This is the first Xanth book I've ever attempted to read, so I was in for some surprises. I should start by mentioning that I'm only about a third of the way through this book. The back cover says that the main character, "Smash," is going to escort seven girls through Xanth, and so far he's only picked up three. Tandy, the Siren, and John are interesting enough, each going along with the quest for their own particular reasons. Smash is certainly the most well developed character so far, an Ogre with a difference. Early in the book, I was inclined to compare this character to Shrek, and they are very similar. Smash is half human, and even his father was sensitive by ogre standards.
Things I didn't really like about the book so far:
There's quite a bit of plot going on. I'm tempted to say this novel is too busy for my standards, with so much plot and subplot and so much complication in a short period of time.
The opening scenes with the demon attempting to rape Tandy are pretty repulsive.
Also, as this is my first excursion into the mythical kingdom of Xanth, I should mention my initial reaction to it. I think it's a ridiculously silly place. Lime soda trees and pillow bushes are too far off the deep end even for me. I was completely overwhelmed with the author's desire to explore various words with the word cat in them and embellish them into a location. Catfish, catamount, caterpillar, catacombs, catbird... I'm sure some of them have escaped me. Every step further he took that, the more incredulous I was about it. Xanth is bizarre.
Things I liked about this book so far:
The Nightmares are really interesting, especially as a method of transportation. That was creative and interesting.
There are a lot of really cool female characters in this book so far doing interesting, active things.
I like Smash as a character. It's interesting to see that this existed before the Shrek films.
More to come...