Isis Orb is the 40th! novel in the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. While I read this series like candy in the 1990’s, I have not read one in a long time, and can attest to the fact that some things are carried over across the entire series, each book can be enjoyed on its own as well.
In Xanth, everyone has a talent. But that does not mean everyone loves his talent, and no one understands that better than Hapless. Endowed with the ability to conjure any instrument he wants, Hapless could be an extraordinary musician if only he could play a tune that did not fall ear-piercingly flat. His one desire is to find an instrument he can play and maybe a girlfriend or three. But like music, women have never been his forte. When the Good Magician hears about Hapless's desperate desire, he sends the young man on a quest to find the elusive Isis Orb, a magical talisman that could fulfill his wish. But the mysterious Egyptian goddess for whom the orb is named guards the enchanted object and won t let anyone see it let alone use it. Setting out to achieve the impossible, Hapless meets an eclectic mix of creatures that join him on his journey. Like the musically challenged Hapless, they all have wishes they hope the Isis Orb will grant. But the only way they can control the orb is to capture the five totems from the regions of Xanth: Fire, Earth, Air, Water, and the Void. Together, this motley crew will heroically fight dragons, a six-headed griffin, and even a beautiful, seductive water gorgon who tries to rain on Hapless's parade.
Isis Orb is a good addition to the Xanth series. The puns and power of cleverness and hard work over power and greed runs as strong here as it did in the books I fondly remember reader. The characters are complex and well developed, even those we only see for a chapter or so. I like the idea of the stubborn and transparent Hapless leading the way. The puzzles, quest, and personality conflicts are very entertaining and kept the story moving while keeping the reader thinking. The collection of companions and the challenges they face were unique and well done, but after awhile the puns and word play (the point of the series) did begin to wear a little thin. I was surprised with a few twists, but the majority of enjoyment I got from the book was from the characters (particularly Hapless) and the interplay between the main players.
I think fans of the series will enjoy Isis Orb, and those that enjoy wordplay and logic puzzles will particularly enjoy it. I do have to admit that the book did not hold up to my remembered love of the series. This could be because my tastes have changed, because after 40 books even the brilliant Piers Anthony can fade a little, or because of a number of other reasons.