Sunday Afternoon Visits: August 20
Children's Literacy Round-Up: August 21

Wizards at War: Diane Duane

I've just finished reading the eighth installment in Diane Duane's Young Wizards series: Wizards at War. Weighing in at a hefty 560 pages, this book is not for the faint of heart. I don't recommend that you read it unless you've read the previous books in the series, because the author makes many references to previous books. However, if you are a fan of the series, you should run, not walk, to get yourself a copy of this book.

The Young Wizards series supposes that magic takes place behind the scenes on our world, and on the many other populated worlds in the universe. Only a very tiny percentage of people are chosen to be trained as wizards. These wizards have the responsibility of protecting (as much as possible) the people on their planets from evil forces. They use magical spells that are relatively scientific in nature, relying on the understanding of physical coordinates, and concrete and true descriptions of people and objects.

In Wizards at War, Nita and Kit (a pair of teenage wizard partners), along with their friends and relatives (especially Nita's wizard sister Dairine and Kit's non-wizard sister Carmela), are called upon to save not just the world, but the entire universe. Their mortal enemy, the Lone Power, has started sprinkling areas of space with Dark Matter. The Dark Matter is causing space to expand, which will over time lead to a breakdown in wizardry. If left unchecked, it will also have dangerous emotional consequences for the hearts and minds of non-wizards, and will eventually cause the end of everything.

The breakdown in wizardry starts to affect the adult wizards first, causing them to not even be able to remember that they are wizards, let alone use any magic. This leaves the young wizards in charge. They have to keep thing safe on their own planets, while trying to find the cause of the Dark Matter expansion, and eliminate it. Soon Nita, Kit, Dairine, and their friends from other worlds are on a quest for a secret weapon that the Powers That Be have promised can help. Kit's magical dog Ponch plays a key role in tracking down the secret weapon.

One fun thing about this book in is that because all of the young wizards from across the universe are called into action, Kit, Nita, and Dairine have the opportunity to re-visit a number of their old friends from previous books (especially Ronan from A Wizard Abroad and the three houseguests from Wizard's Holiday). Some of these visits are mere cameo appearances, while others are central to the plot. Dairine also re-visits the race of silicon creatures that she created in High Wizardry, and it's nice for the reader to see how they turned out.

Various feelings and tensions besides friendship come into play between the characters in this installment, heightening the emotional impact of the book considerably. One caveat: if you haven't read the other books recently, you may find some of the interactions with the secondary characters difficult to follow. As with the Harry Potter books, serious fans will want too re-read the previous books in the series before starting this one.

Beyond that, I don't want to give away too much and spoil the book for you. So I'll just say that the young wizards encounter dangerous and unprecedented situations. They have to reply on themselves, and on one another, displaying ingenuity, bravery, and loyalty. There are surprises, victories, tragedies, and grievous losses. Wizards at War made me laugh in places, and made my eyes tear up here and there, but it always kept me turning the pages. Fans of the series will not be disappointed. And if you're not a fan of the series yet, I recommend that you start at the beginning, and read the whole series in order. Here is the complete list:

  1. So You Want to Be a Wizard
  2. Deep Wizardry
  3. High Wizardry
  4. A Wizard Abroad
  5. The Wizard's Dilemma
  6. A Wizard Alone
  7. Wizard's Holiday
  8. Wizards at War

This is an excellent series, filled with a science-based approach to magic, and a very human-based set of relationships. Kids who like magic will enjoy them, but kids who prefer science, adventure, or comedy should enjoy them, too. I recommend, especially if younger kids are reading these books, that parents try to read them also. There are larger themes to be discussed, like the nature of good and evil, the meaning of life and death, sibling rivalry, and ways of communicating with people from different backgrounds (imagine, for example, offering a salad to a person who is a tree). And they're just plain fun, too. Nita and Kit are on the Cool Girls and Cool Boys lists, of course.

Book: Wizards at War
Author: Diane Duane (see also her blog, Out of Ambit)
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Original Publication Date: October 1, 2005
Pages: 560
Age Range: 12 and up

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.