By Piers Anthony
Tor / Forge, $25.99, 320 pages

Sometimes a little editing is all it takes to make the difference. Well-Tempered Clavicle, the newest Xanth novel, follows Picka Bone on his mission to aide Princess Dawn in her quest to find an appropriate prince. Good Magician Humphrey also gives the Princess the task of finding Pundora’s Box, and they, along with their fellow questers, must battle a man-turned-monster in order to finish their quest. The book culminates in a musical battle to determine whom Princess Dawn will marry and who will be forced to clean up the puns in Xanth.

Overall, there is just something missing from Piers Anthony’s last outing. Although the death of his daughter while writing this book may have had something to do with it, this book lacks the lightness associated with a Xanth book; the placement of puns seems forced, and that there is an active force against the puns of Xanth now just feels wrong. There are also a number of editing issues, especially in some of the combat sequences causing the book to stumble every so often. This is still an excellent book, it just needed a decent copy editor for that added little push to greatness.

Reviewed by Jamais Jochim