaur communities are more lenient about possession of talent); however, they tolerate talents in "lesser" races such as humans. Goblins and harpies are shown to have the potential to possess half-talents, the complementary half existing in a member of the other species, (i.e., a goblin must team with a harpy for them to utilize their talent); the hostility between goblins and harpies proved a major obstacle to any serious effort by them to work together to develop these potential talents. Other non-human species are also known to possess talents, for example: Sesame Serpent and Claire Voyant. Visitors from other dimensions with talents retain their talents after arriving in Xanth.


Geographically, modern Xanth[9] resembles the state of Florida in the United States in shape, but has landmarks that mimic well-known geographical features from around the world. One major example of this is the Gap Chasm, an enormous canyon a mile wide which completely bisects the country, paralleling the DMZ of the Korean Peninsula. The position of the Chasm could also correspond with the Cross Florida Barge Canal, which, similar to the chasm, is generally forgotten except for those who stumble upon it. The Gap is guarded by a resident dragon, known as Stanley Steamer, and is crossed by means of treacherous bridges. Many of Xanth's other geographical features are puns on those of Florida (for example, Lake Ogre-Chobee and the Kiss-Mee River). The Florida Keys also exist, though they are, in Xanth, actual keys. Other punning feature names include the Isle of View ("I love you"), Mount Ever-Rest (Mount Everest) and the Centaur Isle (center aisle) created by a magician from the Centaur Isle. The moon is close enough that flying creatures may land there; the back side is sweet and honeyish, the visible side has turned sour and become curdled cheese, due to observing what has happened on Earth and Xanth. Plants may bear fruit of all descriptions (pie trees and shoe trees are common) or they may be carnivorous (such as the tangle trees), making travel in Xanth risky.

Xanth has a connection with the normal world, which is referred to as "Mundania";[10] its people are called "Mundanes". Although any citizen of Xanth can enter Mundania at any time through an isthmus in the northwest, Mundanes enter the isthmus in Xanth from random geographic locations and time periods throughout history. In other words, Xanth does not have a fixed location or time in the mundane world; and the timeline between Xanth and Mundania seems to jump backwards and forwards. For example, within the lifetime of a normal citizen of Xanth, an American Mundane from 2024 and an Egyptian Mundane from 3000 BC could both walk across the isthmus. However, Mundanes seem to have trouble finding Xanth on a consistent basis, making any travel to Xanth a somewhat rare occurrence. Despite these seeming difficulties, Xanth was colonized in several waves by groups of invaders and nomads from Mundania over the course of several centuries. The series ties these colonization events to actual historical events on Earth, most notably the Punic wars.

Adult Conspiracy[edit]

First mentioned in Crewel Lye, the Adult Conspiracy is one of the prominent features of the Xanth world. In an interview with Moira Allen, Piers Anthony referred to the "Adult conspiracy to keep interesting things from children" as a literary device "parodying current societal conventions".[11] Nearly all subsequent books contain references to the Conspiracy and its effects, particularly those novels in which the main characters are children.

At its core, the Adult Conspiracy seeks to protect children from knowledge that could bring them to great harm. The precise age for entering into the world of adults is age 18, corresponding to the age of majority in most places. The primary principle that inducts children into the Conspiracy is the understanding of the secret of "summoning the stork". In Xanthian terms, "summoning the stork" literally means to put out a call to summon a stork which will deliver to the couple a child. In Isle of View, it is revealed that summoning the stork will release an "ellipsis" (...) into the air to fly off to the stork. This is a play on the joke that all the "adult" things happen after a paragraph ends in an ellipsis. Most inductees actually discover the specifics of the act "by accident" after marriage, or under the influence of a love spring (a magical spring which causes two drinkers, not necessarily human, or even of the same species, to fall madly, and lustfully, in love with one another at first sight).

Other faculties of the Adult Conspiracy[12] include:

  • Censorship of foul language – All foul words contain the ability to cause various effects (the wilting of plants (negative), removal of curse burrs (positive), etc.). These are automatically bleeped when said in the presence of someone who has yet to be inducted.
  • Visual access to underwear – Because underwear is so closely tied to sexuality (even more so than nudity in Xanth), men become automatically "freaked out" when they view panties. This is made a common joke, most prominently in the novel The Color of Her Panties, and is often used by women to gain advantage over men. Panties only carry their effects when worn, but because of their nature, they are forbidden to be shown to children.
  • Inability to have childish fun – Children believe that once they join the Adult Conspiracy, they will no longer have pillow fights, eat sweets and drink "tsoda popka" (soda pop), or want to have fun. While this belief is exaggerated, the entry to the Conspiracy does cause the couple to lose their bed monster, inadvertently creating the appearance of losing all childhood spirit under the responsibility of Adulthood.

It is important to note that there have been occasions when children gained access to the Adult Conspiracy prematurely. Jenny Elf, Che Centaur, and Gwenny Goblin had to be given access to the Adult Conspiracy when Gwenny received a pair of contact lenses that corrected her poor eyesight while giving her the ability to see others' dreams (some of which could contain Conspiracy material). In one rare instance, a little girl was born with the magic talent of immunity to the magical censorship of Adult Conspiracy, causing her family much distress. This was remedied with magician Sherlock's talent of reversal and a vial of lethe water which erased her memory.

Related works[edit]

  • Encyclopedia of Xanth (1987, by Jody Lynn Nye) a Crossroads Adventure role-playing game book
  • Ghost of a Chance (1988, by Jody Lynn Nye) a Crossroads Adventure role-playing game book
  • Piers Anthony's Visual Guide to Xanth (1989, with Jody Lynn Nye)
  • "Xanth" Board Game (1991, created by Mayfair Games, a board game for 1-6 players set in the Xanth Universe)
  • Companions of Xanth (a 1993 video game described in and following the plot of Demons Don't Dream)
  • Letters to Jenny (1993, nonfiction)


  1. ^ a b the Rocket, Stubby (12 April 2017). "Piers Anthony's Xanth Novels to Become Feature Film and TV Series". Tor. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  2. ^ de la Cruz, Melissa; Johnston, Michael. "'Spell'-Bound By A Goofy Book — And Later, United By It". npr.com. NPR. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  3. ^ Novelli, Michael A. (17 November 2008). "An Interview with Piers Anthony". The Agony Booth. Archived from the original on October 8, 2016.
  4. ^ Wilson Wise, Dennis (18 October 2021). "Just Reading A Spell for Chameleon: An Appreciation with Caveats, and an Elegy". Mythlore. 40 (1). Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  5. ^ Heller, Jason (18 October 2013). "Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  6. ^ Chaplinsky, Joshua. "Themes of Pedophilia in the Works of Piers Anthony". Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  7. ^ Anthony, Piers. "Bibliography". hipiers.com. Archived from the original on 22 January 2019. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  8. ^ "Piers Anthony". www.hipiers.com. Archived from the original on 24 November 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  9. ^ "The Map of Xanth". members.tripod.com. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Xanthmaker - Piers Anthony Interview - Jitterbug Fantasia". moongadget.com. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  11. ^ "Master of Punmanship: An Interview with Piers Anthony". Writing-World.com. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Piers Anthony: The Magic of Xanth - LitRPG Reads". 13 September 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2018.


External links[edit]