Xylina is a Manzonite, but not a very good one. While her skills at magic are strong, she’s not much of a warrior, unlike her famous mother, who sadly passed away, leaving Xylina destitute.
She’s reached the end of the time where she has to do the Challenge that will either confirm her as a woman, and a full citizen, or kill her. The challenge is to subdue a man in the arena. Because she’s put off the challenge so long, she has to choose from the hardened slaves, and ends up with Faro, who hates all Manzonite women. Fortunately, her skill at conjuring leads to Faro respecting her very much, and she wins the challenge.
Unfortunately, her skill in conjuring attracts the notice of the Queen, because Xylina is the one person in Mazonia that could challenge the Queen and take her throne. So Adria sends Xylina off on a hopeless quest.
Peirs Anthony apparently came up with this story idea, and Mercedes Lackey actually wrote it (a long time ago, since she’s the one coming up the story ideas these days). Finding that out at the end of the book definitely explained a few things to me. I like the characters in the book – they were really well drawn, and fairly sympathetic. But some of the story features were idiotic. I mean, Mazonia? You want to conjure the image of Amazons, but not actually use the name? You couldn’t come up with something a little less obvious? The name thing definitely set the tone for me. The relationships in this book could only have been thought of by a man.
This book definitely reconfirmed my decision to stop reading Piers Anthony after I left middle school…