Thursday, July 8, 2010

High Wizardry takes A Wizard Abroad

Continuing along, here are the next two installments of the Young Wizards series. There shouldn't be any spoilers below EXCEPT details on who is still alive at the beginning of each book.

I mean, it's a Middle Grade/Young Adult series, so you can kinda, sorta think about likeliness of killing off main characters...but at the same time, not everyone can come up against The Lone Power and survive...

So, if you still haven't finished the first or second book and you DON'T want to know who's still alive and who isn't, DO NOT READ ON!

Well, have I taken up enough space? Everyone out who wants to be? I think so.

High Wizardry
~High Wizardry~
Young Wizards Series
Book 3
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Nita's younger sister, Dairine, can be a bit of a know-it-all brat sometimes. But at least she doesn't know about wizardry.

Well, until their summer trip (in Deep Wizardry) when she saw Nita transform from whale to human right before her eyes. Now she sees the power and she'll go mad unless she can have it too. Understandable, since I don't know anyone who wouldn't want to perform magic.

She starts poking around Nita's stuff, getting more and more intrusive (much to Nita's annoyance), and eventually finds the Wizard's Oath page in her manual. Without a second thought, she reads it aloud, but when nothing happens she's just about ready to give up.

Well, if she can't have magic, the new computer might be the next best thing. Or it might just be the answer she was looking for. Sure enough, she starts off on a journey across the galaxy and beyond, all in the hopes of fighting and beating Darth Vader. Be careful what you wish for.

The younger the wizard, the greater their power. The greater their power, the more they can do against the Lone Power. And He doesn't like that one bit.

For a third book, and a noticeably shorter installment, this sure had a LOT packed into it. It had Dairine's main story, it had Nita and Kit's story chasing after her, it had battles, it had Creation, it had 'Heaven', it had philosophy, it had space ports, it had aliens, it had...more that I won't get into... Frankly, I found the amount of material a bit daunting for one book.

I have to admit, I did not like Dairine at all during my first time reading this. I was intensely loyal to Nita and felt Dairine was a huge threat to Nita's continuing to be a/the main character. Perhaps it was because I'm an older sister, myself. Sure, younger wizards are stronger, but that's no reason to throw Nita aside! I was honestly getting really anxious about it, even to the point I thought Nita might get killed off to make room for Dairine!

Um...okay, SPOILER ALERT...Nita hangs around for a long, long time... END SPOILER.

With my fears on that subject since resolved, I found Dairine a very likable character. She's strong, independent, smart, and snarky. She's only 10, maybe 11, but she's far from childish. In fact, I keep picturing her as a mouthy 15 or 16-year-old (though this may be interference from recalling later books—ah, the joys of re-reading). She also plays off Nita extremely well, creating a believable, and at time touching, sisterly relationship.

My largest problem with this book was its vast technical or abstract descriptions. Other worlds, space ports, galaxy views, and other astrological events play a huge part here, and some of the descriptions are simply too much to picture. This book is the most tempting for me to want a movie to be made, just so I can see what the heck we're supposed to be picturing. Thankfully, these aren't too central to the plot, so you can sorta skim along with minimal knowledge, but it might be nice to see an illustrated edition one day. (If you're really hung up on the space port, don't worry, it gets visited again in later books.)

Same thing goes for the 'aftermath' of the 'final battle'. There are some references made to historical/mythological figures, a lot of whom might not be known to MG readers. Sure, it's a good opportunity for research, but I'd almost give this over solely to the YA crowd. MG readers will like it for the action and the excitement of other worlds, but I think YA readers will be able to understand more of the techno-babble, mythology and spiritual references, and some budding 'feelings' between Kit and Nita.

Approximate Reading Time: 3.5 Hours

Okay, I also have a confession to make... I've been listening to the audiobooks sped-up again. But I only have just under a week to re-read 4 more books and then read the newest! Darn library deadlines.

ANYWAY! Back to audiobook talk. If you normally don't have the patience or interest in listening to audiobooks, I suggest making an exception for this one. The last cassette/disk of the set contains an exclusive interview with DIANE DUANE, herself! She talks about writing, how she came upon the magic in the books, and some advice for future writers! Do yourself a favor and at least check it out from a library for this special hour-long treat!

A Wizard Abroad
~A Wizard Abroad~
Young Wizards Series
Book 4
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Vacations are supposed to be fun, right? You wouldn't think so by the way Nita's acting. But then, being forced to go to Ireland because your mom wants to you 'take a break' from doing magic with your best friend might put a damper on anyone's day. And though Nita tries to weasel out of the trip with, "Wizards don't stop doing wizardry just because they're not at home. If I go on call in Ireland, I go on call, and there's nothing that can stop it," she had no idea how right she would be.

Strange things are happening in Ireland. Oh, there's occasional ghost or 'little people' sighting, but that's pretty normal. What's not normal is sliding through time without thinking about it. Or having rocks roll uphill. Or having ancient heroes and villains, unicorns and merfolk, and some less savory creatures suddenly appear and interact with the locals.

So it's up to Nita and some of the local wizards to set things back to right. But can she focus on the task at hand when she's missing Kit? Plus, she's not exactly on home turf anymore. And what about that mysterious, irritating, angry, cute Irish wizard, Ronan?

Much like the previous book, there is a LOT of information here. Ireland is as much a character as Nita, and it tries to emerge as fleshed out as possible. Sure, there's the regular scenic descriptions, the absurdity (to Americans) of driving on the left, the relentless offering of tea, and the slowness of life (in comparison to New York). But there's also history and myth, accents and language, magic and wizardry.

Frankly, I think this one is a bit indulgent of the author's own fascination with Ireland. The chapter titles are all in Irish/Celtic first, English second. There are long, long sections of Irish myth/legend/history, including lots of names which are never expanded upon. And even the history that seems important to the central storyline seems touched upon here and there, never laid out where it can be seen clearly. Though, this might be partly because of our narrator's role.

There's not much happening that directly involves Nita. The adult wizards (of which there are many, but only 3 or 4 named) are in charge for the majority of the book, while Nita runs around either trying to catch up on the knowledge, or simply observing or reacting to what's happening around her. She has a couple moments of teenage self-reflection, but those have as much to do with the plot as what shirt Dairine's wearing (Batman, in case you're curious). They say that when it comes to wizards, nothing is a coincidence, but nothing Nita does explains why she was important enough to be there in the first place!

Ireland is described as running at a slower pace. The cities, the country, even the wizards don't zip to action as quickly as they do in America (again, with NYC as the basis for comparison). And this book does anything but zip. There's very little action broken up by lots and lots of description. Even the final battle doesn't start until the last 40 pages (of 332). I think if I didn't have the audiobook running in my ear, I would have read it slower than usual, too.

Ultimately, I think this book has a more limited audience. If you're at all interested in Ireland or mythology, you'll probably enjoy it. If you're dead-set on following Nita as she grows up, you'll tolerate this book. If you're wanting action and adventure like in the other books, you might want to skip this one. That I can think of, there's only one thing (character) of importance that appears in other books. And even then, it's not until book #8.

Approximate Reading Time: 4 hours