A Spell for Chameleon (Magic of Xanth #1)

A Spell for Chameleon (Magic of Xanth #1)

by Piers Anthony

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345454300
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/26/2002
Series: Magic of Xanth Series , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 25,804
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Piers Anthony, sometimes called Pier Xanthony, is the pseudonym of a Mundane character who was born in England in 1934, came to America in 1940, was naturalized in 1958, and moved to Xanth in 1977. His first story was published in 1963, and his first novel, Chthon, in 1967. His first Xanth novel, A Spell for Chameleon, won the August Derleth Fantasy Award as the best novel for 1977, and his fantasy novels began placing on the New York Times bestseller list with Ogre, Ogre. He shifted from writing in pencil to writing on the computer, and Golem in the Gears was his first novel created on the machine; naturally, the computer found its way into Xanth.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1. Xanth
A small lizard perched on a brown stone. Feeling threatened by the approach of human beings along the path, it metamorphosed into a stingray beetle, then into a stench-puffer, then into a fiery salamander.
Bink smiled. These conversions weren’t real. It had assumed the forms of obnoxious little monsters, but not their essence. It could not sting, stink, or burn. It was a chameleon, using its magic to mimic creatures of genuine threat.
Yet as it shifted into the form of a basilisk it glared at him with such ferocity that Bink’s mirth abated. If its malice could strike him, he would be horribly dead.
“Then abruptly a silent moth hawk swooped down from the sky and caught the chameleon in its beak. There was a thin scream of anguish as the lizard convulsed; then it dangled limply as the hawk ascended. The chameleon, despite all its pretensions, was dead. Even while trying to threaten Bink, it had been destroyed by another agency.
This realization continued to percolate through Bink’s emotion. The chameleon was harmless—but most of untamed Xanth was not. Was this some twisted omen, a small suggestion of a dire fate awaiting him? Omens were serious business; they always came true, but usually were misinterpreted until too late. Was Bink fated to die brutally—or was some enemy of his?
He had, so far as he knew, no enemies.
The golden sun of Xanth shone through the magic Shield, striking sparkles from the trees. All plants had their enchantments, but no spell could eliminate the need for light, water, and healthy soil. Instead, magic was used to make these necessities of the vegetable kingdom more available, and to protect the plants from destruction, unless they were overpowered by stronger magic or simple bad luck, like the chameleon.
Bink looked at the girl beside him as she stepped through a slanting sunbeam. He was no plant, but he too had needs, and even the most casual inspection of her made him aware of this. Sabrina was absolutely beautiful—and her beauty was completely natural. Other girls managed to enhance their appearance by cosmetics or padding or specialized spells, but beside Sabrina all other females looked somewhat artificial. She was no enemy!
They came to Lookout Rock. This was not a particularly lofty promontory, but its situational magic made it seem more elevated than it was, so that they could look down on a quarter slice of Xanth. This was a land of multicolored vegetation, small pretty lakes, and deceptively quiet fields of flowers, ferns, and crops. Even as Bink watched, one of the lakes expanded slightly, making itself seem cooler and deeper, a better place for a swim.
Bink wondered briefly about this, as he often did. He had an unruly mind, which constantly pestered him with questions for which there were no ready answers. As a child he had driven parents and friends almost to distraction with his “Why is the sun yellow?” “Why do ogres crunch bones?” “Why can’t sea monsters cast spells?” and similarly infantile prattle. No wonder he had soon been hustled away to centaur school. Now he had learned to control his mouth, but not his brain, and so he let it run on in silence.
Animate spells he could understand, such as those of the unfortunate chameleon; they facilitated comfort, survival, or image for living creatures. But why should inanimate things have magic? Did a lake care who swam in it? Well, maybe so; a lake was an ecological unit, and the community of living things within it might have a mutual interest in promoting it. Or a freshwater dragon might be responsible, luring in prey. Dragons were the most varied and dangerous life forms of Xanth; species occupied air, earth, and water, and a number breathed fire. One thing they all had, in common: good appetite. Pure chance might not bring in enough fresh meat.
But what about Lookout Rock? It was bare, without even lichen, and hardly beautiful. Why should it want company? And if it did, why not make itself more handsome, instead of remaining gray and drab? People did not come here to admire the rock, but to admire the rest of Xanth. Such a spell seemed self-defeating.
Then Bink stubbed his toe on a sharp fragment of stone. He was standing on a cracked-rock terrace, formed generations ago by the breaking up of a pretty-colored boulder and—
There it was! That other boulder, which must have been close to Lookout Rock and of similar size, had been fragmented to make this path and terrace, losing its identity. Lookout Rock had survived. Nobody would break it up, because it would make an ugly path, and its unselfish magic made it useful as it stood. One minor mystery solved.
Still, there were philosophical considerations, his insatiable mind insisted. How could an inanimate thing think or have feelings? What was survival to a rock? A boulder was merely the fragment of a prior layer of rock; why should it have a personal identity if the bedrock didn’t? Still, the same question could be asked of a man: he had been formed from the tissues of the plants and animals he consumed, yet he had a separate—
“What did you wish to talk to me about, Bink?” Sabrina inquired demurely.
As if she didn’t know. But as his mind formed the necessary words, his mouth balked. He knew what her answer had to be. No one could remain in Xanth after his twenty-fifth birthday unless he demonstrated a magic talent. Bink’s own critical birthday was barely a month away. He was no child now. How could she marry a man who was so soon to be exiled?
Why hadn’t he thought of that before bringing her out here? He could only embarrass himself! Now he had to say something to her, or suffer further embarrassment, making it awkward for her as well. “I just wanted to see your—your—”
“See my what?” she inquired with an arch lift of eyebrow.
He felt the heat starting up his neck. “Your holograph,” he blurted. There was much more of her he longed to see, and to touch, but that could come only after marriage. She was that sort of girl, and it was part of her appeal. The girls who had it didn’t need to put it on casual display.
Well, not quite true. He thought of Aurora, who certainly had it, yet who—
“Bink, there is a way,” Sabrina said.
He glanced sidelong at her, then quickly away, confused. She couldn’t be suggesting—
“The Good Magician Humfrey,” she continued blithely.
“What?” He had been on quite a different track, no credit to his willful mind.
“Humfrey knows a hundred spells. Maybe one of them—I’m sure he could find out what your talent is. Then everything would be all right.”
Oh. “But he charges a year’s service for a single spell,” Bink protested. “I have only a month.” But that was not quite accurate; if the Magician identified a talent for Bink, then he would not be exiled, and he would have a year available. He was deeply touched by Sabrina’s faith in him. She did not say what others said: that he had no magic. She did him the immense courtesy of choosing to believe that his magic merely remained undiscovered.
“Perhaps it was that faith that had first attracted him to her. Certainly she was beautiful and intelligent and talented, a prize by any definition. But she could have been much less in all categories and still been his—
“A year is not so long,” Sabrina murmured. “I would wait.”
Bink stared down at his hands, pondering. His right hand was normal, but he had lost the middle finger of his left hand in a childhood accident. It had not even been the result of inimical magic; he had been playing with a cleaver, holding down a stalk of coilgrass while he chopped, pretending it was the tail of a dragon. After all, a boy could not start to practice too early for the serious side of life. The grass had twitched out of his grip as he swung, and he had grabbed for it, and the cleaver had come down hard on his extended finger.
It had hurt, but the worst of it was that because he was not supposed to play with the cleaver, he had not dared scream or tell of his injury. He had controlled himself with extreme effort and suffered in silence. He had buried the finger, and managed to hide his mutilation by keeping his hand closed for several days. When the truth finally came out, it was too late for a restorative spell; the finger was rotted and could not be reattached. A strong-enough spell could have attached it—but it would have remained a zombie finger.
He had not been punished. His mother, Bianca, believed he had learned his lesson—and he had, he had! Next time he played with a cleaver on the sly he would watch where his fingers were. His father seemed privately pleased that Bink had shown so much courage and tenacity in adversity, even in his wrongdoing, “The lad’s got nerve,” Roland had said. “Now if only he had magic—”
Bink jerked his eyes away from the hand. That had been fifteen years ago. Suddenly a year seemed short indeed. One year of service—in exchange for a lifetime with Sabrina. It was a bargain.

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A Spell for Chameleon (Magic of Xanth #1) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 256 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book I found amazing. I devoured this book in three hours. The main characters were full of life, they almost cwralled out of the pages they were so real. I loved the themes of finding youorself and cherishing your own special talents. I reccomend this book to anyone who is looking for a good book and\or author.
Bellae More than 1 year ago
I read this book many years ago for the first time. I enjoyed it then. And decided to revisit the series again recently. The content is cute and whimsical. I believe this series is aimed a pre-teen readers. But an older reader will still enjoy the story as long as they keep in mind that the book is supposed to be light and nonsensical to begin with. I plan on keeping the book in my permanent library and will probably read it again at some point in the future.
kimnleo More than 1 year ago
This book is a classic for the times. It is rich with humor and intrigue. Once you begin reading you will want the entire series. I have personally read this book at least 3 times and I have read each of the books from this series at least once. I am attempting to build up the entire collection for future reads.I highly recommend this book. Piers Anthony is a very creative and entertaining writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a dream.The imagination put into this story was commendable. I haven't read the entire series but what I have read is wonderful and well thought through. The little twists and problems in between the plot keep the book interesting and not to short while tieing the plots together ensures that it doesn't drag on.....Like I am now. Long story short, READ THIS BOOK!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The magic begins here with piers anthonys first novel in the Xanth series. This book is filled with adventure, wit, humor, action and surprise. A must read!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the perfect type of fantasy i love. It has the most magical land, creatures and magic i have ever read. This is a must own because its among the best fantasy has to offer. A few people below say that it talks about sex and it refers to a couple making love without being descriptive at all so if you want to hide in a closet and never come out then maybe you shouldn't read any books or watch tv. This is recommended for people of all ages. EXCELLENT!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has got to be one of the best written books I have ever read, Piers Anthony blends reality with fantasy perfectly, he puts the main characters into some uncomfortable positions that are very intruiging to read about. This book is equal to all of my favorites, including Ender's Game, and Pendragon. Although this book is very, and I repeat, very adult. I am 14 and I have read some of this man's books, mostly from the Incarnations of Immortality, Piers often describes very adult situations, and from a man's point of view (your imagination can take it from there). That being said I must warn you, if you want to read this book you must know that there are 28 books in this series, and if you wish to finish it, you had better clear up your schedule for the length of up to a year. I finished this book in about a week, and that was reading it nonstop. If you wish to proceed than please, read on, Piers done an astounding job of getting you to know the characters, after a while, you may know more about them than you know about anyone in reality. Bink, Chameleon, and the Evil Magician Trent will seem like reality instead of fantasy. I hope Piers Xanthony's series will give you as much love and respect for this magical land as I have. Enjoy
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book about three years ago and I think it's great. I don't mean to be offensive to anyone, but when I read some of the other reviews (some of the more recent ones), I couldn't help but laugh. You think Xanth could be offensive to younger readers?!? I was in 7th grade when I read it and I loved it! It is a bit suggestive, but that's what makes it great. I've read all but 5 (out of 27) of the books in the series now, and I love 'em all. If you're looking for a good book, check out this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my all time favorite series of books. Piers' clever twist on puns makes the Xanth series a fun ride from cover to cover along with the classic plots of guy/girl looking to find their place in the world and finding love along the way. The Xanth series is definitely a good series of books for anyone with an interest in science fantasy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Piers Anthony is always an entertaing fantasy author. Aside from a few annoying typos, a very worthwhile read.
Anonymous 24 days ago
One of the best fantasy novels!
nmhale on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I needed a book that was all about laughter, being in a state of recovering depression, so I decided to reread this, the first in the Xanth series, as it had always made me happy in high school (when last I read the series). Imagine my surprise when none of the book seemed familiar! Okay, I do read a lot, and it's common for me to forget all but the main gist of a story, or sometimes even that. However, when I reread a novel, I remember bits and pieces as I go along. Or I recognize a section as familiar. Not this time. Everything was new. Which makes me suspect that I never actually read A Spell for Chameleon, but bought it as the first book in a series I was fond of and then grew away from the series and never read it. That very much sounds like something I would do.Yet this is a review, not my personal history with the book. Sorry. I did enjoy this book, bearing in mind that I was only looking for a good escapist novel. Actually, this story had more substance than later Xanth novels. Looking at other reviewers' opinions, I see that a lot of people are upset by later books because they become so silly and riddled with puns, and prefer the beginning of the series because plot and character development are more targeted. Personally, I liked the excessive craziness, probably because I started the series with one of the later books. I was a little disappointed that this one wasn't as ridiculous as I remembered the others being. It still bears that light, humorous touch, though, and that was good for me. If you're looking for a story that is fun and fast-paced, that uses all the fantasy tropes it can think of and then some (in this novel alone, we have centaurs, mermaids, dragons, unicorns, griffins, salamanders, magicians, and about a hundred more different mythical creatures), then this is a good book for you. I should warn, though, that Anthony's attitude toward women is skewed. The main character asserts several times that he can't trust a beautiful woman who is also smart, because all such women in the novel are manipulative schemers. He also claims that average women are nice but get boring, and he just doesn't like ugly. Well. Several of the female characters are clearly sex objects, the others have defects like hopelessness, mothering, or poverty, and one minor character is an outright misogynist. Did this detract from my enjoyment of the novel? Not really. I remembered similar themes from other Xanth novels. I can enjoy a Bond movie when I'm in the mood even though the same conditions pretty much apply. I like James Bond on the big screen, but I would probably dislike him in person, the chauvinist. Know going in, though, that these stereotypes abound.
Gkarlives on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I really enjoyed this first book in the Xanth series. The characters are well written and the story is stronger than I would have expected from a tonque and cheek fantasy like this. The puns were fun, too. I loved how the characters took in stride what we would find utterly ridiculous.
pheelowesq on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The first Xanth novels are perfect reads. Nothing too serious, but wonderfully original and fun. Bink is a believable character, with a seemingly intractable problem. Piers enjoys his gender roles, so progressive types will have plenty to be angry about. But if you're into playful fantasy and good writing, this is a great book.
TadAD on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Though Piers Anthony doesn't have a good track record with me, I'm glad I read this one. The story is amusing, the characters enjoyable and the punning a lot of fun.Unfortunately, I don't think Anthony's plot ideas for subsequent books were as good and the punning simply got to be tedious. Since this novel stands by itself, I'd stop here.
5aweek on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Xanth 1: A Spell for Chameleon, by Piers AnthonyTwenty-five year old Bink of the North Village is in danger of being exiled from his homeland, Xanth, because he has no magic talent. Xanth is a land where magic is the norm, and the King requires that every citizen have a magic talent. Naturally Bink wants to discover his talent so he can stay in his homeland and marry his girlfriend, so he heads off to the Good Magician for help. So begins the first novel in the Xanth series, which now has over 30 books. Most follow the format introduced in this novel: a protagonist with a Question goes to see the Good Magician, navigates three Challenges for an Answer, which sends them on an adventure throughout the magic country. Throughout the course of Bink's adventure, he is exiled from Xanth, meets the Evil Magician, finds a very unique female, returns to Xanth, and shakes up the current order of things. "A Spell for Chameleon" is light, fun, and fresh fantasy. This is one of my personal favorites in the series; I've read most of them. Some of the later novels are quite bogged down with puns, but this book doesn't have that problem. Anthony creates a world you'd want to visit, for the sheer fun you could find there. The reader isn't inundated with page after page of details about the world, instead you discover the dangers and excitement of Xanth along with Bink and the other characters. I tend to read Xanth books as relaxation, and as a break from "heavier" fantasy. I find them refreshing - a good change of pace. Sure, Anthony has quite a fascination with ogling women and panties; sometimes Xanth seems like a land designed for juvenile boys, but if you can get past that, you'll find a fun, enjoyable read. 4/5.
marysneedle on LibraryThing 5 months ago
It has been over 20 years since I read this first Xanth novel. I have to say that it was just as enjoyable the second time around as it was the first.Piers Anthony seems to capture the essence of what it is like to be different and how we search for a way to become like everyone else so as not to be considered an outcast only to discover that being unique is really an asset in the end.For Bink, Chameleon, and Trent it is a story of self discovery that being different is really not so bad. Bink finds out that it is not that he doesn¿t have magic, it is that he has a very unique magic. Chameleon discovers that her monthly phases are not so undesirable after all, and Trent discovers that he can be a good king instead of an evil one.I thought the characters were very well thought out and the story covered, although masked in a different environment, some of the same things we see every day, like the bureaucratic wall we come up against when dealing with politics; whether it is in government, corporate, or the educational field, such as the old king being left in charge, forget the fact he really is not in any stable mental condition to do so, and how Herman the Hermit was condemned and exiled by the centaurs (representing as I see it the educational field) for being a magical creature who could perform magic. Because the norm in Xanth is that you are either a magical creature (i.e. the Centaurs) or you are not but have magical abilities. Yet Herman gave his life trying to protect Xanth from the Wiggle Swarms. We also see the friction between couples where the female is very dominant and the Male very macho with Chester and Cherie the Centaurs. Chester is always looking for a fight and Cherie is always bossing him around with her I¿m better than you attitude which Chester always gives into. However once Bink tells of Chester¿s uncle Herman¿s (the centaur that was exiled for doing magic) heroic deeds with the wiggle fight, and sees how Cherie does not want to hear the disturbing tale of someone she obviously looked down on, Chester is all for Bink coming to visit to relate the story just to irritate Cherie if for nothing else.The story was very easy to read and very easy to relate to. I would recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy stories with some substance and the puns will also keep you entertained.
idanush on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I think this book was excellent. A little on a teenish side but great with ideas and plot.Anthony does get a little too aggressive on puns and sexual hints down the series so I stopped at the third book (after a recommendation)
librisissimo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Substance: The basic conceit of the book (the magic of Xanth) is still original and intriguing. The problems of Bink and Chameleon are certainly entertaining. The many positive points about honor, courage, loyalty, etc. are meaningful, but the treatment is directed toward a middle-school audience (which is OK). One major problem for me is that Bents is 25, but acts about 16 most of the time. Also, the Evil Magician Trent was lucky to have his trial conducted by a group of really intelligent and fair elders (a nearly hopeless operation in the real world?). However, where where they when Bink was treated so unfairly?Style: I read this first as an adult and enjoyed it, but on re-reading , it seems more juvenile. Perhaps my tastes have been influenced in the interval by reading Bujold, Card, and Pratchett.
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Summary: Xanth is a land where everything is magic. Plants, animals, even the rocks and lakes are full of magic. And the people: everyone in Xanth has a magical talent... everyone, that is, except for Bink. Bink must discover what his talent is - if he even has one - or risk exile from Xanth forever. With that in mind, he sets out to seek the Good Magician Humphrey, to ask about his talent. But in a land where everything is full of magic, no journey is without its perils, and Bink will learn more than he ever expected - not only about himself, but also about the country he's so desperate to call home.Review: I read this entire book with a sense of disconnect that came from never being quite sure what age the target audience was supposed to be. In some parts it read like prose in a mid-grade novel (Knock it off! with the over-exclamated! internal monologues already!), but in other parts the vocabulary and denseness of the prose were something I'd expect from an adult novel. The main character is 25, which generally argues for a similarly-aged audience, but he's a pretty immature 25, and the action-adventure style of the plot suggests that it should skew younger. Bink spends a *lot* of time thinking about women and sex (more about that later), but what's on-screen is pretty tame, with nothing that would be even mildly inappropriate for older teens. In general, I felt like the book's themes and ideas were geared towards adult readers, but that its plot and writing were geared towards the younger, leaving the result stuck in a weirdly uncomfortable middle ground....And speaking of weirdly uncomfortable, let's talk about the gender relations in this book. "Sexist" doesn't even begin to cover it. Bink is constantly musing about women, and relationships, and how he wants both an attractive girl and a girl with a brain in her head, but how he can't possibly trust a woman who is both beautiful AND smart, and how if he had an ordinary girl, he'd get bored, so what he really wants is all women, all the time, etc., etc. After a while - and it comes up at least every ten pages or so - it just felt gross and chauvinistic and adolescent, especially coming from a character that's supposed to be 25. Maybe it's a product of its times - it is over thirty years old, after all - so maybe it's coming from a time when authors assumed that no one other than adolescent boys read fantasy novels? Still, read in the modern age? (And by a non-adolescent woman?) It's pretty off-putting.However, despite the weird age issues and the sexism, this novel did have a lot of good things going for it. It's a light, imaginative, and fast-moving fantasy adventure, and even though some aspects of it are pretty predictable (I'd more-or-less figured out what Bink's magic was by page 65), there's enough going on that I was never in any danger of getting bored. I appreciated that the magic had internally-consistent rules, and that the discovery of those rules formed an underlying current throughout the book. I also appreciated that amidst all of the action, the book did try to deal with some deeper ideas about honor and trust and loyalty, even if it didn't always do it in a particularly subtle way. Overall, it was a fun enough read, although I think I probably would have liked it more if I'd read it fifteen years ago. 3.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: I probably won't go looking for the sequels, but wouldn't turn them down if they dropped into my lap, either. Probably best for teen boys, nostalgic re-readers, or those interested in reading the classics of the fantasy genre.
MaryRunyan on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I love this whole series! You have to love puns to love this bunch of well written fantasy! I love how the first characters are still around but wish they could have been included more.
hermit on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is not only the first of many pun filled books, but the best of the series. The others are fun filled and contain some very good writting. But this book has a well developed plot that is worth reading. Be careful though, for the series seems never ending. Xanth is a marvelous place to visit, especially if you are familiar with Florida. Everybody has a magical talent of lesser or greater degree, but our hero seems to lack one, and heads for exile and adventure.
osunale on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This book has a pretty entertaining story and I kept reading, hoping that it would rise above some of its more problematic elements, but in the end I really couldn't get past how the women in the story are portrayed. Even the women who start out awesome, smart, and funny, somehow end up worth little more than their desirability to the men in their lives. It reads like a young man's escapist fantasy where he can play hero and all the women throw themselves at him (nothing wrong with that really, but I'm clearly not the target audience). I think I might have enjoyed this more if I'd read it when I was a bit younger.
Scoshie on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Your 1st is always the most memorable-- this was one of the FUNNIEST books I ever read and I hate puns. Wonderful!! In this adventure, Bink is exiled to Mundania because he has (inadvertently) broken Xanth law by not having a magical talent. He returns to Xanth with Chameleon, a woman whose intelligence and beauty vary inversely depending on the time of the month, and the evil magician Trent who was exiled 20 years earlier for attempting to usurp the throne of Xanth
jimmaclachlan on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I got book 2 of this series first, read it a couple of times before I finally got the first. I think the first 4 books are well worth reading - a must read for anyone into fantasy books. I think the series is up in the 20 odd count somewhere now. The first 3 or 4 are excellent. After that, I just couldn't get too into it any more. Might just be me. When this came out, it was unlike any series before it AND was funny on top of that. Humor in this sort of fiction is hard to pull off, but Anthony did it very well.