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Wizard’s Holiday by Diane Duane

Wizard’s Holiday by Diane Duane
Book Name: Wizard's Holiday
Author: Diane Duane
Publisher(s): HMH Books for Young Readers
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): YA
Release Date: October 1, 2003

It’s probably a safe assumption that people who read my reviews are familiar with the website TV Tropes. (For those who are not, beware: this website will quite literally eat hours of your time, along with expanding your to-be-read and to-be-watched lists.) There is a certain trope which the site refers to as a Busman’s Holiday. Even someone who has never heard the term before has likely encountered it in their fan lives. A character goes on vacation but, while on that vacation, winds up doing just about what they would have done at home. The example TV Tropes gives is of a detective who gets roped into solving a murder while on vacation, but the storyline could be extended to any fictional character… even a wizard.

Wizard's Holiday by Diane DuaneI think, based on that, you can tell what Wizard’s Holiday is about.

You would be right. The book opens with Dairine having arranged for something of a wizard exchange program: a couple wizards from Earth get to go to another world, and a couple wizards from another world get to come to Earth. Naturally, being Dairine, she’s done this behind everyone’s back, and Tom (one of the senior wizards for the New York area) “grounds” her to the solar system. Traveling to another world except for one of the ones surrounding the sun is out of the question. Fortunately, there are two other young wizards available to travel, so the trip isn’t wasted. Before we get much of a chance to feel sorry for Dairine (who is delightfully hard to pity), Nita and Kit are on their way to Alaalu, a world whose landmass is composed solely of an archipelago. Two weeks of relaxing on a beach sounds just about perfect to Nita, and given how peaceful Alaalu is, she can’t imagine she and Kit will be called on to actually work.

At first, it seems as though everything will go according to plan. Alaalu is a pastoral paradise, and Quelt, the resident wizard, is a friendly teenager eager to share her world with the new arrivals. However, something seems a little off, and it isn’t helped by the strange, semi-prophetic dreams Nita’s been having about people frozen in place and glaciers. Bit by bit, Alaalu grows more unsettling, and I hope it isn’t too much of a spoiler to say that it’s equal parts melancholy and creepy. Diane Duane does a wonderful job of balancing the two, and while I didn’t cry at the end, I definitely got choked up a little.

Nita and Kit’s vacation isn’t the whole of the book. After all, Dairine and her father have to deal with three wizards coming from three different worlds to visit the two of them in their mostly ordinary house and very ordinary neighborhood, leading to Dairine getting to play tour guide to an alien centipede, a sentient tree, and an utter brat of an alien who turns out to be royalty. Quite honestly, if that were the whole of Dairine’s half of the book, I would read it and be perfectly content. Dairine has grown wonderfully from being just Nita’s bratty little sister to being a three-dimensional character in her own right, witty and hilarious and just bratty enough to keep from being an annoyingly perfect younger sibling. Seeing her butt heads with the equally stubborn alien prince was equal parts wonderful and frustrating, though the frustration only came from my empathy for Dairine. For once she has to put up with someone who can stand up to her, and she doesn’t take it at all well.

Of course, even the subplot can’t be entirely fluff, but I’m perfectly fine with that. (Better than fine, in fact; despite my protests to the contrary and all my fanfic reading history, I suspect I would find myself rather bored with pure fluff.) After all, it would hardly be fair if Nita and Kit were the only ones roped into rescuing a world or two during their holiday.

Wizard's Holiday (Detail) 2As always, even the minor characters shine. Harry Callahan, Nita and Dairine’s dad, fits quite easily on the list of Fictional Dads I Want As My Dad; his reaction to learning he will be hosting three very different aliens for two weeks is admirably calm, and he does very well at handling the difficulties one faces when hosting a literally omnivorous sentient centipede and a tree which quite understandably grows distressed at seeing a forest fire on the evening news. Roshaun, the frustrating alien prince, puts me in mind of other frustrating princes of children’s literature, namely Ellidyr from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. While that is a stock character, it’s one that I don’t think I will ever grow tired of so long as it is written well, and if there’s one thing I trust Diane Duane to do, it’s to write well.

And then there’s the Lone Power, who quite necessarily shows up and shows a very different side to the readers than we have seen before. I got the shivers while reading those parts of the book and may have gasped aloud at one point.

In short, Wizard’s Holiday is an excellent addition to an already excellent series. I couldn’t be more glad I decided to revisit these books.


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