cover image The Dastard

The Dastard

Piers Anthony. Tor Books, $24.95 (303pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86900-7

From the densely populated imagination of Anthony (Xone of Contention) comes yet another pun and reader-suggestions-laden tale of Xanth. Many familiar characters make their appearance in this slowly unwinding yarn about the eponymous boy, self-named for his dastardly deeds, who undoes history in order to ruin the happiness of everyone he meets, and about the triplet princessesDMelody, Harmony and RhythmDwho are in the conspiracy to stop him. Along for the ride is the dragon/girl, Becka, who refuses to show the Dastard her panties. A poor introduction to Anthony's brand of fantasy, this novel will leave readers feeling as though they've just slogged through one of those deadly comic strips in which the puns come fast and furious and drive everyone mad. Only the staunchest fansDbut there are many of theseDwill be moved to send in their suggestions for the next book. The assertion by minor characters in the book that ""we hate Xanth... we detest puns... we're critics"" may prove a self-fulfilling prophecy for all who shake their heads at a man reading a book who eats litter. He's ""litter-ate."" (Oct.)