|Piers Anthony: The Dastard|
(Hardcover), ISBN 0-312-86900-2
Panties, and the getting into thereof, constitute the main theme running through The Dastard.
Originally, the book focuses on the panties of a young girl called Becka. Half-dragon and half-woman, Becka ably protects herself from the not-terribly-enamoured advances of Anomy, Xanth's first true Dastard. After trading his soul for the Magic of Unhappening, Anomy goes around Xanth making people even unhappier than himself. Anomy also constantly tries to see and ultimately get into women's panties. Being conscienceless, Anomy doesn't care whose panties he gets into, showing that being a Dastard has its advantages.
Enter the Good Magician Humphry, the Three Little Princesses, Sim and the Sea Hag to thicken the plot. The Sea Hag desperately wants to form an alliance (and show her panties) to the Dastard, fully aware of the power of his magic. The Three Little Princesses (or their adult counterparts from the world of Ptero) desperately try to neutralize the Dastard's power (without showing their panties). So an intense battle of wits, wills and will-nots ensues. Will Anomy be defeated? Will Xanth ever be the same again?
This reader lost his innocence reading The Dastard, because the book disappoints. Unnecessary puns oozed from the page making one feel like Anthony was clearing his backlog of puns suggested by his readers rather than developing a reasonable plot. The introduction of several of Ptero's famous Comic Strips underscored this feeling. The first six chapters dragged and irritated -- although one could argue that this made the Three Little Princesses appear more real. Three naughty young girls would certainly make you angry now and then, just like The Dastard.
Eventually the story meandered to its finale. Luckily, after those first six chapters the pace and readability of The Dastard improved, increasing its rating a bit.
For a very determined Anthony fan, The Dastard, may prove a joy to read. As for myself, I look forward to his next novel and a return to his normally hilarious style.
Stephen John Smith
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