In this book series each character had 1 magic ability and the world was one that had a literal translation to it. For example, an Ironwood tree was literally made of Iron. A honey bee would be the letter B made of honey etc...

I do not remember the story line but know I really enjoyed what I was able to read of the series and wanted to revisit it as well as get my kids to read it with me.

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    Worth noting that the Xanth books start out as kids books, more or less, but wind up getting increasingly... risque, as the series progresses. For the first 8 or so it's fine, but after that you may want to have some caution before reading it with the kids.
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 9 '17 at 15:59
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    @BenBarden: Yeah. IIRC, Anthony didn't consider his Xanth books to be "kids books", and he reacted badly when he found out that was where they were being shelved. That and I think he started getting Protection from Editors such that no one was telling him he needed to remove loving descriptions of nubile nude females...
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 9 '17 at 16:41
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    Even the first few books had some pretty cringe-worthy depictions of women.
    – Beofett
    Nov 9 '17 at 20:05
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    @FuzzyBoots: Having read a good dozen of the first books as a teenager myself, I had the impression that, past the first few, they seemed to be increasingly aimed at early teens just hitting puberty. Certainly some felt as if they were written by one. I kind of assumed there was probably some kind of a vicious circle of fan feedback involved, where the readers who liked that kind of stuff kept writing to Anthony asking for more puns and panties, and he obliged (while still trying to keep things PG-rated) because it paid the bills. I could be wrong, of course, and it's been a long time anyway. Nov 9 '17 at 22:49
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    @ilmarikaronen Really wishing I remembered where I read it, but he also apparently wrote an adult story for an anthology which had the Adult Conspiracy fall apart, leading to a sex scene, and not long after that, it started fraying in-universe (nudity/sex-wise at least. Swear words were still considered dangerous).
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 9 '17 at 23:05

That is almost certainly the Xanth series by Piers Anthony, currently up to around 41 books.

Each human character in Xanth is born with a unique magical ability, called a talent. With the exception of the curse fiends, the winged centaurs, and the child Surprise Golem (Daughter of Rapunzel and Grundy Golem), these abilities never repeat exactly in individuals throughout the entire history of Xanth (although nearly identical talents show up on occasion.) Though many talents are limited in scope (called the "spot-on-a-wall" variety), the series focuses mainly on individuals with "Magician" caliber abilities (one of the criteria for serving as King of Xanth).


Many of Xanth's other geographical features are puns on those of Florida (for example, Lake Ogre-Chobee and the Kiss-Mee River). The Florida Keys also exist, though they are, in Xanth, actual keys. Other punnish features include the Isle of View ("I love you"), Mount Ever-Rest (Mount Everest) and the Centaur Aisle (center aisle) created by a magician from the Centaur Isle. The moon is close enough that flying creatures may land there; the back side is sweet and honeyish, the visible side has turned sour and become curdled cheese, due to observing what has happened on Earth and Xanth. Plants may bear fruit of all descriptions (pie trees and shoe trees are common) or they may be carnivorous (such as the tangle trees), making travel in Xanth risky.

Yet the higher growths were no more promising; the huge metal trunks of ironwood trees crowded against the burned-out boles of ash. Rust and ashes coated the ground around them.
The Magic of Xanth: The Source of the Magic, chapter 7: "Deadly Distaffs"

  • 4
    Isn't it bad practice to accept first and only answer during first hour since question is asked?
    – user28434
    Nov 9 '17 at 15:23
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    @user28434 of course not, why would it be? If the answer satisfies the OP, why should they wait? If someone ese posts a better on in future, they can always accept the newer one if they so desire.
    – terdon
    Nov 9 '17 at 15:35
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    @user28434 It is on many stack exchanges, for situations where you are for answers that are good, rather than there being only a single correct answer (though the evidence provided can still be different) especially the ones where a good answer takes a lot of effort. For story identification, there's little point in providing additional answers once the asker has validated that this is the story he wanted identified, so it's even encouraged to accept it in such cases.
    – Jasper
    Nov 9 '17 at 15:39
  • Hah! Never read any of Xanth, but just from the puns in the question I was thinking that was probably it.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 10 '17 at 11:11
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    This is exactly the series I was thinking of Thank you all Nov 13 '17 at 2:42

When I read this question, the first thing I thought of was The Magic of Xanth, by Piers Anthony.

Here's the cover of the first book, A Spell for Chameleon:

a spell for chameleon

From Wikipedia:

Xanth (/ˈzænθ/ ZANTH) is a fantasy world created by author Piers Anthony for his Xanth series of novels, also known as The Magic of Xanth. Anthony originally intended for Xanth to be a trilogy, and after the success of the first three books expanded the series to nine books. A devoted fan base persuaded the author to continue writing the series, which is now open-ended.

Each character in the books has a single, unique power, that nobody has ever had before or will again, although powers can overlap.

And things in the book are definitely the way you described - the literal name. Here's Ironwood:

Yet the higher growths were no more promising; the huge metal trunks of ironwood trees crowded against the burned-out boles of ash. Rust and ashes coated the ground around them.
The Magic of Xanth: The Source of the Magic, chapter 7: "Deadly Distaffs"

  • 1
    Ugh, my page messed up and I didn't see the other answer >.<
    – Mithical
    Nov 9 '17 at 15:00
  • ^_^ No worries. It runs parallel.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 9 '17 at 16:04
  • This was the series I was searching for thank you guys so glad I thought to look online and found this site im excited now to reread them! Nov 13 '17 at 2:44

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