Piers Anthony

A Spell for Chameleon

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A Spell for Chameleon Summary

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A Spell for Chameleon (1977), a novel by award-winning author Piers Anthony, it is the first fantasy in the Xanth series, which, as of 2019, has forty-four further installments. A Spell for Chameleon tells the story of Bink, a young man whose lack of magical abilities gets him exiled to Mundania, and of his attempts to return home to tap into his own power—and find his destiny.

The novel opens as Bink struggles to locate any magical talent in himself. He knows this will get him banished to Mundania—a place where no magic exists. He faces a dilemma that threatens to uproot him from Xanth, the only home he has ever known. He sets out to visit the revered magician Humfrey, who will be able to see if Bink has any untapped magical abilities. Bink’s journey to Humfrey is an adventure in itself, as he encounters several colorful characters, including a centaur named Cherie, a sorceress named Iris, and women named Wynne and Dee. Finally reaching Humfrey, the older man tells him something shocking. Bink possesses incredibly powerful magic—but the exact nature and type of that magic are yet undeterminable.

Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to allow Bink to stay. The powers that be exile him to Mundania. There, Trent, an evil but extremely powerful magician exiled decades ago for plotting a coup against the King, captures Bink. Trent has assembled an army of Mundane warriors to stage an attack on Xanth, but they cannot penetrate its mystical barrier. Trent thinks Bink will be able to help him unlock the magic of the barrier and gain entry into Xanth. Bink will not agree to help Trent, so Trent tosses him into a pit with Fanchon, a woman who has followed Bink to Mundania from Xanth. Joining forces, Bink and Fanchon get out of the pit and escape by sea. Trent’s army, however, is close at their heels. During the sea-chase, a massive whirlpool pulls Bink, Fanchon, and Trent (without his army) back into Xanth.

Lost in Xanth, the group must work together to find civilization and safety. They come upon an ancient castle built by one of Xanth’s first kings. This magic castle, abandoned and unoccupied for centuries, is haunted now by zombies and harmless spirits. However, the castle has an astonishing, hard-to-identify power: It’s almost as if it were aware of what’s happening in and around it. It used this power to draw in Bink, Fanchon, and Trent. When it first sensed them, the castle knew there were two formidable magicians in the group—Bink and Trent—and that one of them might be able to take the throne and the kingship, restoring the castle to its previous magnificence. Once the group is in the presence of the castle, Bink understands that Fanchon, Wynne, and Dee are all one person: a woman named Chameleon.

The group starts on a quest to visit the King. Their alliance shatters when Bink refuses to get onboard with Trent’s plan to again stage a coup to try to take over Xanth. As Bink and Trent get into a heated disagreement, the sorceress Iris returns. Mad for power, she tells Trent she will marry him and help him win the throne. However, the dispute between Bink and Trent does not quell; it escalates into a duel. Before the fight, they agree to some extreme terms. Should Bink win, Trent must immediately stop all machinations to become king. Should Trent win, Bink will step aside and let Trent do whatever is necessary to take the crown.

As the duel starts, Trent figures out Bink’s talent—still, at this point, unknown to Bink himself. His power is that he cannot be hurt by magic.

Iris distracts Trent, and Trent demands that he and Bink restart the duel from the beginning. This, however, is all part of Trent’s plan. With the knowledge of Bink’s magic, Trent has bought himself more time and plots an attack that will include a fatal blow to Bink. As he goes in for the kill, Chameleon appears out of nowhere, putting herself in the direct path of the sword. Trent stabs her, bringing the duel to an abrupt end as he and Bink have to find a healing elixir to save her. Trent, magnanimously, agrees to turn Bink into a bird so he can fly quickly to Humfrey to get the elixir. Bink returns with the potion and saves Chameleon.

After obtaining the elixir, Bink learns that the King has died. The powers that be on Xanth arrest Trent, but they agree to let him go and to give him the crown if he marries Iris. Their thinking is that no one else is as magically qualified as Trent to be King, and he and Iris can produce magically gifted heirs. Trent and Iris marry, taking over the old magic castle. Trent destroys the barrier between Xanth and Mundania. He also stops the barbaric practice of exiling nonmagical residents simply because they lack mystical abilities. Trent’s army catches up and settles throughout Xanth, populating it with more families both magic and Mundane.

In the end, Bink and Chameleon marry and move into a cottage near the castle. Trent then confers on Bink a coveted position within the Xanthian kingdom: that of the official researcher.