Fantasy’s Finest: Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept Series

In Books, Fantasy by Jay Bell

There aren’t many series that I can read and reread without ever tiring of, but Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series is one of them. Seven glorius books tell the story of Proton, a technologically advanced planet, and its twin Phaze, a world of traditional fantasy. Both Proton and Phaze occupy the same space, being separated only by a dimensional veil that few have learned to cross. In effect, we have a world that is both science fiction and fantasy, a literary playground with high potential, but this isn’t what enamored me with the series.

The society of Proton functions as a sort of Feudalistic lottery. Those arriving on the planet are serfs and must be employed by Citizens; a select group of wealthy and powerful individuals. After playing servant for twenty years, they must leave the planet, but the wages earned are enough to set them up for life. If a serf plays and win The Game, which encompasses all sports, board games, or any otherconceivable challenge, they can win the right to stay on Proton and become a Citizen themselves.

The dimension of Phaze is mostly unknown to the people of Proton, because each has a doppelganger on the other side. Only those that do not can travel between the two dimensions. Phaze is everything there is to love about fantasy. Werewolves run along side unicorns, vampires and trolls lurk in the shadows, and the very best of all is the Adepts. Counterparts to the Citizens of Proton, the Adepts are equally influential, but their power comes from magic rather than wealth.

This is what I love most about the series. Each Adept is known by a different color, and each has a different way of executing their magic. For instance, the Yellow Adept deals in potions. The icy White Adept uses runes to work her magic, and the Blue Adept must play music to summon his power. I adored this concept, and loved discovering the strange and wonderful personalities that Anthony gave to each of these strange characters. The plots of these books are wonderful, full of adventure and intrigue, but the strange world of the Adepts is what has always held my rapt attention.

So enamored was I by this concept, that I borrowed heavily from it for my own book, The Cat in the Cradle. My story is strictly fantasy, but it’s no coincidence that the ten powerful Oligarchs that rule the Five Lands are each designated by a different color and magical ability. I’m very proud to be inspired by Piers Anthony, and was thrilled when he agreed to read my book. I feel a bit embarrassed now, since The Cat in the Cradle wasn’t professionally edited at the time, but the feedback and comments he gave me were very encouraging and kind. Most of all, it just felt good to hand him something that proved what a massive influince his books have had on me.

I’ve barely touched on the characters that fill the Apprentice Adept series, but they are as varied as a multi-genre novel should be. Robots, harpies, androids, shape shifting amoebas, ice demons, bug eyed aliens, and humans all have their role to play, and as hard is it might be to imagine all these elements working together, Anthony pulls it off with style. Piers is best known for his Xanth series, but anyone that hasn’t discovered the Apprentice Adept books is missing out on a truly enjoyable world. To me, this series will always be the very best of Piers Anthony’s creations, and the one closest to my heart.

Books in the series:
1. Split Infinity (1980) ISBN 978-0345354914
2. Blue Adept (1981) ISBN 978-0345352453
3. Juxtaposition (1982) ISBN 978-0345349347
4. Out of Phaze (1987) ISBN 978-0441644650
5. Robot Adept (1988) ISBN 978-0441731183
6. Unicorn Point (1989) ISBN 978-0441845637
7. Phaze Doubt (1990) ISBN 978-0441662630