Two to the Fifth
Tor, Oct 2008, $24.95
The world of Xanth is in danger (so what else is gnu I mean new). The powerful sorcerer Ragna Roc is methodically taking over villages as the bird soars to new heights with plans to be ruler of the realm. Cyrus Cyborg knows nothing about the bird or much else for that matter and is worried about his future as his robotic father expects him to be a metallic chip off the old block and his amazon mother demands he become a warrior. He does not want to be either as he lacks the metal of his biological father and the muscle of his mother. He does what everyone in Xanth with a problem does: he visits Humphrey the magician for sage advice.
Cyrus asks Humphrey the wrong question and receives a response that insists he should be a playwright. As part of his Service in payment for answering the question, Humphreys explains about the evil bird mage and insists Cyrus write plays and gather a troupe to perform them. He begins his remittance gathering performers as he travels around, but also gains the interest of Ragna. Cyrus is also falling in love with one of his new players, the child Princess Rhythm, who magically makes herself older so they can make love without the Adult Compromise taking hold. The stork delivers their child Kadence who is six years old, but cryptically informs them she is Rhythm’s sister. Taken by Ragna to his castle, the sisters battle the bird knowing that only TWO TO THE FIFTH can defeat the evil mage, but have no Xanthian idea what that means.
Xanthologists will have a field day or two with the latest whimsical pun filled fantasy. The story line is the usual Humphrey quest formula of the series, but the new array of outrageously humorous word plays make for a fun adventure. Readers will enjoy Cyrus’ lament as he has parental troubles and loves what is happening to him since he got Rhythm as they work in secret together to beat the beak.