A XANTH NOVEL
Tor, October 2000
The Dastard has exchanged his soul for a truly wonderful talent. He can go back in time and undo anything he doesn't like. Without a soul, he uses his talent to undo anything that makes others happy. Three Sorceress Princesses, Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm, discover his actions and resolve to fix it, but how? They still have souls and cannot simply kill him. Anything else, and he'll undo their actions. The Dastard himself wants to marry a princess and become successful, but what princess would marry a man without a soul?
Piers Anthony (see other BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by this author) uses his Xanth series to indulge in an endless series of puns--some good, most bad. In THE DASTARD, he introduces the comic strip as a way of adding even more puns to the story line. Still, he maintains a strong narrative line with real moral challenges. What can moral people do to protect themselves from others without their moral scruples? The power of the three princesses, which starts at sorceress level but adds a power (exponent) with each princess, is a cute extension to the magic of Xanth. A number of recurring characters add to the Xanth tradition.
The Xanth series appeals especially to teens, and Anthony's continual sexual references may offend some readers. The material really is P.G., however, with all serious action taking place off the screen. A more serious problem is the dropped plot threads. Anthony makes a big deal about the magical inability to keep a secret if more than ten people are involved but never really tries to keep a secret from the Dastard or anyone else. Still, THE DASTARD is above-average Piers Anthony--which is saying a lot. (For a more serious Piers Anthony, see our review of On a Pale Horse).
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