Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So You Want some Deep Wizardry

In an effort both to conserve space and not spoil things, I'm going to go ahead and review the first two books of the Young Wizards series by themselves. Could you imagine how long an entry would be with 8 book reviews in it? Plus, anyone in the middle of the second book would not appreciate reading details in the third. So, without any further adieu, here're my reviews!

So You Want to Be a Wizard
~So You Want to Be a Wizard~
Young Wizards Series
Book 1
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

When Nita Callahan scans along a shelf of library books, she can't help but notice one strange title. So You Want to Be a Wizard. You know, those kids reference books that tell about different professions. So You Want to Be a Pilot, an Electrician, a Doctor. But a Wizard?

It's gotta be some sort of joke. At least, that's what she tells herself when she takes it home.

But as she reads more about magic and wizardry, and after reading aloud the Wizard's Oath—

In Life's name, and for Life's sake
I say that I will use the Art for nothing
but the service of that Life.
I will guard growth and ease pain.
I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way;
and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life,
or that of the system of which it is part,
are threatened.
To these ends, in the practice of my Art,
I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life,
when it is right to do so—till Universe's end.

—Nita quickly learns just how serious this book is...

Nita soon meets up with another new wizard, a younger boy named Kit, and together they begin testing out their Art. When their first spell results in...complications, they find themselves in the presence of a White Hole named Fred who has some very disturbing news.

Little did they realize how accurate the Oath would be about 'putting aside fear for courage, and death for life' for they're about to be pitted against the Starsnuffer, the Creator of Death, the Lone Power himself!

As far as introductions go, So You Want to Be a Wizard is definitely a worthy kickstart to an extremely inventive series. It has action, it has intrigue, it has humor, and it even has horror and heartbreak. You'd think a first book might want to hold back on some things, but I guess when Entropy is on the line, you don't have the luxury of taking things slowly.

When you first think of wizards and magic, you might think of JK Rowling's breed of Latin spells and potions, or perhaps the more mysterious internal powers that Tolkien created for Gandalf. Duane's magic, however, is much more scientifically based, dealing with calculations, raw materials, and the adage that 'everything comes at a price'. Juxtaposed to this hard science, however, is the lyrical Speech which is spoken and understood by every living and non-living thing. Sometimes 'magic' can happen, simply by using the Speech to persuade something to move or change. And with your trusty manual to guide you, it's a wonder why anyone would want to go study at Hogwarts when practically any answer is only a page away.

But, of course, magic is not an instant solution to one's problems. In fact, more likely than not, things become more complicated with the introduction to magic. ...But that doesn't make it any less exhilarating to experience!

The book itself is very easy to read, despite the complex chapter titles—the theme of which seem to be what one might find in an actual instruction manual. Besides the occasional foreign (as in other-worldly) name—such as Khairelikoblepharehglukumeilichephreidosd'enagouni- quickly shortened to Fred—the language is light and simple. With main characters around 12 or 13, I might suggest the book as low as Middle Grade, but definitely appealing to anyone in the Young Adult crowd as well.

I would recommend this to anyone, young or old, who is intrigued with the idea that magic is acting all around us.

Approximate Reading Time: 4 Hours

Deep Wizardry
~Deep Wizardry~
Young Wizards Series
Book 2
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

With their initiation Ordeal behind them, Nita and Kit are ready for some relaxation. Nita's family heads to the coast, taking Kit along for the ride, and there the two wizards resume practicing and experimenting with their Art.

Of course, finding a whale wizard in distress kinda cancels out one's vacation plans. Sure enough, the Powers That Be have another task for the pair. The Lone Power is not at all pleased with the outcome of his last battle. The time has come for another singing of The Song of the Twelve to bind the Dark Lord away again.

Nita and Kit agree to help in any way they can. But what happens when Nita's folks get suspicious of her staying out after dark? Or when some of the whale participants are less than happy about helping? And what's this about Nita and Kit's debt being paid? And SHARKS?!

If the theme of the last book was an instruction manual, this one is songs. Each chapter is a song: Summer Night's Song, Wizards' Song, A Song of Choice, Seniors' Song, etc. I personally found the 'song' too slow at times. There is a lot of description of the undersea landscape, of how it feels to be a whale, of the different species' tones, however I can mostly attribute this to the fact that few (if any) readers have seen these sights, or experienced these wonders. There's a lot to try to get across. So while it may have been on the slow side for me, it was not too much of a distraction or an annoyance on the whole, especially since those overly-descriptive moments were few and far between.

I especially enjoyed the interaction with Nita's family in this book. Every teen knows what it's like to keep a secret from their mom and dad. Maybe you watched a movie you shouldn't have, or went somewhere other than you said you did. Nita and Kit have to struggle with guilt and trust the same as any of us did, and it's an instant connection with the reader.

While reading the first book is certainly helpful, this one could easily stand on its own. They reference and recall events from before, but I think the uninformed reader would merely have their curiosity piqued, rather than spoiled. That being said, I would still recommend picking up So You Want to Be a Wizard before attempting Deep Wizardry, if only because it moves faster throughout and provides the much-needed hook to get you into the series.

As far as language goes, Deep Wizardry is still fairly easy to follow, but I would put it more firmly at the Young Adult level because of the slight increase in vocabulary and a reference to sex (ah, mothers). Name-wise, the whales don't make it any easy on us: S'reee, Aroooon, ed'Rashtekaresket, Areinnye, T!h!ki, and Iniihwit are the most foreign of the bunch, though Hotshot, Roots, Fluke, and Fang are pleasantly simple. We are also introduced to a few untranslated words of the Speech, Dai'stiho (a wizard's greeting) being one that will be repeated throughout the books.

If roaming around a city didn't do it for you last time, the magic of the sea should manage to capture your interest hook, line and sinker.

Approximate Reading Time: 4 hours