Storify: Xanth, a Romance Series

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

*sits bolt upright* my god, Xanth is a romance series to me. My whole childhood just snapped into place with an audible crack. I have a lot of strong feelings about Xanth, as made evident on my blog, but it was hugely formative for me as a child.

I'm now going to list the things that I liked about Xanth and which I care about as influences on my own work. *stares into navel* I really liked the choice to (with a few exceptions) have a new protagonist for every book and therefore a new romance.

I really loved the huge sprawling world and epic cast, where even people you didn't see for much of the novel clearly had LIVES going on. Which was arguably part of the reason WHY there was a plethora of new protagonists waiting in the wings: because of the huge cast.

I do call Xanth a Romance series because most - maybe ALL - of the books are about a romantic relationship arc that ends in a HEA. But, gods, I can't imagine it would ever have been labeled as such or marketed as such when I was younger. Or really even now. Imagine the boy nerds clutching their dice in horror and retiring to the fainting couch.

I always tell people my first and most formative books were fantasy, but this calls EVERYTHING INTO QUESTION.


I'm at pain level 8 tonight and the meds aren't helping, so I'm going to talk about something that brings me happiness: fantasy romance.

I realized this morning that Xanth is, by my personal definition, a romance series. Many of them follow a very a very pleasing (to me) pattern of "person has problem, goes on journey to solve problem, finds love". (I'm not going to get into here the many many problems with Piers Anthony's writing; you can find more on that here.)

Let's break it down.

Book #1, A Spell for Chameleon. Romance arc between Bink and Chameleon.

Book #2, The Source of Magic. Romance arc between Bink and Jewel Nymph. A fast one is pulled to match Jewel with Crombie at the end (so as not to undo the previous Bink/Chameleon HEA).

Book #3, Castle Roogna. Romance between Dor and Millie, with Jonathan swapping out at the end and Irene set up as Dor's future wife.

Book #4, Centaur Aisle. Romance between Dor and Irene. Dor is given a rival, but Irene can't bear to leave Xanth.

Book #5, Ogre, Orge. Tandy + Smash. Here, their romance is LITERALLY the answer to Tandy's question taken to the Good Magician.

Book #6, Night Mare. Mare Imbrium + the Day Stallion. (Later replaced with another, non-evil Day Stallion.)

Book #7, Dragon on a Pedestal. Arguable. Hugo is setup as a future romance for young Ivy (though that arc is later abandoned) and Irene has a "romance" arc that... isn't. Really, the less said about Dragon on a Pedestal, the better.

Book #8, Crewel Lye. The romantic epic saga of Jordan and Threnody.

Book #9, Golem in the Gears. A romance between Grundy the Golem and Rapunzel--the only woman in Xanth his size.

Book #10, Vale of the Vole. Eskil and Bria Brassie. Not a romance that particularly thrilled my soul, but it's there and it's a major arc.

Book #11, Heaven Cent. A love triangle between Dolph, Nada Naga, and Electra. In 1988. No, Twilight didn't invent love triangles.

Book #12, Man from Mundania. Gray + Ivy.

Book #13, Isle of View. This book resolves the Dolph / Nada / Electra triangle that seemed to go on way longer than it actually did.

Book #14, Question Quest. This is a polyam romance--or a series of monogamous romances that end in a polyam marriage--for Humphrey.

Book #15, The Color of Her Panties. One of the weakest in the series, tying up loose ends no one cared about. Mela Merwoman finds a mate.

Book #16, Demons Don't Dream. This book was awful so I barely remember it. I think Dug the Mundane falls for the other mundane girl player?

Book #17, Harpy Thyme. Much better and has the prettiest of the Xanth covers. Gloha Goblin-Harpy asks Humphrey where she can find love.

A girl with angel wings in a pretty pink dress converses with a flying mer-horse. I think.

Look at that cover! A girl protagonist whose motivation is to find a lover. Tell me that's not Romance. But an Important Man authored it, so we were all told it was Fantasy and not Romance.

Book #18, Geis of the Gargoyle. Gary Gargoyle searches for his freedom and in the process finds Gayle.

Book #19, Roc and a Hard Place. This one might not be a romance depending on your POV, but much is made of Demon Metria and her new husband falling deeper in love after their hasty arranged marriage.

Book #20, Yon Ill Wind. This is a romance between Chlorine and the Demon Xanth, although she doesn't realize who he is or what's happening to her.

Book #21, Faun and Games has a lot of love triangle flirting between Forrest Faun and Dawn and Eve. Then it disappears up its own butt. Like, seriously, the franchise was stagnating hard then and you could tell.

I think I read some of Books #23 to #41, but they were not memorable to me. I'm pretty sure a lot of them are romances, though!

I actually felt tangible peace this morning when I realized Xanth is a romance series. Because it was so formative for me as a writer, I've felt "weird" for gravitating to romance as a genre when you'd have thought I would write fantasy or scifi, my earliest readings! So realizing that capital-R Romance was with me all along, from the very beginning? That was so hugely affirming to me.

I'm a proud writer of romance. I'm a Romance writer. I've read Romance since I was a little kid. They just didn't tell me it was Romance. I'm frustrated, I won't lie, that Piers wasn't hit with the R-label in the same way that I suspect a woman writer would have been.

"Tell me the plot."

"Well, a special one-of-a-kind girl with angel wings goes on a quest to find her perfect mate--"

So never let yourself feel that you're an imposter in the romance world just because guys told you those romance books weren't romance. You are a romance VETERAN. You cared so much about fantasy romances that you slogged through 10+ books in that series. ;)

You got this. Put 'er there. *fistbump*


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