Review: Wizards at War

Wizards at War
by Diane Duane

Product Description (from Booklist):
The youthful wizards Kit and Nita preceded the trainees of Hogwarts by more than a decade, and they are still clobbering the forces of Death in the name of the Powers That Be. In this eighth volume of Duane’s Young Wizards adventures, the Lone One has corrupted the basic structure of reality, causing the universe to expand and all wizards past “latency”–in other words, grown-ups–to lose their abilities, leaving it to the kids to prevent cataclysm. The novel is overlong and densely crammed with bewildering jargon, but the basic plot strands are compelling, particularly one set among a hive society reminiscent of Orson Scott Card’s buggers. Even early series fans who have since outgrown Duane’s particular brand of pseudoscientific mysticism may be attracted by the cameo appearances of previous books’ characters and references to past story lines. The full-cast-reunion aspect prevents this from standing alone, but keep the overall series in mind for Harry Potter buffs whose interests are broad enough to allow them to easily move between Rowling’s genteel, mock-Eton fantasy and traditional sf.

My Thoughts:
I hadn’t read any of Diane Duane’s Young Wizards novels in years, and then, while cleaning up for Christmas, I found book seven, which a friend had given me months before. I read it, then had to re-read books 1-6, and then re-read book seven. Then, while my husband was away, I ordered books eight and nine.

The thing I love about Duane’s series is that while it’s technically a young adult series, or even meant for kids younger than middle school, it’s deep enough to appeal to adults as well. (I find, actually, that much of what is considered YA today is more interesting and provocative than the literature marketed as contemporary fiction or literary fiction for adults).

Kit and Nita, along with Nita’s sister Dairene, and some wizardly foreign (very foreign – not-of-this-earth) exchange students have grown up somewhat, and the stories now take place in a “now” that’s post-9/11, even though the timeline remains consistent within itself. (That’s confusing, I know, but basically it means that even if time outside the books has jumped years, the book that was written in 1988 is still a month before the book written in 1990, or whatever, but both are in whatever was “now” at the time of writing), so it’s nice to see them using current technology at home.

This book, however, with the expanding blackness, the adult wizards losing sight of their magic, etc., seems very much a post-modern fairy-tale, and the darkness in the book-world, while exaggerated, seems to fit perfectly with the tensions going on in reality. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Duane had worked in an “Occupy the Crossroads” plotline, except this was written a few years ago.

Even so, the stories continue to be gripping. Dairene’s maturation as a person is interesting to watch, and there are hints of changes to the dynamic between Kit and Nita.

Dog-lovers will appreciate both the sensitivity with which a certain character’s story is ended, and the humor that comes in an old joke.

Goes well with: macaroni and cheese. Trust me on this – it’s a book that requires comfort food.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Review: Wizards at War by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.