This is the 32nd book in the Xanth series of fantasy books, as alluded to in the title. It begins with Cyrus Cyborg, the son of Roland Robot and Hannah Barbarian, looking for his place in the world. As far as he knows, he’s the only cyborg in Xanth. How will he every find a woman to love? He goes to the Good Magician Humpfrey to find out. When he gets there, his question comes out, “I need to know my true desire.”
Humpfrey replies that he’ll be a playwright. Oh, yes, and while he’s out putting on plays, do it well enough to attract the attention of Ragna Roc, who is threatening all of Xanth, and defeat him. A critical clue in doing this is two to the fifth.
Cyrus hadn’t thought about being a playwright but it suddenly dawns on him that yes, he is one. He’s soon fitted with a semi-nude muse, a writer’s block and a bevy of actresses, all of whom try to seduce him. And that part about defeating Ragna Roc and two to the fifth? He’ll figure it out.
One the actresses (because all women want to be actresses) is a 12-year-old sorceress, Rhythm. Because of what’s called the Adult Conspiracy, she doesn’t quite know understand sex or know anything about swearing (“bleep”), but she has a crush on Cyrus. She knows the Adult Conspiracy has something to do with panties. Because of time she and her sisters, also sorceresses, spent on helping people on another planet, they’ve been aged before, but she doesn’t remember the specifics.
But she has a decade spell, aging her by ten years. And she’s quite determined to be in love with Cyrus.
And this is where the story gets creepy. Throughout much of the book, Cyrus, who was “assembled” as an adult, carries on an affair with a character who is effectively 12 years old. Anytime they engage in “stork summoning” (the book’s term for sexual activity) she is under the decade spell, but nevertheless, she remains a pre-teen girl. This is not a minor plot point, but something that is on nearly every page and turns out to be necessary for the climax of the book, when it finally gets there.
When they are found out at the end of the book their defense is that it turned out to be necessary for the defense of Xanth. And they’re sickening in love.
The plot of the book is bare. The various encounters Cyrus has are just excuses for, well, dirty old man jokes, whether with Rhythm or with adult women trying to seduce him either because they think he can make them actresses or they wish to recruit him as a Ragna Roc follower. And then there are the puns.
I cannot recommend this book, even to Piers Anthony loyalists and Xanth fans.
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