cover image The Secret of Spring

The Secret of Spring

Piers Anthony. Tor Books, $22.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86464-4

Best known for his pun-filled, long-running Xanth light fantasy series, Anthony pairs here with a fan and first-time author for a stand-alone novel of improbable plot and lackluster characters. Vegan Herb Moss, a member of a race of genetically engineered plant-humans on a distant planet, is bored by his nice but dull girlfriend, Lily. When he answers a personal ad in Play Plant magazine, however, Herb gets more than he bargained for: beautiful Spring, daughter of a dead sorcerer who magically sealed the secret to extended life inside his child, to be revealed when she mates with her one true love. Spring is hunted by her father's enemy, the evil mage Zygote, and Herb and his friends are her only hope for evading the villain who seeks her maidenhead. The authors' mix of science and fantasy is awkward at best, and the characters never rise above stereotype, from the reluctant hero Herb with his antiquated philosophy about moody, troublemaking women to spunky-yet-understanding Spring, to Lily with her belief that ""the love of a good woman"" can bring out the good in any man, even the evil Zygote. While Anthony's author's note proclaims he found ""cute cleverness"" in Taeusche's original manuscript, it's doubtful that even die-hard Xanth fans will discover much here to hold their attention. (Mar.)