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A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane

A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane
Book Name: A Wizard of Mars
Author: Diane Duane
Publisher(s): HMH Books for Young Readers (US) Houghton Mifflin (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): YA Urban Fantasy
Release Date: April 12, 2010

Maybe it’s because Mars is named for the Roman god of war, but something about the Red Planet has captured human imagination, or at least the imagination of Western media. Think about it: when there are invaders from within our own solar system, where do they most often come from? It’s a trope that’s over a hundred years old by now, and possibly older, though the most famous old work dealing with it I can think of is The War of the Worlds, written by H. G. Wells in 1897. Invasion from Mars is part of the human collective imagination.

But why?

A Wizard of Mars, the next in the Young Wizards series, provides an answer. Sort of. I don’t think it’s spoiling too much to say there’s some time travel involved, and we all know how that gets. (There’s even a couple paragraphs toward the end of the book joking at how hard verb tenses get when it comes to trying to talk about time travel.) Rather than trying to explain how the book answers the question – because that would be spoilers – I’ll just say that you’re in for one wild ride.

The book doesn’t quite start in medias res, but it’s close enough. A message in a bottle, for lack of a better phrase, has been found on Mars, and the book opens just as Nita and Kit, accompanied by Darryl, Ronan, Carmela, a giant space dragon (I have always wanted to use that phrase), and Earth’s Planetary Wizard are headed to Mars to investigate. The “bottle” turns out to be closer to an egg, and after digging it up out of the Martian dirt, they return it to its place. The thing is, the message is very likely a way to revive the Martians, but the decision to revive a lost species is something which must be considered carefully. To lose a whole species is a tragedy, but sometimes there are good reasons for a species to be lost, reasons which would be very good reasons not to revive them. The mystery deepens further when we learn that Mars has no kernel; in essence, the world has no soul. Everyone agrees to take this process step by step, figuring out just what happened to the Martians and whether it would be a good idea to revive them before taking any drastic measures.

As you and I surely know, things will not go according to plan. After all, who wants to read a book where every character makes their decisions by thinking things through and acting methodically?

Kit has recently been bitten by the Mars bug in a big way. It’s more than just an obsession of the month, Nita mentions; it’s more like an obsession of the year. He’s been doodling characters from the Barsoom novels in class, to the amusement of his history teacher, and he’s been volunteering to be part of a group of wizards to go up to Mars and help clean some of the dust off the rovers. It’s no surprise that he heads back up to Mars, but what is a surprise is what happens next.

Kit hatches the egg.

To be fair, it was something of a temporary hatching, as it pieces itself back together afterward, but when it opens under his touch, it sends out a signal to five other places on Mars. Kit heads back to Earth as quickly as he can, but instead of telling some magical authority what’s happened, he does what any high school boy would do and drags Darryl and Ronan up to Mars to see what’s going on.

And that’s when things get weird.

I’ll be honest: the book got a little hard to follow at the climax. Maybe it’s because I was zooming through it (I also have to admit that I was very excited and riding high on the action); maybe it’s because it’s somehow easier for me to follow philosophical discussion than action sequences. All I can say is that your mileage may vary, but you might want to take the last couple of chapters at a slightly slower pace.

I do kind of wish I’d seen more of Dairine in this book. She’s grown on me in a big way, and she’s been spending time on Wellakh, learning how to manipulate suns. Hopefully she shows up more in the coming books; I think my fondness for her has begun to eclipse even my fondness for Nita. (Considering Roshaun may not be dead and not even the manuals can determine what has happened to him, I rather think we will be seeing more of Dairine, and I might even dare to predict we’ll get one of my guilty pleasure tropes: the “I’m so happy to see you I might yell at you” reunion.)

Despite my little complaints, I did very much enjoy A Wizard of Mars. It’s been a treat watching the series grow and develop, and I couldn’t be gladder that I stumbled across it in the library several months back.


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