The author originally intended when he published the first "Xanth" comic fantasy novel, "A Spell for Chameleon" in 1977 that the series would be one trilogy. However, the series was a huge hit with fans and publishers - Piers Anthony is supposed to have said that the reason he is still writing Xanth books is to keep his publishers happy as the series is the only thing they ever pestered him for.
"Night Mare" was the sixth book in the series, rounding off a second loose trilogy set between fifteen and twenty-five years after the first book. "Night Mare" is also the second of many books in the series to be told from the perspective of a most unlikely hero or heroine - in this case Imbri the Night mare, who was introduced at the start of book five ("Ogre, Ogre") when she was caught and ridden by a nymph called Tandy. Of the subsequent books - the series is still going strong thirty-seven years, as many books, and millions of copies after the start - others have been told from the viewpoint of a goblin, golem, spider, harpy, wicked queen, demoness, and even the Demon Xanth himself.
"Night Mare" and all the other books in the series are set in a magical land called Xanth, a peninsular which usually looks a bit like Florida but as is shown in the map at the start of this book, can sometimes appear like other peninsulars such as Italy or Korea. All the human residents of Xanth have a magic talent, which may vary from trivial to immensely powerful and from extremely useful to being a downright liability. The fauna, flora and geography of the land are based on a combination of legends and puns.
The story begins as the Night Mare Imbri is trying to bring a bad dream to a naughty goblin, and not making a particularly good job of it. Apparently the half-soul she acquired in the previous book is causing her to lose her cruel edge. Then imbri is summoned to meet the Night Stallion who rules the world of the night in Xanth, and sends the night mares to give dreams. He is concerned that the "next wave" of invaders from the mundane world of Earth have arrived in Xanth and are wreaking havoc. The Night Stallion sends Imbria to warn King Trent about the invasion and gives her a particular message - "Beware the Horseman."
This advice is all too necessary but nobody understands what it really means until it is nearly too late - and the defenders of Xanth are warned that they will have gone through ten Kings before the crisis is over. Can a night mare save Xanth from the invaders ?
The series as published and planned in January 2014 is as follows:
1 "A Spell for Chameleon" (1977), link A Spell for Chameleon 2 "The Source of Magic" (1979), link Source of Magic: Xanth Series, Book 2 3 "Castle Roogna" (1979), link Castle Roogna 4 "Centaur Aisle" (1982) 5 "Ogre, Ogre" (1982) 6 This book, "Night Mare" (1983) 7 "Dragon on a Pedestal" (1983) 8 "Crewel Lye" (1984) 9 "Golem in the Gears" (1986) 10 "Vale of the Vole" (1987) 11 "Heaven Cent" (1988) 12 "Man from Mundania" (1989) 13 "Isle of View" (1990) 14 "Question Quest" (1991) 15 "The Color of Her Panties" (1992) 16 "Demons Don't Dream" (1992) 17 "Harpy Thyme" (1993) 18 "Geis of the Gargoyle" (1994) 19 Roc and a Hard Place (1995) 20 Yon Ill Wind (1996) 21 Faun & Games (1997) 22 Zombie Lover (1998) 23 Xone of Contention (1999) 24 The Dastard (2000) 25 Swell Foop (2001) 26 Up In A Heaval (2002) 27 Cube Route (2003) 28 Currant Events (2004) 29 Pet Peeve (2005) 30 Stork Naked (2006) 31 Air Apparent (2007) 32 Two to the Fifth (2008) 33 Jumper Cable (2009) 34 Knot Gneiss (2010) 35 Well-Tempered Clavicle (2011) 36 Luck of the Draw (2012) 37 Esrever Doom (2013) 38 Board Stiff (2014) 39 Five Portals (being written at Jan 2014)
A major part of the plot of the sixteenth book, "Demons don't dream" relates to a computer game about Xanth, and Legend Entertainment were licenced to bring out a real computer game shortly afterwards which had the same plot as the game in the book and the same name, "Companions of Xanth." This game was designed to run under DOS and is no longer available at Amazon UK although it can still be ordered from Amazon.com or downloaded as abandonware if you have a working computer old enough or flexible enough to run games designed for the specs and operating systems in place twenty years ago.
If you have the right sort of sense of humour, particularly a love of dreadful puns, this book and most of its' successors can be quite amusing. These books are not meant to be taken seriously. Be warned that if you did take this book and quite a few of the other Xanth books seriously, they can come over as rather sexist even by the standards of 1983, let alone those of today. However, at least some of the accusations of sexism against Piers Anthony over the Xanth books are based on taking out of context, and assuming that the author is endorsing, views which in context are clearly attributed to characters for the specific purpose of disproving them. One of the consistent themes of "Night Mare" is that the bad guys make the mistake of underestimating the female characters and that the heroines often find that they can achieve far more than their initial low expectations of themselves. In context many of the antedeluvian attitudes to women attributed to villains in the Xanth books directly contribute to the defeat of those characters or are a sign that they are on the wrong side, and similar sexist perspectives attributed to heroes and heroines are at least sometimes there so that the characters concerned can grow by overcoming them.
As you work through the Xanth series new characters and themes are gradually introduced and old ones fade away, so it it not essential to read this series in sequence, though I personally prefer to do so.
Worth a try if you enjoy fantasy and puns, are reasonably broad-minded, and able to avoid taking things too seriously or literally.
As a horse mad reader and someone who runs a website and chat forum devoted to horse and pony books, I make no apologies for the fact that this review is geared to the equine side of things! I have read quite a few of the Xanth books and this is in my opinion the best, not just because it is written from a horsy point of view and has lots of horse content, but because the sense of mystery unfolding throughout the story makes it hard to put down. The author, although known for fantasy not equine stories, obviously has some knowledge of and a respect for horses as a lot of the behaviour of the horses is spot-on. The powerful Horseman with his bits and spurs can be seen as an analogy for the unsympathetic controlling rider and in this book the sympathy is firmly on the side of the horse. Imbri the night mare is a well rounded, sympathetic character whom you warm to immediately. For a writer who is criticized a lot for having a sexist attitude to women, here he has created a strong female character. Although there is a lot of fantasy content in this, it is quite light-heated and there is also a lot of humour mixed in with the drama. So unless you are a died-in-the-wool hater of fantasy you will probably enjoy it. To top it off there is an excellent denouement at the end. Great read for fantasy and horsy readers alike.
This was the first Piers Anthony book I ever read, and I was hooked. I must admit I wasn't too sure for the first few pages, as having never read any of his books I didn't realise it was a nightmare straight off, but thankfully (and thanks to a great friend for introducing me) I persevered and enjoyed it thoroughly. The story revolves around the mare Imbri, a Nightmare (carrier of bad dreams) who is tasked with carrying an important message to the King of Xanth to save Xanth from the Nextwave of human invasion. She is given the task as she is useless at her job after acquiring half a soul, which makes her unable to scare people properly and therefore ruined the work of the other Nightmares. Unfortunately Imbri suffers a knock to the head and forgets her all important message... A fantastice read first and every time. The twist in the tale was a little predictable but still great reading. If you love Pier's work you'll love this, and if you're new to him, please do as I did and keep reading even if the first few pages put you off at first - it all makes sense very quickly.
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Here we are introduced to Imbrium a night mare and her sire, The Night Stallion. Imbri was a night mare, a bringer of bad dreams who seems to have lost here edge after acquiring half of a soul. The Night Stallion retires her from dream duty and sends her on a mission, a mission which would save Xanth.
this volume of the country of xanth is all about those dreams that are eithr nasty or nice, mare embril was once a nightmare but she had recieved half of a cetaaurs heart and has become unable to do her job,she is sent on a journey whee she finds eventual happiness as a daymare