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Title: Board Stiff
Author: Piers Anthony
Publication Date: December 17, 2013
My Board Stiff Pre-Reading
Synopsis: Be careful what you wish for...
"I'm actually a smart girl who would make any man an excellent wife. But no man sees that. No man is interested in my mind or personality, just my whatevers. So here is my wish: I'm board stiff. I want Adventure, Excitement, and Romance.”
So begins Piers Anthony's 38th Xanth novel, in which Irrelevant Kandy, looks at her reflection in the water of the shallow well and sees luxuriant midnight black hair to her breathtakingly slender waist, matching dark eyes in a lovely face. A torso coming yea-close to absolute perfection. She was man's desire. That was part of the problem.
And in the shallow magic of a wishing well, she asks her wish to be granted. Something happens. A sudden whirlwind surrounds her, lifting her up and ripping off her clothing. She is changing, somehow. Then she falls flat on the ground.
Literally. She has been transformed into a flat, stiff board with two knotholes for eyes.
Review: It's been a really long time since I've read a Xanth book. Like, several years. And I'm pretty sure the last one I read I was a re-read of A Spell For Chameleon. But the thing I love about these books is that I don't have to remember much to become fully immersed again in this magical, puntastic world!
I really liked Kandy in this book. It was fun to see things from her perspective since she spends most of the time as a literal board. That's totally what she deserves for saying she's "bored stiff" though, since she should know better having grown up with puns all around. She's looking for Romance, Adventure, and Excitement, and I loved how the Wishing Well grants her wish in a most ridiculous manner. I do think she learns a lot throughout her adventure and is definitely a different person at the end of the book than she was at the beginning. She knows more about life, love, adventure, and men and is a better person for it.
I also really enjoyed getting to know the other characters she meets along the way. Ease is kind of an idiot and I'm not sure I would ever pick him to be the romantic interest, but whatever. Some times I just wanted him to do something idiotic and not have Kandy save him, but I guess that's not how Xanth works. Astrid was probably my favorite character in the group and I think her friendship was Kandy was an even better relationship than any of the romantic ones. We also get to see Com Pewter again, which was pretty neat since he's one of my favorite Xanth characters of all time.
The plot is this book feels really pieced together. Kind of like Piers Anthony was like "Ok, I want this group to do this, this, and this even though they are not related in any way. How can I string them together to make a cohesive story?" and I'm not really convinced that it worked as well as he hoped it would. I mean, it's tied together loosely, but all of the Events are just so random. There's a little bit of an explanation near the end... but it's not a very strong argument and feels kind of like he thought of it last minute.
Speaking of the ending, I thought it was a little lame. As I was reading, I looked at the amount remaining and was concerned that things wouldn't wrap up by the end. They do, but it just felt really rushed. We spend this entire book trying to figure out how to save the puns and in the end it's so much easier than you would ever think. And it was kind of annoying. This book could serve as a standalone because this plot is wrapped up pretty nicely, but I can still see there being a sequel because it felt like it was setting one up.
I would recommend this book to any fans of previous Xanth books. Even if you haven't read one in a while, there's enough here to get you right back into that magical place. All of the groan-worthy puns are there, and familiar characters show up. I would also recommend this series (and this book even) to pun-lovers and casual fantasy readers. Not my favorite Xanth book, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. 3/5!