On AV Club’s Xanth post

First reaction to this: “hm.”

To this day, I’m deeply torn over Xanth (despite liking Incarnations of Immortality better). I’ve never thought Piers Anthony a particularly good writer, and he has the depressing anti-ability to start each series on its high point and get worse with each book. And Xanth was always a fairly shallow farce that essentially repeats one joke—the literalization of puns—over and over.

That said, I did read it well past the age bracket the author talks about. I only discovered the books when I was thirteen, actually.

I’d had a near-fatal asthma attack and was hospitalized for a week, then isolated inside my air-filtered room for three months. In the hospital, I had exactly one book—Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, which I’d been given over the summer and was re-reading when I went into the hospital. (Another, uh, problematic text, though McCaffrey was a much better writer and less fratboyish about her issues in any case. I adored Lessa and re-read it countless times.)

While I was still hospitalized my dad bought a box of twenty-odd Xanth books to give me something else to read. I did, and I enjoyed them, despite not really caring for farce. But by “them,” I mean the editorialized version in my head more than what’s actually on the page. I completely agree with the horrorshow that is the Chameleon arc; I would skip over her scenes as much as possible on re-reading. Iris is written in repellent terms, yet I loved the character, and her daughter Irene after her, along with Trent, Vadne, Jonathan, and Murphy.

I’m not quite as harsh on it as the article writer (I don’t think the downplaying of the critical importance of magic in-world is really in good faith), but fundamentally, I can’t disagree. The Xanth I loved wasn’t the Xanth that Piers Anthony wrote, so much as a mentally corrected Xanth with its intolerable aspects excised or ignored, and its good parts vastly amplified.

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Your regularly scheduled attack of paranoia

The damn Starks lurked me back to Game of Thrones, and as I was watching the Daenerys scenes, I suddenly had the horrible thought that it might seem Arceptra was ripped off from her.

I mean:

– Magic immunity to fire

– Association with dragons

– Heiress of a former, much more firmly established, inbred dynasty

– Small with startling eyes

In fact, Arceptra was ripped off from something completely different. 

Specifically, an SNES game from over twenty years ago, which I imprinted on at age seven and promptly reimagined with my own stories. Of course she’s drifted considerably from there. So naturally there are significant differences:

– Arceptra is a pyromancer of the classic lights-flames-on-her-hands variety; the immunity to fire is a Required Secondary Power.

– Lhûn dragons are really a subject for another post, but the short version is that, while they’re Standard Edition Dragons in most respects, they are fiercely independent and rational beings with their own history, culture, politics, and struggles, the worst of which is relentless overpopulation.

– The Cordells are … not Targaryens. They are really, really not Targaryens. They’re generally stable, there’s no incest beyond cousin marriage, their glamour comes via their descent from a religious martyr rather than a conqueror, the distinctive family gift is clairvoyance, and the last Cordell queen abdicated of her own will and was succeeded by her chosen heir. Her descendants remain powerful and respected, in close alliance with the current dynasty, and the attempts to restore them to the monarchy has very little support from the Cordells themselves.

– The Cordells typically have brown skin, very dark brown hair—nearly black—and bright blue eyes.

It does feel a bit like the lady-doth-protest-too-much, even though I myself know Arceptra has been with me for far longer than I’ve had any idea of GRRM’s existence. :\


“It is not nothing,” I said firmly. “It is a kindness, one of many, and that—” My tongue tripped not over words, but the absence of them, the chasms of feeling in my schoolroom Elentian. “That carries significance for me.”


Her hands stilled. She didn’t smile, as she so often did, but something still softened her whole face.


“You’re welcome, then,” she said.

When I was burning out in the last phases of my MA program, I really had no capacity left for writing. My dear friend Juliana suggested making an aesthetic post for the novel instead. I considered a general one, but in the end decided to focus on the two protagonists, Giva Rohondyl and Arceptra Cordell—and heartily enjoyed it!


– “Giva” is Rachel Hurd-Wood in Perfume (Hurd-Wood is twenty-five to Giva’s thirteen, but was fifteen at the time of the film)

– “Arceptra” is a photograph by Felix Heru Hermawan, which I ran over years ago and immediately thought (apart from eye colour) the perfect Arceptra.