Xanth

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What do you get when you take a rather witty American author, create a Fictional Counterpart of the entire state of Florida (with the small change of everyone having magical powers -- a Magic Kingdom, geddit?), and fill it with various parodies of fantasy tropes (as well as literally hundreds of reader-submitted puns)?

Xanth, in a nutshell.

Xanth takes place in a small Florida-shaped realm that is sealed off from the rest of Earth. On Xanth, magic is real, with its own physical laws, often based on reader-submitted (and credited) puns. Billions, and billions of puns. For example -- Pineapples? They're essentially hand grenades. Cherries (Cherry bombs) are smaller, but still dangerous. Tulips (two lips) will kiss you if you get too close. Boot Rear is a fizzy soda that, when drunk, causes you to feel a swift kick to your bottom. And beware the Catastrophe -- a plaque with the back half a cat stuck into it (a Cat-ass-trophy).

Yes, you're allowed to groan after reading some of those.

One important rule for Xanth is that every single native-born Xanth human has a unique "talent" -- a magical quirk that only they can do. This can be anywhere from changing their hair color, to being able to talk to certain animals, to being able to rewind time or warp reality in their nearby vicinity. Talents are unique to the person who has them -- no two talents are the same, but some are so similar that they are more or less identical; "turn stuff blue" versus "turn stuff azure", for example.

The first book, A Spell for Chameleon, was written in 1977, and the series continues to this day, recently entering its 2nd trilogy. In typical Piers Anthony fashion, he declared the first trilogy over after the 27th book (3 Cubed, or 3^3, is 27) Cube Route. Xanth has even inspired a "fan book", a novel-length work of collaborative fiction that Piers Anthony has even mentioned positively in his official newsletter.

Xanth has long been criticized for being a novel series for young teens that does not shy away from (rather frequent) depictions of nudity and slightly sexual situations despite his character's typical younger ages, to the point that his harshest critics have called him an outright pedophile. Anthony has waved off such criticisms as being nonsense, pointing out that most teenagers do not openly talk about "naughty things" with adults but are certainly not as innocent and pure as most adults would like to think, and while his books are written for the young adult market they can be read on several levels, so whereas the youngest readers wouldn't notice anything, older readers might get the more subtle jokes.

Mr. Anthony even included such criticisms into his novels directly (something of a habit for him), with a conspiracy on Xanth called "The Adult Conspiracy" (to keep interesting things from children) -- a magically enforced censorship effect affecting anyone under the age of 18 on Xanth. Strangely, this affects underwear but not nudity, which plays into Mr. Anthony's near naturist-like views on the human body (as well as a Take That to the critics who had more problems with underwear and curse words being mentioned than half naked centuar women).

Despite the fanservice, Xanth attracts a large number of female readers, due in part to the extensive and imaginative world and the fact that more than half of the main characters are assertive female protagonists. Mr. Anthony has mentioned that he gets almost 4 times more fe-mail than male-mail, and wonders if the market for fantasy / scifi novels for young women is as barren as conventional wisdom dictates.

As an interesting aside, Mr. Anthony talks frequently about his experiences in using the Linux operating system to write novels, which earned him an interview with Slashdot. Another small point is the Jenny Elf character -- one of his fans' parents wrote to him to talk about her daughter being paralyzed in a car accident, she's recovered, slowly, over the years -- he wrote her into the series and spends a few pages in most novels' author notes talking about how her life has been lately. He even collected his letters to Jenny in a book -- Letters to Jenny.

A movie based on the first Xanth novel was scheduled for release in 2008 by the same team that did Troy -- but according to Mr. Anthony's newsletter at HiPiers.com no work has been done on it, and it remains in limbo. (In his most recent December 2008 newsletter, he mentions his novel series Split Infinity is (actively!) being made into an Anime, and "On a Pale Horse" is being made into a TV series, while Warner has let the option to make the Xanth movies lapse. Chances of these actually seeing the light of day are roughly the same as getting a Xanth author's note under the double-digit page count.)


Tropes used in Xanth include:
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: "Coloured" people, immigrants from Earth circa the civil rights movement, whose kids (due to the rule of pun) grew up with every skintone under the sun.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Adult Conspiracy (to keep interesting stuff away from children).
    • The Adult Conspiracy is taken so seriously that children who manage to break it gain incredible power -- one of the books has a whole miniplot before the main plot even starts where the main character has to drag her brother to a magic spring to make him forget how to swear, because...apparently everyone else is too squeamish about being cussed at to spend that much time around him.
      • No, not because they were too squeamish. It's a colony of goblins. She has to remove those words from his mind because he's a child and that sort of thing being repeated to the other goblin children will make them the worst generation ever, and since their goal is to improve the goblins as a species, he has to be stopped.
      • In Xanth, as in South Park, curse words really do invoke curses; saying them can do things like set the roof of your house on fire. So swearing is Serious Business.
      • To be fair, if you told a random yuppie off the street that all you had to do is make their kid drink something and they'd forget everything about curse words, dirty jokes, video games, violent movies, etc... you wouldn't be able to bottle the stuff fast enough.
  • Author Appeal: Many people have accused Piers Anthony of enjoying having his younger female characters end up naked more than would be considered healthy.
    • Lampshaded: The Adult Conspiracy is a magical censorship spell that prevents anyone under 18 from hearing curse words, seeing panties (nudity is still fine, however), or generally figuring out anything about sexuality. Added after a reviewer complained about nudity and sexuality in Xanth.
    • Two to the Fifth takes this and just runs with it -- the hero gets a 12 year old girl princess chasing after him, so he tries to let her down easy. Mistake! She's a sorceress, so she artificially ages herself long enough to force him into a love spring and er, seduce him before the artificial age magic wears off. Love springs have the side effect of forcing the two people affected by it to mate, and making it guaranteed to work. This leaves him stuck in love with her, just in time for the stork to deliver their new child...
      • Oh, and the Adult Conspiracy makes an appearance as well, a few hours too late -- his new "wife" forgets all the details right after the age magic wears off.
  • Author Filibuster: A variant - Piers Anthony includes a chapter's long Author's Note after the end of every novel he writes, in which he talks about whatever was on his mind while he was writing the novel.
    • Though to be fair, if he doesn't people accuse him of being dead.
  • All Myths Are True: Lots of mythology references, including some silly ones -- for example, Summoning the Stork -- which is literally how babies are made in Xanth: After a certain ritual, the Storks fly in a baby to the new parents.
  • Badass Normal: A truly epic subversion in Bink. Despite having a godlike talent with a very intelligent mind of its own, combining Plot Armor with Gambit Roulette and Xanatos Speed Chess, Bink spent years unaware he had a talent, forced to learn to survive without one in Xanth, which was much more of a Death World in the early books. Thus, he was forced to develop the skill set of a Badass Normal and learned empathy for the disadvantaged, gaining the Power of Friendship. Since Lawful Stupid carries certain advantages in Xanth and Magnificent Bastard status has them everywhere, he can essentially have his cake and eat it too, allowing him to sway even the Demon Xanth. The Badass Normal skill set his talent forced him to develop paid off when the demon reversed his talent, causing it to seek Bink's destruction: the Badass Normal ability to protect himself from magic it forced him to develop was powerful enough to defend himself against that very same talent.
  • Bait and Switch Tyrant: "Evil Magician Trent" who, when he becomes the only known possible choice for king, proves himself such a capable ruler he becomes known as "Good King Trent".
  • Baleful Polymorph: Trent's talent is to transform any living creature in line of sight into any other creature. This includes turning soldiers sent to attack his army into fish and leaving them there to die according to the history books, anyway.
  • Blessed with Suck: Bink's talent is that he cannot be harmed by magic. It further protects him by disguising its own existence, so that he appears to avoid harm through clumsiness, luck, or freak accidents. It doesn't care whether or not his dignity gets through unharmed, so long as he does.
    • Trent and a few other characters like Cherie who know about the talent posit that Bink's talent is such that it can indirectly control all magic so that the best possible outcome for Bink and his descendants occur, such to the point that even the demon Xanth, the god of the realm of Xanth, is unknowingly subservient to it.
    • A number of characters have talents that could qualify as this. The title character of The Dastard, for example, had the amazing talent of coming up with bad ideas. He ended up selling his soul for a better power, but since the idea to do so came to him when he had his original power, it was of course itself a bad idea.
      • Then there's beings like the Gorgon, who must cover her face or turn anyone who sees her into stone. Absent Mindedness has also appeared as a Talent. And Dishonesty. And Bad Luck. And Making Mistakes. And Mispronunciation. And having nobody ever get your name right.
      • And being able to make any wish and get half of what you wanted. Doesn't sound so bad, right? You'd settle for half a fortune (or just wish for two of them). Well, it sucks if your first wish was to be a Wit.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Centaurs view reproduction as natural, but someone possessing a magical talent is deeply obscene. Also, the greater demons, such as X(A/N)th: explaining the concept that cooperation produces the best results over time to him is important in one of the earlier books, and he eventually adopts that strategy.
  • Body Surf
  • Born Lucky: How Bink's magic talent seems to manifest itself to observers.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Over the course of the series, the Fourth Wall slowly deteriorates; by the fourteenth book, it's pretty much dissipated completely, probably so that Piers can use more Visual Puns...
  • Changing of the Guard
  • Children Are Innocent: See above comment about the Adult Conspiracy.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Com Pewter is, anyway, at first.
  • Contemptible Cover: One book has the awkward title The Color of Her Panties. (This one was Lampshaded before the book even appeared in print, which is a pretty good trick to pull off).
  • Contractual Immortality: Lampshaded. Being a Main Character of a Xanth novel (see Literary Agent Hypothesis below) ensures that one will eventually get a happy ending, because that's how magic works.
  • Cosmic Chess Game
  • Crapsack World: The first book goes into quite a bit of detail, generally via Trent, about how fragile human existence in Xanth is. The third and seventh books, as well as the sixth, go into more detail about what happens when there aren't Deus Ex Machina popping up all over the place, and the book focusing on Magician Humphrey is about how much work went into creating the sort-of stability that Bink grew up in.
  • Creepy Centipedes: The dreaded nickelpedes. They have 500 legs and their bite can gouge out a slice of flesh the size of a U.S. nickel coin, hence the name.
  • Crossover: Jenny Elf is not native to Xanth, she's actually an elf from the world of Elf Quest.
  • Curse
  • Cute Monster Girl: Almost every non-human female is considered vastly more attractive than her male counterpart. Except for Harpies. Harpies are ugly. They prefer it that way; they work at being ugly the way human women work at being beautiful. (The few male harpies that exist are handsome, however.)
    • Female ogres are another aversion, and also take pride in their ugliness; an average ogress can "curdle milk with half a glance."
    • For goblins this was actually justified, as the women were cursed to prefer nasty, ugly men, which after generations bred those traits into the species for the male goblins.
      • And the curse was lifted during the "time of no magic", so there are a few male harpies, good looking harpy women, and handsome goblin men now.
    • Technically, Chameleon. Well, two-thirds of the time, anyway. Her cycle is not a talent, but a magical mutation (for example, note Wynne's resemblance to nymphs, both physically and psychologically).
  • Death World: Xanth, especially in the early books. Multiple varieties of carnivorous trees and a multitude of other reasons not to wonder off the enchanted paths. And if anything goes wrong with those enchantments...
  • Eldritch Abomination: The greater demons, such as X(A/N)th: the second book goes into some detail, as does Swell Foop.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In Spell For Chameleon. Trent's willingness to trust Bink with his sword while he sleeps convinces Bink and Chameleon that he is not really evil; an untrustworthy man would not have trusted them in turn.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Centaurs take pride in being nude, they see it as having Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions and generally confirming their superiority to the rest of the world. One character has to take on this attitude after having gone through a transformation in order to be with her Centaur boyfriend, with limited success.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: Fauns love chasing nymphs and simulating summoning the stork with them.
  • Feet of Clay
  • Fetish Fuel: Half Human Hybrids. Nudist Mermaids. Metallic Skinned Android Golem Girls. Crazy Magical Curses and Items. Rolling around naked in chocolate cake frosting.
    • Also an in-universe example, Rhythm enjoys being spanked. So much so to put subliminal messages into her boyfriends mind to make him bring it up.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Characters fall in love and marry shockingly quickly -- and Word of God asserts that these marriages are always happy and never end in divorce. (That's magic for you.)
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: That evil dragon? He's actually a nice guy who breathes steam and is trying to keep you from falling to your doom. The damsel in distress? Only staying captured cause she's hoping to attract a nice prince to marry her. The "evil magician"? He's a nice guy, just happens to be from the opposite political party from the current king.
  • Fridge Logic: Chameleon doesn't have a talent, she's a magical mutation/being, like a nymph. She then married Bink, who is intensely magical. What would have happened to Dor if Bink hadn't gone on that quest in the second book causing Dor to be given a magician-level talent as part of the blessing of Bink's descendants? Ending up like Hugo (the son another magician had with a gorgon) is the best they could have hoped for, and Bink is far more powerful than Humphrey.
    • Princess Ivy's talent alters reality to conform to how she believes it to be. Knowing that, look again at how different the series is from Dragon on a Pedestal onwards. Xanth has never really recovered from being ruled by the beliefs of a toddler.
  • Funetik Aksent: Volev vpeak with a livp (Voles speak with a lisp). They, however, hear othersss asss having hissssing accsentsss.
  • Gambit Roulette: Just about everything the Good Magician Humfrey does counts as this. He is the Magician of Information, after all.
  • Genius Bruiser: Chester Centaur - though all centaurs are scholars as well as pretty big and strong, Chester is particularly aggressive.
  • Genre Savvy: One character is aware she was meant to be a protagonist (she was bumped to make room for Jenny Elf) and spends most of her own novel trying to become a Main Character and gain Plot Immunity.
  • Gentle Giant: Lampshaded with Smash Ogre, with Tandy saying she and the other girls don't find him scary at all.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: As detailed in the opening paragraphs, Piers has long held that kids don't talk to their folks about sex to a full extent. This (like so much else in Xanth) has a parodic complement in the form of the Adult Conspiracy.
  • Give Me a Sword
  • G-Rated Sex: "Summoning the Stork" is actually just hugging and kissing, naked, until the "..." appears.
    • In two books, it's mentioned that it's more than this. In The Color of Her Panties, when Gwenny Goblin, Che Centaur and Jenny Elf figure out the Adult Conspiracy, they mention that other contact is required, though they don't specify. In Xone of Contention, Chlorine and Nimby summon the stork the mundane way, and mention that it's the same, only slightly messier.
    • Storks at the dispatch literally get a ... on their receivers. Fauns and nymphs annoy the hell out of them, because they still receive the signal, but it just comes through as .. and is a waste of everyone's valuable time.
  • Green Thumb: Irene
  • Good Is Dumb: The Dastard, the genius villain who carefully calculates his every move, turns good upon getting his soul back. His talent is to have stupid ideas, making him an idiot.
    • He made a Deal With A Demon for the talent of Time Travel, which he used to Retcon away events that made other people more interesting so that he looked better in comparison. (For example, when he met a man with a Laser-Guided Amnesia talent, who met somebody who suggested erasing Princess Ida's knowledge of her own "it only works for people who don't know about it" talent, the Dastard RetConned that meeting.) Obviously, a better use of the Dastard's talent would be to cause these people to be interesting in the first second first place, so that they're indebted to him and tell other people about him and stuff like that.
    • On the one hand, Bink releasing the demon X(A/N)th is called this in-story. Of course, since this results in all of his descendants having magician-level talents instead of carrying Chameleon's mutation among with more and more benefits over time, it seems to be one of Anthony's occassional Aesops about why the The Power of Trust is awesome and Lawful Stupid isn't necessarily.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Many. There's centaurs (half-horse), nagas (half-snake), harpies (half-vulture), mermaids (half-fish), and probably several others, too. Some of them have magic that allows them to transform into fully human and fully animal forms in addition to their normal hybrid shape.
  • Happily Ever After: Lampshaded. Being a Main Character of a Xanth novel (see Literary Agent Hypothesis below) ensures that one will eventually get a happy ending, because that's how magic works.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Several supposedly weak talents, when used with a clever mind, are downright deadly.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Considering their frequency, Great Red Spot of Puns might be more accurate...
    • In one of the books they also use the Great Red Spot
  • I'm Not Hungry
  • Incredibly Lame Pun / Stealth Pun (Your Mileage May Vary): The series thrives on these, however, they are mostly submitted by young readers, which Mr. Anthony thanks at the end of every book at the end of his author notes (which takes an entire chapter).
  • Inertia Is a Harsh Mistress: Che Centaur and his family can remove the weight from things for a short period of time, but they cannot remove inertia, and at one point he warns a female not to bounce off the walls since it will still hurt.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Most of the Half Human Hybrids don't wear clothing, and as a whole, nudity isn't treated as a big deal in the setting. Lampshaded by a woman who chose to become a Centaur to live with her beau: She's still getting used to the whole "no shirt" thing, but she's doing her best to fit in -- with the Centaurs, that is. Most of the main female characters end up naked at least once in any given book, with little emotion given to it other than annoyance.
    • On the other hand, panties on a woman will Freak Out any male who sees them.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: The Color of Her Panties -- to say nothing about the various PunnyNamed titles.
    • Isle of View is another example, with Anthony warning about the possible awkwardness of saying it out loud to strangers in the Author's Note.
  • Jury of the Damned: Prince Dolph has to protect the skeleton Grace'l Ossein from one of these in Heaven Cent, though it's less a jury of the damned and more a jury of characters met earlier in the book.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: One possible power is changing your hair color.
  • Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand: Trent with Bink and Chameleon in A Spell For Chameleon
  • Knowledge Broker: Good Magician Humfrey.
  • Lawful Stupid: Most of his heroes are Lawful Stupid. Trick one into giving his word not to oppose you and he will just watch as you commit atrocities.
    • Piers Anthony believes it's right to be Lawful Stupid, as he explains in his Author's Notes.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Ted and Monica. But no one knows for how long.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The Xanth novels are written by one of the Muses of Greek myth, and a certain writer has been sneaking copies of them to Mundania.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Mostly a result of the series simply being so long and spanning multiple generations of the same royal family. He also (usually) comes up with ways to keep the older characters from dying of old age.
  • Long Running Book Series
  • Love Potion: Mostly subverted. If you drink from a "love" spring, you will be compelled to mate with summon the stork with with the next compatible mate you see. That wouldn't be too bad in itself, except that next compatible mate means "whatever creature happens to be in front of you". Centaurs, for example, were the result of the first explorers of Xanth leading their horses to drink, the magic of the spring made it work. More traditional love potions, which cause love instead of lust, also exist, but are less common.
  • Magitek: Magical Items tend to react in very specific, predictable ways, on which civilization in Xanth has come to depend. For example, in lieu of hospitals, Xanthians keep a few healing potions in their homes.
  • Malicious Slander: Trent got this in the Backstory before A Spell For Chameleon
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane
  • Meaningful Name: Many, and they're usually a Punny Name as well. For example, there's Evil Magician Murphy, whose talent is making things go wrong.
  • Memetic Creep: Doubly invoked. First, the long term side effects of living in a land of concentrated magic wafting off of Demon X(an)th cause beings to become more and more magical. Good Magician Humphrey is slowly becoming an out and out gnome since he has managed to avoid dying for a long, long time. Humans, over the generations, end up breeding with creatures and/or gain stronger and stronger Talents, veering toward the transhuman as a result. Only regular infusions of humans from Mundania stave off the loss of humanity in Xanth. Second, Demon X(an)th has acknowledged humanity and the other intelligent races living in its effective area (Xanth), and this (coupled with the feedback of beings like Bink and Ivy) is influencing Xanth as a whole in return.
  • Mermaid Problem: Just how do mermaids summon the stork anyway?
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Particularly in evidence with Trent's transformational magic, which causes anyone hit with it to obtain the nature and instincts of the new form along with the physical attributes.
    • Also (especially) Chameleon, whose cyclic changes of form carry her personality along for the ride.
  • Moral Dissonance: Chameleon's attempt to prosecute the man who essentially raped her (he should have known that Wynne was not able to give informed consent) in the first book. Bink's response, hearing the story presented at the trial by the judge (not her), which wasn't what was going on at all and was incredibly biased against her, is that it's understandable: what was a man going to do with a beautiful woman asking him to sleep with her? Since, at the time, he didn't know about the consent issue and thought that since she'd said yes at the time and 'changed her mind later' it was unfair to accuse the man of rape. The first time Bink encounters Chameleon in Wynne-phase knowing what's going on, however her attempts to seduce him occassionally edge into molestation, and to a modern reader it's a pretty clear analogue for someone given a date rape drug. Keep in mind that Wynne-mode Chameleon is essentially a nymph, and it's made clear in the first book that young men are encouraged by older men to use nymphs for guilt-free sex, as opposed to real women. Since nymphs, like Chameleon herself, are magically mutated humans...
    • And then, just to bring things full circle, Bink has sex with Wynne-mode Chameleon, despite her having the intelligence of a child. He briefly feels bad about this, the key word being "briefly."
  • Ms. Fanservice: Several, but Demoness Metria stands out even among the others - and she knows it.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: In a strange example, Bink's magical talent, which is that he can't be harmed by magic, appears to twice deliberately have Bink end up in places where there is no magic, not even itself. At first it seems like this is obvious, because without magic his talent wins, until you remember his magic keeps itself secret so he won't be harmed by other means, which means that his talent includes itself among the magic that cannot harm him. And in both cases, without magic, he's in mortal danger. So it was all a plan of his talent, to set things up so that he returned to magic safely, and much better off. That's right, an inanimate magical talent erased itself twice, secure in the knowledge it had set things up so Bink would end up back somewhere magical so it could exist again.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jordan had a revelation along these lines when he realized he'd been the Unwitting Pawn, bringing about Xanth's dark age.
  • New Technology Is Evil: After the writer got annoyed by automated spell-checkers and a PC crash destroyed an entire novel, the evil Com-Pewter appeared in Xanth. (Amusingly, he famously switched to Linux after the crash.)
  • Noble Demon: Trent. His designation as the "Evil Magician" in the first book proves to be largely untrue. He never used his talent in a way that killed or physically harmed anyone and some of his transformations were even done with the well-being of the one transformed in mind. (For example, when he changed Cynthia Centaur, his decision to give her wings wasn't made out of malice, but because he didn't want her to join the centaurs, as he knew how critical and judgmental they could be.) It's later explained that he was only ever called "Evil" because he was opposed to the rightful King of Xanth.
    • That's partly true. In A Spell for Chameleon he admits that he was at least untrustworthy, but his traits were exagerrated. His stay in Mundania cures him of a lot of his faults.
  • Not Completely Worthless: Lacuna has a magic talent that allows her to alter printed text, or make printed words appear. It's not very useful in most cases, except the occasional prank at a wedding ceremony, but then she has a run-in with the evil Com-Pewter, who can alter local reality with the words printed on his screen...
  • The Obi-Wan: Humfrey.
  • Offered the Crown
  • Offstage Villainy: "Evil" Magician Trent did many bad things as a young man, before the start of the series, but he has already reformed by the time of the first book (and some of it was Malicious Slander).
  • One-Gender Race: Male harpies are extremely rare (and were in fact extinct for the longest time); female harpies reproduce by mating with males of other species, which always produces female offspring.
  • Once Per Episode: In every book, at least one character will go to Good Magician Humfrey's castle, where they must win through three challenges in order to be able to ask him a question. (Which they must then pay for with some sort of significant service; the Good Magician's time ain't cheap.) This pattern was maintained even during a period of time when Humfrey had mysteriously vanished from Xanth.
  • Opposites Theme Naming: The princesses Dawn and Eve.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: They're a race of scholars and researchers who consider magic to be an obscenity.
    • Fully justified in that they are well aware of the crossbreeding effect of life in Xanth, and know their entire race is originally descended from soldiers and Mundane mares. This has led them to strive to better the mind and to outright loathe magic.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Generally, no, Xanth's Zombies aren't different. In the seventh book, however, it's "revealed" that if you show a Zombie love and affection, the decaying process begins to reverse, until they look like people who have been dead a couple of minutes instead of several years -- nearly indistinguishable from a living human.
    • Even before that they were pretty different from "stock" zombies. They aren't evil or aggressive, being under the control of the (also not evil) Zombie Master Johnathan. They are sentient, though typically dull witted due to brain rot. They can retain their magical talents, like Zora's ability to age others. And they have the supernatural ability to always have more flesh to rot away, no matter how much they have already lost.
  • Parental Bonus: You're likely not going to realize the extent of the puns when you're on the early end of the target audience range. The odd bit of Fetish Fuel may also be a case of this.
  • The Phoenix: The legendary Simurgh—a giant bird who lives on Mount Parnassus. She has seen the universe remade three times and lived through it.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: Originally, magicians were rare enough that the Council had to accept the Evil Magician as King: they didn't have a choice not when Bink's talent was determined to remain a secret. Time-travel confirms that there tended to be two or three magicians at most at any given time, and they often kept the competition for the crown down by eliminating the competition. However, after Bink's meeting with the demon Xanth, it ensured that all of Bink's descendants would have magician-level talents. Since then, other magicians have come out of the woodwork like a centaur whose talent would likely never have been noticed if it wasn't needed to rescue Bink and people involved with the family like Irene have gained power-ups. Quite a lot of people that are not acknowledged as magicians in the later books have talents that in previous eras would have qualified them not just as magicians, but as the most dangerous and powerful type of magician, those who could control the magic of other people and artifacts, multiplying their power like the creator of the Deathstone and Bink.
  • Power of Friendship: Practically weaponized by Bink. Saves his life at the end of the first book, among other examples.
  • The Power of Trust: Trent giving Bink and Chameleon his sword as he slept in the first book convinced them that he wasn't evil. In the same way, Bink released Xanth because it was the right thing to do, hoping that the demon wouldn't just leave and destroy Xanth's way of life. X(A/N)th does return because of this, and blesses Bink's descendants with magician-level talents, changing Xanth forever.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Hypnosis, reality warping, scrying, shapeshifting, control over your own clothing. If you can't think of any use for those, you haven't been reading the books closely enough. Then there are powers like undressing women with your eyes or making people bare. Barring an attack by evil garments, I doubt these powers will get much legitimate use.
    • Don't forget the fact that one character's canonical magic talent is "Sex Appeal".
  • Pretty in Mink: In the fourth book, Irene is given a fur garment, with a silver lining sewn in.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot, Tuckerization: Jenny Elf, as noted in the introduction.
    • Good Magician Humfrey and his wife the Gorgon were modeled after Lester and Judy Lynn del Rey; after Judy Lynn died and Anthony left Del Rey Books, the Magician and his family disappeared from Xanth for a while because Anthony felt awkward writing them.
  • Recursive Reality: Princess Ida of Faun And Games has a baseball-sized moon orbiting her, which has another Princess Ida with her own moon, and so on.
    • Which eventually returns to Xanth itself. So Xanth is ultimately orbiting itself. It's one big Escher reality.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: The Region of Madness
  • The Red Sonja: a recurring theme is women who need to be 'tamed' (or at least seriously need to grow up.)
  • Retcon: Lacuna is permitted to ret-con her own life, provided she can do it before the statue of limitations runs out (that's not a typo, by the way).
    • The "Adult Conspiracy" isn't entirely consistent with some of the earlier books.
      • Not surprising since it only came into existence as Ivy realized adults were hiding certain types of information from children.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: The early books depicted a Xanth that was a Death World outside of the 'safe' areas, and a humanity that was doomed to descend into mindless hybrid animals without periodic invasions of the genodical or looting and raping varieties. Of course, this was no match for Bink's talent. When an Eldritch Abomination and sending him outside of Xanth, where theoretically his talent shouldn't have been able to send all those Deus Ex Machina to protect him couldn't pose a challenge either, it's no wonder Anthony gave up the pretense that there was some possiblility characters could lose as the ripple effect of Binks' effect on Xanth spread.
  • Rewriting Reality: Com-Pewter's schtick is that anything he types becomes real.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Becka's talent.
    • That's not her talent, she was just given awareness by Humfrey. She is half dragon therefore being magical and not having a magic talent
  • Rule of Funny: More like Rule of Punny, amirite? The only rule that really matters in Xanth.
  • Rummage Fail: Good Magician Humfrey during the climactic battle in The Source of Magic. A few of the vials he opens are useful in combat, but most of them contain random and completely worthless items like spoiled yogurt, a poncho, a pack of cough drops...
  • Sapient Steed: Demon X(A/N)th in Yon Ill Wind, a dragon with the head of a donkey that a girl named Chlorine rides.
  • Shallow Love Interest: Nymphs are literally the incarnation of shallow meaningless...'stork summoning'.
    • These come through as a bum signal at the stork dispatch-see G-Rated Sex, above.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: This is why the Demoness Metria is Ms. Fanservice.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man
  • Skirts and Ladders: Not exactly ladders, but don't wear a skirt if you're planning to use the invisible bridge to cross the Gap Chasm. Unless you want to risk someone walking below looking up and finding out what color your panties are.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The series started out somewhere in the middle, and steadily got more and more idealistic.
  • Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration
  • Smart Ball: The Eye-Queue vines literally have this effect, making even the dumbest characters, such as barbarians and ogres, smarter. (Although with the exception of special, magically enhanced ones, the increased intelligence is only an illusion.)
  • Spin Offspring: The first Xanth books starred Bink. Most of the next few starred Bink's son, Dor. After that it was Dor's daughter, Ivy, then his son, Dolph. A few involved Good Magician Humfrey's line, but we didn't know that until after the fact.
  • Spock Speak: Centaurs, who are much more educated than your average human peasant.
  • Super Empowering
  • Superpower Lottery
  • Tribute to Fido: While Piers Anthony was writing Demons Don't Dream, his dog Bubbles died, so he decided to put her into the book at that point. Mare Imbri is also based on Blue, a horse he owned at the time. Blue died right before he started writing the same book, so, as he pointed out in the author's note, it seemed right that Mare Imbri would lead Bubbles into Xanth.
  • Un-Sorcerer: Bink appears to be one of these at the beginning of the first book. He later learns that he does have a talent, one that's extremely powerful, but nobody can figure out what it is - and, as far as the law is concerned, if he can't demonstrate it, it's the same as not having one and he'll be exiled anyway. Eventually, someone figures out exactly what his talent is: he cannot be harmed by magic. Furthermore, because the talent itself is magic, it has to protect him from itself, too - which means keeping itself secret so that other people don't try to hurt him using non-magical means. As a result, it only acts via Contrived Coincidence; it winds up blowing its cover when Bink ends up in so much danger that the coincidences needed to save him become so contrived that they couldn't possibly have happened naturally.
    • Aside from Bink, anyone from Mundania who ends up living in Xanth is effectively one of these.
  • Unwitting Pawn: In the eighth book, there's Jordan, who not only blundered into a journey being promised as a prophesied hero. The whole thing was an Evil Plan by Magician Ying-yang to bring Threnody to him to marry so he could become king. This brings Xanth into it's Dark Age for four hundred years, until Trent shows up.
  • Utility Magic
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Becoming vain is often seen as a positive sign of female growth. Of course, there are downsides....
  • Welcome to The Real World: Mundania, the world outside of Xanth in which magic does not exist, is supposed to be the same place that the reader lives in. Characters sometimes travel between Mundania and Xanth. (The nature of the border between Xanth and Mundania is complicated.)
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: referred to in-story as "Spot-On-The-Wall talents"
    • Heart Is an Awesome Power: A lame talent used efficiently and with intelligence often is just as useful as a Magician-level talent.
  • When Trees Attack: Tangle Trees
  • Writer on Board: When the "Colored People" accidentally arrived in Xanth they were specifically treated as equals, and several pages are spent talking about this. (They're still called "colored people" -- but now those colors include blue, green, red, yellow, pink, etc., etc...)
    • Mr. Anthony's views on sexuality (it's not bad, and it springs into our minds a lot sooner than 18 or even 16 years old) and nudity ("Some time we'll have to discuss why the sight of a naked woman as God made her should be considered to harm a child, but that's another issue") appear as a subtext in nearly every book. Even "worse" with the nonhuman characters, who, almost as a rule, have little or no nudity taboo.
      • A further writer on board thing deals with how his centaurs reject magic as obscene. This is then directly compared to humans rejecting nudity and bodily functions as obscene. (In Book 2 - The Source of Magic - for those who are about to say "WHEN?")
  • You Can't Fight Fate: This is essentially how Bink's talent works - no matter how you try to use magic against him, bizarre circumstances will prevent him from being hurt.