If you are a fan of fantasy novels and puns, you are probably already very familiar with the Xanth series of books by the esteemed and talented author Piers Anthony. If you have never read any of Anthony’s novels, you owe it to yourselves to check them out. At times, Anthony gets a bit carried away, perhaps, with his puns; but, they are always relevant to the context of the storyline, and fit in well with the action, adventure, and very cool and personable characters he creates.
The puns extend even to the titles of the Xanth novels. For instance, Well-Tempered Clavicle (2011) is the thirty-fifth Fantasy novel in the Xanth series, following Knot Gneiss. The first novel in the series, though, doesn’t have a pun in its title; it is called: A Spell for Chameleon.
The demon Xanth plays a very important role in the series. He is not always one of the main characters, but characters often refer to him, and have been influenced by him. He is not, generally speaking, an evil demon; but, he is actually liked and even admired/respected by many inhabitants of Xanth.
Knot Gneiss, the novel right before Well-Tempered Clavicle, is one example where I’d say Anthony may get a little carried away with puns. I enjoyed reading it, but when you read about a character called Wenda who has violent mood swings and then read that her swinging on her favorite swing, a “Mood Swing,” was the cause of her mood swings, seems to me to be carrying the whole premise a little too far.
Picka Bone is one of the protagonists in Well-temered Clavicle. He and his sister Joy’nt are skeletons (the offspring of Marrow Bone and Gracew’l Ossein) who share a portion of a soul that has made them have a conscience and help others. Still, Picka Bone believes that he and his sister are living a rather dull life, guarding–mostly strolling around–the grounds of a cemetery. They are doing so at the request of two ghouls who desire a break from guarding the cemetery.
Their lives are dull, that is, until three animals show up, a bird, a dog, and a cat, named after the parts of a speaker: Tweeter, Woofer, and Midrange. They are not afraid of the skeletons, and Picka Bone saves Woofer from where he is trapped. This seals their friendship, and the two skeletons are talked into going on a quest with the animals in search of an adventure.
Woofer, Tweeter and Midrange were in the previous novel, Knot Gneiss. They are from Mundania, and are the Baldwin family pets. They’d heard they could escape getting older in Xanth, so they had decided to move there. As a side benefit, they are gaining new magical abilities. Joy’nt’s magical scroll enables the animals to communicate with the skeletones, and vice-versa.
Other interesting characters that I liked in Well-Tempered Clavicle are Princess Dawn and her sister Eve, who are sorceresses. and Mumfrey, the Good Magician. Mumfrey has five and a half wives, and he grants people answers to their questions if they can find the solution to three challenges he presents them. There is also an invisible giant who joins the three animals and the skeletons. They believe that Picka Bone has a hidden talent, and they journey to ask Princess Eve for help in finding out what the talent is.
The problem is that when they arrive at Castle Roogna, they learn that Princess Eve is away, visiting her husband’s realm. Hades. The adventurers decide to ask Eve’s sister, Princess Dawn, if she will help them. She is available, and what’s more, she fortunately has a free pass that will take them to Hades and allow the entrance to it.
They have many humorous adventures on their way. The plot of the novel changes to one where Princess Dawn is looking a suitable husband, but the animals and the skeletons still play a major role in the plot.
As in all of the Xanth novels, Piers Anthony’s chapter titles are one more reason I am a fan of his writing. Examples include: “Knucklehead,” “Granola,” and “Rules of Engagement.” In the ebooks I have written, I also try to engage my readers by thinking up clever chapter titles. Whether or not I am halfway as good at it as Piers Anthony is a subject of debate, but I always like it when authors try to intrigue their readers right from the very beginning of each chapter, from the title of it onwards, to make them want to read more.
Well-Tempered Clavicle by Piers Anthony is a funny, pun and fantasy-filled addition to the Xanth series. Anyone who loves the Fantasy genre, whether you’re a long-time fan of the Xanth series or are new to it, is sure to enjoy reading this novel. Anthony dedicates his novel to his daughter, who passed away while he was writing it. I am looking forward to reading the next installment, The Luck of the Draw. The Xanth series has legions of fans around the world; check out Well-Tempered Clavicle to find out for yourselves why!