An ARC was provided by Net Galley in exchange for fair review.
A while back I read this article over on the AV Club about misogyny in the Xanth books and it got me thinking. I read a lot of the books when I was a tween. I knew they weren’t great literature or anything, but the puns amused me and for the most part, they were fun. After reading that though, I wondered how they’d hold up for me, especially as I became much more feminist in my view as I got older.
In short: they don’t.
All of Anthony’s female characters are mainly concerned with getting a man. Kandy, the protagonist, is constantly jealous when another woman joins the group because she doesn’t want Ease, the male protagonist, to look at them. Tiara is outcast from her sisters because of her flyaway hair that is unruly.
Men aren’t painted much better. Ease is constantly painted as kind of stupid both intellectually and certainly emotionally – he needs to be guided through social situations because clearly he can’t handle them on his own. At one point Kandy makes an observation about how after only a few hours that Tiara can already pacify Mitch, a man they meet on their journey.
How are we supposed to concern ourselves with these characters?
Chauvinism and misogyny in books and films can be done well; when done with context of the times or the setting or the character.
These books have none of that.
These books have had this from the get go. The difference is, is that today I can recognize it for what it is.
In the 20 years since I started reading these books I have grown up, matured, joined the Adult Conspiracy. Anthony hasn’t. He’s stuck in middle school freaking out over seeing panties and wondering how the stork is summoned. It’s old fashioned and kind of gross and I just couldn’t finish reading this book.
I would honestly be forced to read some of the crap YA that I’ve read this year again over this. That was bad, this book however, was actually offensive to me and it’s time for it to move on. We have enough issues with body image and obsession over beauty in our society. We don’t need to further encourage this kind of thinking in our teens (for really, that’s the real audience of these books), not when YA is a full on genre now and has a lot of awesome to offer.
This series should be a relic of a time gone past, and the sooner it becomes that, the better.
Verdict: Don’t bother.