Wednesday, September 5, 2012

PBR: Heaven Cent (Piers Anthony, 1988)

The third in my wanderings through Piers Anthony's Xanth novels is the eleventh book, Heaven Cent. This one immediately follows Vale of the Vole chronologically, but does not feature any of the primary characters from that book, save Marrow Bones and some interaction with Chex Centaur. It continues with the search for the missing Good Wizard Humfrey, with Prince Dolph, son of King Dor and Queen Irene. We can assume some time has passed, as Dolph did not seem to be present in Vale of the Vole, and is nine years old here.

This book deals with coming of age. Dolph, like many young people, is convinced he knows best and is also sure there is an Adult Conspiracy against children (which several adult characters provide veiled acknowledgement of). In order to prove himself he decides to take up a quest, convincing his parents that it is necessary for his growing up. They agree, but demand he take an adult, which turns out to be Marrow Bones, a skeleton from the hypnogourd (introduced in Vale of the Vole). As with most of these titles, the heroes traverse much of Xanth in search of answers and pick up companions.

This one gets a bit awkward at times. Anthony tends to deal with veiled sexual themes in the Xanth books, and Prince Dolph is coming to the age of noticing the opposite sex as less of a mushy annoyance, and more of a desire, though he does not understand the nature of the desire. Anthony is a champion of kids and outsiders, so in some ways this is likely an examination of growing up similar to Judy Blume. The fantasy setting likely separates the authors, as does the fact that Xanth is not geared directly toward the pre- and recently pubescent.

Ultimately the book is quite interesting, and ends with some serious soul-searching on behalf of Dolph who must confront growing up and the demands the future will place on him. It is perhaps the most youth-geared of the titles I have read, though I am not sure how interested in females I was at nine. There is nothing too gratuitous about it, and it certainly has its charms. This is followed by book #12, The Man from Mundania, in which we can assume the Good Magician Humfrey is found.

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