High Wizardry by Diane Duane
|Book Name:||High Wizardry|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||YA Urban Fantasy|
|Release Date:||March 1990|
Even though I’ve only reviewed two books in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, I’m sure people will be able to guess from the previous two reviews how this one will go. I’ll swoon over the friendship between Nita and Kit, and how the two of them are such a perfect example of a bookish friendship that does not get itself too confused with romance as too many male-female friendships do. I’ll chatter on (and on) about the theme of magic being a choice and wizardry as selflessness. I’ll point out the nonhuman character in the book and talk about how wonderfully Diane Duane brings across their characterization as both understandable and very clearly unfamiliar.
And I’ll insist on calling Diane Duane by both her first and last name, simply because I’m too fond of alliterative names for my own good.
Normally, all this would be true, and perhaps this means I ought to work on making my reviews a little less formulaic. However, High Wizardry differs from the first two books in the series in that it isn’t about Nita and Kit. Don’t get me wrong: They both show up and have a very important part to play in the plot. The protagonist of the book is not either of our familiar young wizards, though. Instead, she’s Dairine Callahan, Nita’s bratty but brilliant younger sister, who sneaks into Nita’s room one night, finds her older sister’s copy of the Wizard’s Manual, and takes the Wizard’s Oath just for fun.
This goes about as well as one might expect.
I’m not being sarcastic here. It actually does go pretty well, at least at first. If wizardry were simply something bright and fun, the way it is in the early Harry Potter books, then I expect things would go very well for Dairine. She has a knack for learning things, and that knack and yearning for knowledge is exactly what it takes to become a wizard. Whether things would go well for the rest of the world is another matter. Dairine is intelligent, but she’s also a younger sister. More to the point, she’s a geek: Her personal copy of the Wizard’s Manual is computerized, and she’s a big enough fan of Star Wars that her first thought on becoming a wizard is that she will go out and find her own Darth Vader to fight. In books like the Harry Potter series, ambition would be Dairine’s fatal flaw, leading to her becoming a villain that Nita would have to face in later books. If she were to attend Hogwarts, Dairine would be either a Ravenclaw or a Slytherin, and winding up in the latter house would automatically make her a villain.
But luckily for Dairine (and for those of us who inwardly cringe at the thought of seeing a bright, ambitious girl automatically sliding toward the darker end of the alignment chart), wizardry in this series is not something light and cheerful that arrives through genetic happenstance. Wizardry, as I have said in previous reviews and will likely say again, is a choice, and this leads to two crucial differences between the two series. The first is that this choice comes with the understanding that there will be an Ordeal, a test in which Dairine must attempt to solve some problem through the use of her magic.
The second is one that a geek such as Dairine would likely appreciate: With great power comes great responsibility, and with great responsibility comes great personal growth.
But this growth isn’t going to happen at once. At first, Dairine doesn’t consider the possibility that she’ll need to be responsible. She’s a wizard, and with the help of her trusty computer (an Apple old enough that I spaced out while trying to read the technical details of it), she’ll do whatever she wants, and what she wants is to explore.
On a trip out of the house meant to get the kids out of the way, Dairine slips away from Nita and Kit and opens a gate to Mars. From there, she heads further along the solar system, and then out of it entirely, to a planet filled with aliens so bizarre they entirely baffle her. She doesn’t have quite enough time to get accustomed to the strangeness before a group of aliens start firing at her with no explanation and no chance for her to ask any questions. Deducing they’re working for the Lone Power, the series’ version of the devil, she flees, making her way to an empty planet far enough away from anything else that she’ll have a chance to catch her breath and rest while she figures out what to do next.
At least, she assumes it’s empty, but assumptions rarely work out well for anyone in fiction.
The book isn’t entirely about Dairine. Nita and Kit get about half the book to themselves, as they try to figure out where Dairine’s gone and how they can get her back safely. Even though any new wizard must go through her Ordeal, Dairine is still someone’s baby sister. Bratty or not, that means that Nita feels it’s up to her to try protecting Dairine, especially if her sister’s up against the Lone Power.
High Wizardry is an excellent addition to the Young Wizards series, and I loved seeing Dairine grow from a slightly annoying little sister (as seen from Nita’s point of view, at least) to a wizard in her own right, ready to grow and take on the universe in her own geeky way.
Oh, and in case you were wondering whether there are any well-written nonhuman characters, I have three words for you: baby robot turtle.