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Wizards at War by Diane Duane

Wizards at War by Diane Duane
Book Name: Wizards at War
Author: Diane Duane
Publisher(s): Magic Carpet Books (US) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): YA Urban Fantasy
Release Date: June 1, 2007 (US) October 1, 2005 (UK)

At long last, I can finally say something I’ve wanted to say since reading Wizard’s Holiday but couldn’t, for fear of spoilers: How about that cliffhanger? I haven’t seen a cliffhanger in one of Diane Duane’s books before – and given that I’ve made it through nearly a dozen, I do think I can say I’ve read enough to make generalizations about them. I’ve read open endings, but none which left me practically on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. Spot’s worry, however, chilled me, and I may have skipped ahead a little in my library list so that I could read the next book in the series.

And oh, boy. It did not disappoint.

Wizards at War is one of those books in which it seems that everything which can possibly go wrong will go wrong, despite all the best attempts of the protagonists. The Lone Power is at work again, this time with a plan so awful that it makes the stakes in the previous books pale by comparison and reminded us just how dangerous he can really be. This time he isn’t attempting to sway just one wizard or even just (just!) the population of one planet: this time his goal appears to be nothing less than the destruction of all wizardry and through that, all life.

Remember from the first book, all those months of reviews ago, that wizardry exists to preserve life and to serve it? Well, it turns out wizardry has been doing much more than we realized. The Lone Power’s work involves using a rapid expansion of dark matter (the science of which is over my head, given that I studied acting in college, but I’m content with it existing as a way to kick off the plot) to drain wizardry out of the universe. As it leaves, wizards will stop believing in wizardry and even rewrite their own memories to explain away what doesn’t make a bit of sense to their new, “rational” mindset. Worse still, people who never even had the faintest idea that wizardry ever existed will become more drawn into themselves, relying on base emotions like anger and fear to remind themselves of what’s real. Chaos will ensue; fear and anger don’t have to lead to the Dark Side in Jedi to have very dangerous consequences.

Sounds scary, right? It also sounds pretty real.

I’m wary of getting into politics when it comes to reviewing books, especially kids’ books, that might not necessarily be political, and Wizards at War was written over ten years ago. Still, given all the talk lately of voters in America and other countries being ruled by fear as they went to the polls, this book struck a chord with me. It doesn’t help that I’ve reached an age where I look back at my childhood imaginings and view them more as cute games than as something real.

On the one hand, I know this is just a book and not the real world. On the other? Well, let’s just keep an eye on what dark matter’s up to.

I’ll be honest: this book tore into me. While it’s still a children’s book (and thank goodness for that, for I think I’d have been doing more than just tearing up if it hadn’t been), it delivers some hard messages, the chief among them being a message on sacrifice. This being a book in the Young Wizard’s series, it’s practically inescapable, and half of it is the message that the other books have been giving: Sacrifice is necessary.

This time, there is a corollary. Sacrifice is necessary, but sometimes it isn’t enough.

If I had to pick a war novel to be a child’s first, I would pick this one. Filled with magic, giant bugs, and grand ideals, it is removed enough from the reality of war to make it safe for a young person. At the same time, as the title states, it is very clearly a war book. As Nita, Kit, and other wizards from Earth and beyond go to battle against the Lone Power, I felt the same fear and determination I would expect from protagonists in a book about World War II or the Civil War. Their journeys through an alien world completely lost to the Lone Power held the same claustrophobia and separation from home as trenches or the jungles of Vietnam. And, as I said before, the book touches eerily on present fears (which are, perhaps, eternal fears) of the world slipping away into the darkness.

At the same time as the book reminds us of the dangers of giving in to baser emotions, it acts as a subtle call to keep from surrendering to those emotions entirely. It also gives us a bit of hope: even if sacrifice is not always enough, there will always be someone willing to make a sacrifice. If moments of great goodness are always possible for some brave few, then surely moments of small goodness are always possible for we nervous many.

And before I get you thinking that this book is nothing but darkness intermingled with tears, I should let you know that it has Ponch in it. That means it can’t be all bad, right?


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