|A Spell for Chameleon|
|Cover artist||Michael Whelan|
|Publisher||Wikipedia:Ballantine BooksWikipedia: & Del Rey|
|Publication date||September 1977|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-345-25855-X |
|LC Classification||CPB Box no. 2227 vol. 15|
|Followed by||The Source of Magic|
In this adventure, Bink is exiled to Mundania because he has (inadvertently) broken Xanth law by not having a magical talent. He returns to Xanth with Chameleon, a woman whose intelligence and beauty vary inversely depending on the time of the month, and the evil magician Trent who was exiled 20 years earlier for attempting to usurp the throne of Xanth.
At the beginning of the novel Bink is facing imminent exile from the magical land of Xanth and separation from his fiancee Sabrina for his lack of a magic talent. All human residents of Xanth possess some unique form of magic that ranges from incredibly powerful (such as the current King Aeolus's ability to summon and control storms) to relatively useless (such as the ability to make a spot appear on a wall). In the hopes of discovering his talent Bink sets out to see the Good Magician Humfrey, a magician whose talent has to do with the gathering of information. While on his way Bink fights his way through the perilous wilderness of Xanth, having several run-ins with dangerous plants and animals but always being saved by apparent coincidence. On this journey he meets several people, among them Chester Centaur and Cherie Centaur and Crombie The Soldier. Of particular interest are three different women he meets: Wynne who is pretty but stupid, Dee an average girl and the sorceress Iris whose power is the creation of illusions. Wynne and Dee are actually different aspects of the same woman, Chameleon, although Bink does not realize this at the time. Chameleon's intelligence and beauty vary inversely according to the time of the month and she has been unable to find a man who is willing to be with her through all 3 phases. When she meets Bink she falls in love with him and begins to follow him. Although Iris possesses magic of the same caliber as the Storm King she is barred from the throne because she is a woman. After saving Bink from an illusory trap, Iris offers him the chance to remain in Xanth as a figurehead king: Iris will use her power to make it appear as if Bink has magician caliber magic. Loyal to Xanth and realizing that he would be nothing more than a slave, Bink refuses her offer and continues on his journey. Bink finally arrives at the Good Magician's castle and fights his way past three challenges to gain an audience with him. Humfrey is able to determine that Bink possesses magician-caliber magic but is prevented from fathoming its nature by a series of coincidences. Realizing that some powerful force is at work Humfrey decides to leave well enough alone and sends Bink on his way with a signed note to the King saying that Bink does indeed possess magic.
Bink returns to the North Village to plead his case before the King but is exiled anyway due to the King's senility and jealousy of Humfrey. Bink heads north to the isthmus that connects Xanth to Mundania and is allowed to pass through the magical shield that separates the two. As soon as he leaves Xanth he is captured by the Evil Magician Trent, who was exiled 20 years ago for attempting to overthrow the Storm King. Trent is trying to invade Xanth with his Mundane army to usurp the throne but has been consistently prevented from entering by the very magical barrier that Bink just passed through. He believes that Bink can help him get into Xanth by providing information on the location of the source of the magical barrier, and attempts to coerce this information from him. Trent has prepared a special elixir that can temporarily nullify magic and has a special catapult that can hurl this elixir into the land of Xanth. All that Trent needs now are the exact coordinates of the shield-stone. Bink refuses to cooperate and is thrown into a pit with a woman from Xanth that has followed him there named Fanchon. In actuality this is Chameleon in the last of her guises, hideously ugly and hideously intelligent, but Bink does not realize this. Chameleon had gone to see the Good Magician Humfrey immediately after Bink and Humfrey advised her that she would eventually settle permanently into her Dee phase in Mundania. Hearing that Bink was to be exiled Chameleon followed him in the hope of making a life with him in Mundania. Bink and Fanchon escape to sea but are pursued by Trent's forces. Eventually, Bink, Trent, and Fanchon are all swept into Xanth via a whirlpool but Trent's forces are left behind.
Washing up on a beach far from any human settlement the trio declares a truce until they can safely make their way out of the wilderness. While traveling, the group discovers Castle Roogna, a castle built 800 years ago by one of the early Kings of Xanth but abandoned 400 years later. Here, Bink finally learns that Fanchon, Wynne, and Dee are all the same person but resists the temptation to take advantage of her while she is in her stupid phase. Castle Roogna is haunted by relatively benign ghosts and zombies and is an area of heightened magical power. The castle in fact seems to possess some form of awareness and had actually used its control of the surrounding area to herd the trio onto its grounds. It had detected the presence of two magician-caliber talents in the group (Bink and Trent) and lured them there in the hopes that one of them could become king and restore the castle to its former glory. Over the course of the journey the trio has gotten to know each other quite well and Bink has discovered that he actually likes the evil magician, who has matured considerably during his exile. Trent now wishes to be King to do good for Xanth but is just as ruthless in his drive to attain the throne as he was 20 years ago. The group leaves Castle Roogna on their way out of the wilderness but are eventually discovered by the sorceress Iris. Iris offers to marry Trent and help him become King and Trent accepts her offer. Bink, who still refuses to betray Xanth challenges Trent to a duel: If Bink loses then he will stay out of Trent's way but if he wins then Trent will cease his efforts to gain the throne. In the course of the duel Trent deduces Bink's unknown talent, which is that he cannot be harmed by magic. Because Bink is still vulnerable to non-magical harm his talent has gone to great lengths to conceal itself over the years, making it appear he is only saved from magical harm by a series of coincidences. Because of interference from Iris, Trent declares that the duel must be restarted, but now thanks to his knowledge of Bink's talent, Trent has the upper hand. He is about to kill Bink when Chameleon dives in front of the sword. Trent and Bink then call another truce so that they can obtain healing elixir to save her life. Trent transforms Bink into a bird and he is able to fight past Iris's illusions and make it to the Good Magician's Castle.
Not only does Bink manage to obtain healing elixir from Humfrey, but he also manages to find out that the Storm King has died. All the officials of Xanth, including the Council of Elders (which includes Bink's father Roland), arrive on the scene. The Council captures Trent, heals Chameleon, and offers Trent the kingship if he will marry Iris. The Storm King was allowed to remain King well past his prime because there was no suitable successor and by forcing Trent to marry (and presumably produce magician-caliber offspring) the council hopes to prevent that state of affairs from occurring again. Trent's first act as King is to deactivate the magical barrier between Xanth and Mundania and grant Bink (and non-magical folk in general including mundanes) amnesty. Trent's forces, who consisted of mundanes who wished to immigrate to Xanth begin to settle peacefully in various regions of the magical land. Bink then breaks up with Sabrina (who he had discovered was not right for him anyway) and marries Chameleon, as he has realised that he wants "variety" in a girl, and only Chameleon with her never-ending change in looks and intelligence will give him what his heart desires, and yet at the same time allow him to remain faithful to one person. Trent and Iris take up residence in Castle Roogna and set to work making it the new centre of government. Bink and Chameleon obtain a cottage just outside the Castle and Bink is given the title of Official Researcher of Xanth. King Trent gives Bink his first task: to discover the source of magic in Xanth, setting up the plot for the next book, The Source of Magic.