Review: A Spell for Chameleon
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Xanth was the first series of books that caught my attention as a child, and I have Piers Anthony to thank for my love of reading today. I read nearly twenty of the books before moving on to more advanced fantasy series. What is most remarkable about all of that to me, however, is that I don’t remember once thinking how horrifically sexist the books are!
It’s hard to talk about the magic of Xanth and the great and interesting talents of its people because the book is overwhelmed with things like a mock rape trial, observations about the uselessness, deception, and irrelevancy of women, and downright shameful reduction of women’s role in society and men’s lives as objects. I am not a vocal advocate for women’s issues, and I’m very often turned off by liberation or empowerment propaganda, but in the face of outright misogynistic vitriol I cannot help but take a stand. It is one thing to discuss the differences of the sexes, their relative strengths and weaknesses, and even allow for some socio-historical context to influence the characters in a fantasy setting; but Piers Anthony goes way beyond that at every turn. The book somehow makes a claim to be about the worth of a person being judged by doing the right and just thing even when faced with unjust situations. Yet it takes a pause in the very beginning of the main character’s adventure to have a completely pointless aside where in the guise of a legal proceeding he dismisses the entire concept of date rape as being ridiculous. He outright claims that a beautiful and smart woman must be inherently evil, and that it is only natural for a man to want a woman of both intelligence and beauty, but not at the same time. These things overshadow every aspect of the fantasy story being told. I can’t even begin to talk about the story’s tales of companionship, illusion, history, or growth. They all take a back seat to one man’s disgusting vision.
As my own son grows, I had planned on offering up this series to him at an early age in hopes of capturing his interest in reading. You can be sure that won’t be happening. No boy should grow up thinking these kinds of thoughts about women. No good and just actions can come of it.