Puns and Piers Anthony are as synonymous as peanut butter and jelly.
Puns are words that may contain more than one meaning and are used for hilarity or rhetorical effect.
Piers Anthony created the world of Xanth where puns are everything. Every Xanth novel is full to the brim with puns. Some that make you laugh, some are so bad you groan, some are pretty clever, and others are a bit of a stretch. How many puns can you fit in a novel? How about thirty-nine of them?
Five Portraits is not only the 39th Xanth novel but is the only Xanth novel that is a direct sequel. All others are self-contained stories with characters showing up in other books.
- For the uninitiated, Xanth novels follow a pattern.The pattern is as follows: main character has a unique problem and they start the solution by visiting the Good Magician.
- Everyone goes to the Good Magician so three challenges are created that are fine tuned to the main character.
- Once the main character solves the challenges and meets with the Good Magician, then the story sets off.
Five Portraits has the same formula where our main heroine, Astrid (who is actually a basilisk with a soul) has to complete her prophecy of a third best friend. She found the other two in the previous novel titled Board Stiff. In this novel, she is part of a team trying to rid Xanth of the Pun-virus (the virus is destroying puns, no puns is fatal to Xanth) which her best friend Kandy is a part of too. The appearance of a demon named Fornax looking for a friend starts off the adventure. Since both women are deadly creatures and have not existed in conventional society, Astrid and Fornax start their travels with the intent of learning about friendship. Meanwhile, there is a mystery involving five portraits that need to be painted. If they are not painted, then the consequences could be the end of Xanth. It all ties together, trust me. Throughout the adventure, they meet ridiculous puns (like the Mad Birds versus the Prigs), travel through dimensions, fight the rape advances of trolls (that is a common Xanth occurrence when it comes to beautiful women unfortunately), lots of nudity, zombies, dragons, werewolves, and five orphaned children with unique abilities.
The book is chock full of adventures, elements, and puns. Puns, puns, puns. It contained most of my favorite elements so it should have been fun. Instead, I was disappointed with the book. It’s akin to listening to a new album made by a singer that you’ve been a fan of for years and you feel nothing when you hear it. Same goes for books.
It was a pretty difficult book to read. Despite the simple, story telling rhetoric, it just kept drudging on. I found myself losing patience with the slow pacing of the novel. It read more like a platform video game than a novel (think NES Super Mario Brothers). There was a definite pattern of having an obstacle being presented, obstacle then being overcome, move on to the next obstacle, and repeat. The situations became never-ending and devoid of any real meaning or weight. There were tiny moments of sincerity injected but it seemed really down played.
Even the “horror” part of it was down played. There are several scenes where Astrid is almost raped. Instead of it being a horrific scene, she seems to chalk it up as more an inconvenience most of the time. Xanth is a mixture of childish antics and adult themes so it was just part and parcel to the whole narrative.
Astrid is what really kept me reading. I loved that she’s a basilisk. She has such a deadly power that even trolls (for the most part) would hesitate.
Not only does Five Portraits deal with friendship, it also deals with family units and sexuality. New topics that the modern audience would be more supportive of.
As for the smexy parts? Poof, it’s done.
For a Xanth novel, this is definitely not favorable to me. The earlier works are much more enjoyable and full of energy. Just pick one and you can definitely see the contrast. It makes me worry that Xanth is becoming stale. There were too many modern puns and joke in the book to be creative. I did get a smile out of the Doris Day reference.
Whether or not your familiar with Xanth, I urge everyone to pick up a Xanth novel anyway. There are so many that one is bound to pique your interest and whim.
Publication Date: October 21, 2014
Genre: fantasy (full of puns!)
Primary Book Format: print and e-format
Publisher/Imprint: Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Blush Quotient: Poof, nada
Smart Girls Rating: 3 Stars
Available now for Pre-order. Order it here: Amazon
Find out more info about the author and series here.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher to enjoy and review.)