If you still haven't finished any previous book and you DON'T want to know who's still alive and who isn't, DO NOT READ ON!
And so, without further adieu...
Nita's ready for a vacation. A real vacation this time. Not something forced on her by her parents or The Powers That Be. At least Spring Break has arrived. Two whole weeks off from school, with nothing but voluntary wizardry to take up her time. Still, even that might be nice to get away from...
Good thing Dairine has done her research. Apparently there's a sort of Wizard Exchange-Program in place so that wizards can witness other species' techniques of wizardry without having to deal with the Lone Power.
Nita and Kit jump at the chance, and soon enough they're in the opposite arm of the galaxy, on the planet of Alaalu. White, sandy beaches, hardly any storms, a barter economy, no garbage, an absence of death and pain, flying sheep...it's a paradise!
Meanwhile, Dairine and her dad get to host three alien exchanges: Filif, a walking, talking Christmas tree with a love for brightly colored clothes; Sker'ret, a giant, purple centipede with an unending hunger for any matter; and Roshaun, a humanoid prince with an attitude that sends Dairine up the wall.
But, whether in the paradise of Alaalu or in the chaos of home, when wizardry's involved, nothing's ever as it seems.
I found this book utterly enjoyable. Nita and Kit trade off narrating half of the book, and Dairine takes the other. On the one hand, you're glad for Nita and Kit to finally get some time off, but at the same time you wish that there was a little excitement. That's where Dairine's group comes in, giving us a bit of the chaos and mayhem we've come to expect. It has a healthy balance of humor and philosophy—not an easy balance to make.
I absolutely loved the new wizards. Sure, Nita, Kit and Dairine have carried us through six books just fine, and I wouldn't trade them for anything, but Dairine's three visitors really steal the show. Dinner is especially fun. I mean, just imagine telling a sentient alien tree that here it is a normal custom to eat plants. Or try explaining to a walking garbage disposal which items in a kitchen are food, and which aren't.
Possibly the most surprising feat, to which I have to compliment the author on, is that for the first time I can recall, I've liked the Lone Power. Yes, He/She/It is back. Why wouldn't It be? I won't go into too much detail, but I found the encounter with It extremely enjoyable. Maybe it's me falling for the proverbial 'Bad Boy', but to take Evil and create a character from it, that is truly something to applaud.
This book poses some fascinating philosophical questions by the end. About death and entropy, happiness and change. It's definitely a great topic for book clubs, or even to discuss with friends and family. If anyone has read this book and would like to start a discussion, let me know and I'll make a post specifically for it. As it is, however, I don't want to give too much away.
If I had any complaint, it would be about the resolution to Dairine's conflict. There's all this build-up, and then it just kind of...happens, just like that. No fireworks. No explanation. Just poof, okay, let's go. So much for that.
Approximate Reading Time: 5.5 Hours
If Dairine's computer's incessant chanting of 'Uh-oh' are any indication, there's about to be trouble.
When Tom and Carl ask to come over, Nita, Kit, Dairine and their guests hope it's just a normal house call. Maybe a little debrief of why there were suddenly no higher-ranking wizards around last week (during the events of Wizard's Holiday)? But surely nothing earth-shattering after all the work they just went through, right?
A malevolent blackness is pushing the universe apart, warping older wizards' perceptions, and tearing the very fabric of wizardry. Soon no adult wizard will remember their wizardry and shortly after that, wizardry itself will fail to function. It's up to the young wizards of Earth and other planets to both protect their homes and battle the incoming threat.
But Nita, Kit and company have news of a secret weapon that not only will drive back this darkness, but may set the Lone Power back a few notches, permanently. Only problem is they have no idea what it is or where it is.
It'll be a war for the history books, alright. That is, if there's any society left afterward...
If you were waiting for something to happen this series, wait no longer. This book seems to be what all the others were leading up to. It draws on and references every single other book in the series, and it does so masterfully.
I continued to love the characters. Not only do our alien friends return for more fleshing out, but a few older acquaintances show up for an encore. Histories, families, specialties and personalities are all built upon to delight even the most obscure fandom. Yes, even the one for the Lone Power.
This book is looooong. As such, its pacing is set at a chapterly stride. Each chapter provides an easy stopping point for you to breathe and re-group. Not saying that you won't want to continue reading at all, but I did find it a little difficult to read it all in one go. Simply put, there is a lot of information to pack in here and occasional (or frequent) breaks are helpful to aid digestion.
Once again, the narration is split between Nita, Kit and Dairine, though this time it seems more equally distributed. However, the narration isn't always obvious as there are a lot of other characters, environments and action to focus on. The 3rd-person limited tinges on 3rd-person omniscient at times, but not obviously or irritatingly so.
With so many narrators, so many locations, and the added effect that the narrators split up a lot in the middle, the plot can seem a little non-linear. It reminds me a little of The Two Towers in that respect, when it switches between the two hobbits and Aragorn's group (and Frodo's, if you're thinking about the movie). If you aren't reading it all at once, or if you start to get confused, perhaps taking notes on each narrator's journey might be best, instead of cataloging the entire plot linearly.
I assure you, if you've hung through the series this far, you are in for quite a treat.
Approximate Reading Time: 7.5 hours