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A Wizard Abroad by Diane Duane

A Wizard Abroad by Diane Duane
Book Name: A Wizard Abroad
Author: Diane Duane
Publisher(s): Harcourt Trade Publishers
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): YA Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 1993

Can any self-respecting fantasy author write a series about magic in our world without mentioning Ireland?

The answer, of course, is yes, but facts are beside the point. The point is Ireland has a place in the popular imagination (particularly the popular imagination of the sorts of people prone to reading fantasy and thinking about what magic would be like in our world) as a country filled with oddness, with fairies and wise women hiding under every stone or sitting by every kitchen table. It is a land where the mundane and the magical exist side-by-side with hardly anyone batting an eye.

Diane Duane may not have necessarily needed to set A Wizard Abroad in Ireland, or even have Nita travel at all, but I’m glad she did on both counts. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for the juxtaposition of Ireland and magic, and the fourth book in the Young Wizards series was everything I could have hoped for.

Nita actually does have a reason for going to Ireland beyond “let’s set a book there to explore magic”; her parents want her to take a break from wizardry. Though they are actually fairly accepting of her vocation, they are also understandably worried. After all, she’s nearly died several times, and her younger sister accidentally became a mother to a whole planet during her first excursion into being a wizard, and neither one is old enough to get a driver’s license yet. It’s enough to make even the most open-minded parent concerned, and though Nita tries to warn her parents that she might still be called into service if she’s needed, they buy a ticket and ship her off to her aunt in Bray, away from any wizarding troubles that might pop up in New York and (just as important) away from her partner-in-crime Kit.

From the very first day, Nita learns that being in Ireland won’t be just a vacation away from the excitement in New York (and not just magical excitement; her aunt lives on a farm near a small town). She arrives jet-lagged and falls asleep shortly after getting to her aunt’s house only to be woken in the middle of the night by the sounds of men and horses. When she looks outside, she sees nothing at all. Confused, she goes to the kitchen, where her aunt has made her some tea.

“Oh, that?” her aunt says when Nita mentions the sound, completely nonplussed. “That’s just the ghosts. Welcome to Ireland.”

The magical and the mundane are married tightly in Ireland. Though not everyone knows about wizardry there, wizardry is far more closely tied to the people and the land in Ireland than in New York. Where Nita, Kit, and Dairine needed to learn their wizardry from a manual, Irish wizards simply gain their knowledge. It seems to simply come from itself, a notion just as baffling to Nita as her manual is to them, though it also makes perfect sense. Something about Ireland is just different; spells cast there don’t fade away as they do in New York but linger, making it more dangerous to cast another spell. At first, Nita is unaware of this, until she finds herself slipping between Ireland and a world just adjacent to it without any of the effort that should be necessary to do so.

Then it happens again. And again. And she finds out it’s been happening to non-wizards as well.

Something is very wrong in Ireland.

As always, when something is wrong in the Young Wizards ‘verse, the Lone Power is to blame. Yes, He has been twice bound and once redeemed by Nita (and bound countless other times by other wizards throughout time and space), but the tricky thing about having a villain exist outside of time is that his arc will not follow a linear path. He may be defeated in one book, but that is no guarantee that he will not be back in the next.

And honestly? It works for me. Diane Duane doesn’t dwell on it too much, which would probably completely ruin the effect. This isn’t a series which needs to progressively build its stakes to remain interesting, and I appreciate that. (Of course, considering the stakes are often reality itself, it’s rather hard to build from that.)

It shouldn’t really be a surprise to know that I enjoyed the book. After all, I admitted from the start I have a soft spot for stories of magic in Ireland, and those of you who have read my other reviews of the books in this series will know that I’m a big fan of Diane Duane’s writing and the way she’s built this world. A Wizard Abroad expands the world of Young Wizards and twists it slightly, making it more interesting by altering how magic works in different countries.

Naturally, there’s a nonhuman character, though in this case I wasn’t as fond of her as I have been in the past. The white hole and baby robot turtle were very clearly not human, and Ed the shark had a distinct flavor to his dialogue that I can only manage to describe as “sharklike”. Tualha the cat, though, didn’t feel quite as perfectly nonhuman as the others. Maybe it’s because cats are closer to humans than sharks and white holes, or maybe things are different because she’s a bard, but she didn’t seem as separate from humanity as Ed.

I can’t lie, though: She’s a delight to read regardless, and so is the rest of the book. Pick it up. I’m sure you’ll love it.


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