Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: So You Want to be a Wizard Series by Diane Duane

I understand that there is an eternal debate on whether anyone over the age of twelve should be reading ‘Young Adult’ to which I reply PHOOEY.

I never understood this intense desire to police what other people look at. To say, ‘ONLY CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF TWELVE CAN READ HARRY POTTER’ can you imagine? Is there a cutoff date for enjoying something? Have you read some of the YA out there? It’s pretty fantastic attributed to some extraordinary talent that just happens to write with a young audience in mind.

Read what you enjoy, it’s as simple as that.

And I certainly enjoy the Young Wizard Series. I didn’t even get to read the series when it began, when I was the targeted age group – a kid in the 80’s and 90’s. I discovered the series when I was in my early twenties from a friend who HAD grown up with it (still makes me jealous, to think of that missed opportunity).

I think there was certainly a golden age of sci-fi and fantasy young adult books and that golden age was in the 60’s and 70’s and maaaaybe part of the early 80’s – if you look at a lot of the writing then there is just….something about it that exemplifies what sci-fi should be.

A Wrinkle in Time, Return from Witch Mountain, The Giver and certainly So You Want To Be a Wizard.

It would be hard to choose a favorite book of the series so let’s try and summarize.

Nita Callahan is smart, good at school and a girl and being smart and quiet and a girl tends to attract bullies who like to use her as a punching bag. Life isn’t looking so rosy for Nita until one day in the library her hand snags an unostentatious book called So You Want to be a Wizard which opens up worlds for her. Literally.

To be a Wizard in this series isn’t to battle great and terrible foes (which does happen on occasion) nor to use insanely powerful magic (though that happens sometimes too) but simply to be a caretaker of the universe and all the diverse life within it. And you just happen to have ‘magic’ to make that happen.

What I absolutely love, love, love about the series is the absolute realism? accuracy? of the magic system. What is magic after all? What we call ‘magic’ is simply something we don’t really understand – I imagine taking an iphone 4s and showing it to a medieval farmer would be shouted down as ‘magic’ (also-witchcraft, which would then get you burned at the stake) but in fact, behind the making of that phone is many years of science, trial and error and knowledge. ‘Magic’.

‘Magic’ in the Young Wizard series is simply the laws that govern the world. Science, concrete formulas and equations that allow you to move matter, grow things and even travel to interstellar worlds; things that are all actually possible, just not until our understanding of science catches up with ambition.

Our main characters – Nita, her precocious prodigy sister Dairine and best friend Kit are some of the best fleshed out characters I’ve ever read. The author has the talent to make them real – Nita, Kit and Dairine are characters you know, grow up with, identify with. The world within those pages is real. That is the mark of a good author; the ability to make you believe in that world, to be involved, to make you see everything that goes on in vivid detail.

So far in the series our Wizards have traveled the deep ocean and the farthest reaches of space, battled gods and demons, experienced terrible loss, sacrificed and grown in their strengths and particular fields of magic (Nita is fast becoming adept at a type of precognition). All along the way is a supporting cast of wonderful, strange and hilarious group of friends, mentors, colleagues and ‘pets’ (if you could call them that).

The last time I checked I think there were nine books in the series, the last being A Wizard on Mars. I haven’t checked for anything new in some years so there may be more.

Diane Duane is a veteran writer with, well, a LOT of books to her name not just the Young Wizard series; short stories, film and television, comics- you name it this is one impressive lady.

So You Want to be a Wizard series is one of those book series that everybody should read, at least once in their lifetime. You won’t regret it, I promise.

1 comment:

  1. Diane Duane's writing is like poetry. Some bits of those books make me go shivery all over, still, after multiple readings. It's a rare, rare author who can do that-- Pratchett and Alexander Key are the only other ones that come to mind