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Luck of the Draw by Piers Anthony – Review – Douglas R. Cobb
In this pun-filled 36th. installment of his Xanth series, Piers Anthony takes the readers of the humorous, adventure-packed novel Luck of the Draw back to one of fantasy’s most famous magical and fun lands, the Florida-shaped Xanth. Ruled over by the Demon Xanth, it is a world where dragons, princesses, damsels in distress, talking skeletons, 50-foot-tall invisible giantesses, and bets between Demons are the order of the day.
The “Demons” mentioned are not the sort of demons we commonly think of, denizens of Hell who strive to make our lives living nightmares; rather, they are more like capricious gods, sort of like those of greek and Roman mythology. Besides the Demon Xanth, the Demon Earth, where gravity is the main form of “magic,” is the other Demon who plays a major role in this novel. The two Demons have a wager between themselves, with a human, Bryce, and a dog of Earth named Rachel, and the teenage Princess Harmony of Xanth as their pawns.
On Earth, Bryce was eighty years old, and ailing, with perhaps but little time left to live. However, on Xanth, he is transformed into a handsome young man, and the Demon Xanth has him placed under a love spell. Once he sees Princess Harmony, he is compelled to love her. She is very beautiful, and many suitors desire her hand in marriage. Despite the love spell he’s under, though, Bryce finds himself a reluctant fellow suitor. Part of the reason that he is reluctant is because, though he resembles someone who is fairly close to Princess Harmony’s age, he knows he has granddaughters that are her age, which makes him feel uncomfortable. He has to go along with the hand he has been dealt and rely on luck and magic to see him through without unduly angering either Demon by outright refusing to play their rigged game of romance. Also, he has to be careful not to anger Princess Harmony and her two sisters, because besides being princesses, they are also powerful sorceresses.
Besides the gifts of youth and health, Bryce has been given the gift of second sight to use to help him in his quest to woo Princess Harmony. One of his eyes can see ten seconds into the future, which, with enough practice, could potentially save his life and those of the friends he makes on Xanth from dragons and other dangers. Also, Princess Harmony gives him a magical pen that he can use to draw things that become real when they slide off of the paper he’s drawn them on. He can use the pen to create for himself a sword and shield to use in battle, or–as he does in one instance–a block of ice in an attempt to buy him time when a dragon called a Gap Dragon comes perilously close to steaming him to death.
Much of the fun of Luck of the Draw, like all of the Xanth novels, are the array of clever puns and ones which are groaners that Piers Anthony concocts. He has fans send him new ones they think of to him through his website, and he often uses their contributions in his novels.
In the world of Xanth, puns are not merely a form of wordplay as they are on Earth; on Xanth, puns come to life. They have to be puzzled out when Bryce and his friends come across them, and the land must be rid of them, or they can not only be a nuisance, but can even sicken Xanth’s human inhabitants. He’s given a pun bag to collect the heinous puns in. If the puns aren’t collected on a regular basis, the new ones which appear in Xanth daily will soon sicken the populace. The worse the pun might be, the more nauseated are the humans become who encounter them and figure out their meanings.Bryce is given the job of collecting some of these puns by Princess Dawn, one of Princess Harmony’s sisters, who inhabits Castle Caprice. Castle Caprice is a castle that is mobile, and it travels throughout all of Xanth searching for puns wherever they might arise.
Bryce and Princess Harmony would both prefer to choose their own marriage partners based on love, but the Demons Xanth and Earth have other plans. Can they somehow outwit the two Demons, through the use of their own brand of luck and magic; or, are they destined through the bet of the Demons to end up married to each other? What if they find that they actually like each other?
Luck of the Draw is a great addition to Anthony’s Xanth series. The puns range from groaners to some very clever ones, as usual. It’s a fantastic, funny but also suspenseful novel that fans of the Xanth series will love, but it can also be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone read by people who are new to the series. If you like fantasy novels with a penchant for wordplay, Luck of the Draw is a book you’ll want to add to your reading lists!