Friday, October 17, 2014

Board Stiff (Xanth #38) by Piers Anthony | Fantasy Book Review

Mulluane | Friday, October 17, 2014 | 2 Comments so far

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 Candy, 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.

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Board Stiff (Xanth #38) by Piers Anthony

| Author: Piers Anthony
| Series: Xanth (Book 38)
| Genre: Fantasy Humor
| Content: Satire, Puns, Alternate World
| ISBN-10: 1624670865
| ISBN-13: 9781624670862
| Publisher: Premier Publishing (January 6, 2014)
| Paperback: 250 pages
| Source: Found on Net Galley
| Rating: 4/5 Stars
|Affiliate Links:
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Board Stiff (Xanth, #38)

♥ Mini Review ♥
Once upon a time there was an alternate world. A world where puns were the foundation of just about everything from monsters to food. Granted, some things resemble our world. There are young men who want young women and adventure. In that order. There are young women who want excitement, romance and marriage. Which are not the same things at all. Fortunately, there is also a Good Magician who, for a year of service, will grant an Answer to any Querent who passes 3 challenges and makes it into his castle. What ensues is a rollicking tale of misadventure, misunderstandings, unique challenges and eventual happiness. But only if the adventurers survive the puns first.

Fantasy Book Review by Mulluane

♦ The Story. Xanth is an offbeat world and I don't just mean it is off of the beaten path. If you were to look at it on a map, you might notice a certain similarity to Florida, but trust me, this is not Florida as we know it. No, this is an alternate world. A magical world. A world filled with every fairytale creature you can imagine and a few you can't. And the best part? It is a world where the magic is comprised of puns.


Yes puns! Need a new pair of shoes? Just pick a pair off the nearest shoe tree! Hungry? Pluck a loaf of bread off of a breadfruit tree! And the dogwood tree? Well it has teeth, but its bark is worse than its bite. Fortunate for hungry travelers since it also produces hot dogs. And don't get me started about the Infant-tree...

In addition to all of the funny, odd or dangerous plants and animals, every human in Xanth has a unique magical talent. The extent of these gifts ranges wildly from basically useless to extremely powerful. This can lead to some interesting scenarios. Just about every book I can remember contains a quest of some kind and the talents of the characters make for some fascinating answers to some unusual challenges.

This story follows suit as our protagonists search for Excitement, The Perfect Woman, Adventure, Romance and The Perfect Man, not always in that order. There are plenty of obstacles in the way of their happiness, including a marauding anti-pun virus. But, these quests are more than just the pursuit of happiness and the fulfilment of a service owed to Good Magician Humfrey. They are journeys about self discovery and the forging of lifelong friendships.

Board Stiff by Piers Anthony is good old-fashioned fun! via @mulluane
♦ What I Liked.  I admit I am a bit prejudiced when it comes to Xanth. When I was young(er) I devoured every Xanth book I could afford. I have read the majority of the preceding 37 installments and enjoyed every one. They are clever, witty and humorous. There is a strong fairytale quality that I enjoy immensely. There is a common moral to these stories which hints that what you wish for is rarely what you really need. There are quests, monsters to defeat, riddles to solve, journeys and unlikely allies. And there are puns everywhere. Some will make you laugh, some will make you groan (while secretly smiling just a little) and a few will surprise you due to their cleverness. And the satire is priceless.

The entire experience is good old-fashioned fun! Atleast it is for me, but I also share the author's quirky sense of humor.

♦ What I didn't like. Nothing really stands out. The book basically follows the books before it and I'm sure will mirror books to come. I personally don't mind formulaic writing when it is humorous but I'm making a note of it for those of you who do. The story also lacks the innocence of his earlier works, but so does society as a whole. This too is problematic for some and therefore worth noting. Personally I think the content objections are overblown. I've seen standup comics do and say far, far worse.

♦ My Thoughts. Bear with me here for a minute as I jump up on my soapbox and rant a little.

I have been reading Xanth stories on and off for years. I love the clever wordplay. I love the fact that the author uses and credits the puns that his fans send him. I thoroughly enjoy the tongue-in-cheek satire of male and female relationships.

Imagine my surprise when in the course of hunting down all the links I use in my reviews, I discovered that Piers Anthony has a serious group of haters. I saw chauvinist bantered about. Accusations of perversion. He was labeled as having an unhealthy preoccupation with all things sexual. Some even went as far as to call him a pedophile.

My response was OMG!

The man is writing satire folks; exaggerating and poking fun at the hormonal chaos that ensues around the age of puberty and beyond. The overall theme suits the age group of the characters and makes us old(er) folks shake our heads and yes, even chuckle, over how stupid we ourselves were at that age. Younger adults will be shown, in a humorous way, the folly of letting your hormones override your good sense. Atleast that is what it is supposed to do. For some folks however, the content is no laughing matter.

Now I have a theory. It may be seriously off base but, I'm going to throw it out here anyway.

Satire is no longer as popular as it was back during the days of the original Xanth novels. Flip Wilson, Carol Burnett, Jackie Gleason, Hee Haw, Johnny Carson, SNL and Laugh In are all examples of the entertainment industry's use of liberal doses of satire intended to amuse and entertain audiences.

But things have changed. Now it is all about transparency, violence and hidden agendas.

Reality shows, true crime, and investigative documentaries flood the airways. Now satire can't actually be satire. It has to be some kind of hidden mental or moral deficiency. Sadly, I think we are losing the ability to laugh at ourselves. Might explain the increase in things like road rage, suicide and "going postal."

Well I'm not buying into the madness. Has Mr. Anthony started to push the boundaries over the years? Yes, but the book's content is no worse than your average Victoria's Secret commercial, which I might add is often shown during prime time. Back in the days of his early Xanth novels, such subjects were alluded to but rarely openly discussed. Now kids can come home from school and learn all they ever wanted to know, and some stuff they never wanted to know, just by watching Dr. Phil. These books are tame by comparison and simply use satire, parody, sarcasm and allegory in an attempt to entertain and amuse➚. Nothing more.

(Rant off now....)

♦ Conclusion. If you are already a fan of Xanth then nothing I say is going to sell you on this book. You were sold a long time ago. If you are a sensitive soul who doesn't like ribald humor and endeavor to keep both of your feet planted firmly outside of the gutter, you will hate this book. If you are looking for something different in a punny, groany, tropey, eye-rolling sort of way and you don't mind a bit of gutter humor, you should give this book and series a try. I personally enjoyed it and I'll continue to jump on every Xanth book that is published!

Note: Xanth #39, Five Portraits, is due out on October 21st and continues the story started in this book. See my review!

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books, Affiliate Links

Librarything 3.6 / 5.0

Amazon: 4.4/5
(72 customer Reviews)

What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: Board Stiff

Audible: Not Available

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Fantasy Book Review of Board Stiff (Xanth #38) by Piers Anthony - Reviewed by Mulluane - on October 17 2013 - Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Mulluane is a 55-year-old proud grandmother of 4, who is passionate about her pets, blogging, traditional fantasy, and tinkering with webdesign. She is obssesively photo shy but she uses an avatar that accurately represents her dreams. ♥ You can also find her on:

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Dragons, Heroes and Wizards


  1. Great review - and it was more than a review, at that, because there were many thought-provoking elements in it...
    I remember reading - and enjoying - a few books by P. Anthony way back then and I had to go the Wikipedia way to try and remember which: if memory assists me they were in his "Cluster" series (the titles ring a bell...) but I had no idea just how *prolific* the man was!

    The "Xanth" series is going straight away on my "to read" list, because it sounds exactly the kind of fun I need between more "serious" reads. Ribald humor? That sounds like something I would enjoy, the perfect stress-breaker after a hard day at work. **emphatic nod**

    Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. I did editorialize for a bit didn't I, lol. I detest "labels" and how freely they are used with little to no proof of their validity.I doubt my little rant will change anybody's mind but it made me feel better.


      And yes, ribald describes the humor in his more recent books perfectly. The earlier ones were more cute and cuddly. Both types are great stress relievers depending on your mood. They are all, imo, funny as Bleep!


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