furyofvissarion: (Default)
[personal profile] furyofvissarion
I did a reread recently of the first 7 of Diane Duane's Young Wizards books (I've previously posted brief reactions on my last reread). The series follows Long Island kids Nita & Kit as they discover they're wizards & run around drawn into adventures in the battle between good & evil. Wow, that's a dismissive summary, but I actually love these books (ask me about my Diane Duane tattoo, if you don't already know! I have plans for a second, even... ).

Anyway, general notes on the series: Things I like: that Nita & Kit end up having to tell their parents pretty quickly about being wizards (& then deal w/the disbelief & worry & anger that comes from that). There's not a ton of Nita & Kit running around w/flimsy excuses for disappearing, or embarrassing moments where their parents buy these excuses or somehow fail to notice magic being carried out under their noses. I also like that the books, especially later ones, feature ways in which nonwizards can have power, can help others, can make real differences in the world around them. I also really appreciate that Duane put in a gay couple, even if, in the early books certainly, this was downplayed: like, Carl & Tom just happened to be living together, no big. I think way back in the '80s when these books were first published, that was probably pretty radical (for those who even noticed). Also, I love that Nita & Kit live on Long Island. Sure, they spend a lot of time in NYC or other planets, whatever, but Long Island is their home & a lot of stuff does happen there. My kid self would've been thrilled, because nothing I read was ever set in the boring suburbs, & I liked NYC a lot as a kid, but it wasn't where I was from.

Brief commentary on individual books:

So You Want to be a Wizard - This book is kind of a love song to Manhattan, I think: the way the v. statues & trees come alive to defend the city (from the depredations of poor oppressed twisted taxicabs!) makes me a bit meepy. Given that the book was published in the early '80s, when NYC as a whole was in rather a state of decline, that's even more awesome.

Deep Wizardry - Always my favorite in the series! Again with the Long Island theme -- this takes place on the shore (&, well, below it, as they spend a lot of time underwater). I love them all turning into whales, I love the marine stuff. & okay, the last book (& I guess every book?) has some kind of potentially world-threatening problem cropping up, but this one particularly feels weighty to me. Maybe it's the Long Island stuff, talking about problems in the water, pollution from NYC, etc. Nita signs her life away without realizing it -- & for a long time, you wonder how on earth she's going to get out of it. You're pretty sure she will, as she's clearly the protagonist (along w/Kit) & this is way early in the series, but you just spend a lot of time turning over in your head how Duane will fix things. & it's v. satisfying, I think, though that's partly b/c I adore the amoral Master Shark. I love him for arguing w/Nita that he isn't a monster, he is how he was made, & isn't it good that he is able to end distress? That is what he's designed to do; if he feels someone distressed around him, he is programmed to end it. I love the theme about things not changing, & how that can be a good thing but also a hard, hard thing, & how in the end even the things that seem most immovable can be changed.

High Wizardry - So this book is to lol, because Nita's younger sister Dairine is a computer whiz & so here we get lots of late '80s references to Apple computers & stuff. It's kind of adorable now. Anyway, I used to kind of not like Dairine, & find her obnoxious. But I really appreciate how smart she is & how tenacious -- how even at a really young age, she connected knowledge w/being able to do things & change things. & also -- her jealousy at discovering Nita is a wizard, & her sharp longing to be able to "do something," in terms of feeling powerless & wanting to be able to change the world. ♥

A Wizard Abroad - In which Nita is sent to her aunt's in Ireland for the summer by her parents, in hopes of giving her a break from wizard work. Nope. There were a few irksome things I noticed this time around: a reference to Native American wizardry hardly leaving any magic residue because it's all "so natural" -- ugh (as compared to Ireland, where wizardry has to be handled carefully b/c of all the debris from past magics lying around). & hoo boy, I wish Duane (a US American living in Ireland) had gotten someone to read this book pre-publication w/an eye to Irish vs. US slang. There are too many moments where Nita tosses off phrases that they use in Ireland, not because she's adapting quickly to slang over there (a couple of times like that are noted in the text), but I think because no one pointed out that, for example, as a Long Island kid she would never refer to a road as a "dual carriageway." Nor would she call her Mom "Mum." Also, it's noted that Nita is afraid of horses -- & then in the next scene she goes right into a stable to see them, of her own volition, w/o seeming discomfort. I don't think it's that she faked being scared of horses for plot reasons either. Oh, & the wizardly Senior for "Western Europe" covers territory that apparently includes Oslo & Moscow, lolz. Anyway, this book is all right, but I don't have a lot of patience for storylines to do w/Ye Olde Irish Myths much these days, partly b/c they were shoved down my throat as a child as some of the only mythical traditions worth thinking about at all.

The Wizard's Dilemma - Nita's mother is dying of cancer, & Nita tries to fix it & is given the opportunity to basically sell out, stop being a wizard fighting for the good guys, in order to save her mom's life. This is a reasonable dilemma to expect Nita to face, & it's suitably heartwrenching. What I love is that Nita's mom herself takes the chance to save Nita & strike a blow against the Lone Power: I love that finally, we start seeing how non-wizards can have power & agency (aside from, say, in the early books before Nita & Kit's parents knew they were wizards, & their parents would ground them or whatever).

A Wizard Alone - There is a v. powerful kid wizard that the Lone Power's making a special effort to destroy. Darryl, this wizard, is also autistic. I can't judge Duane's portrayal of autism (someone I know who has some academic background that's related says it's not bad, but IDK), though on this reread I was especially uneasy of the trope of Darryl being cured of his autism & also the sort of... noble disabled person? I will say, in this book Nita & Dairine are grieving after their mom's death, & some of this sounds a lot like general depression, so -- validating but also triggery as hell.

Wizard's Holiday - Nita & Kit get sent off to a distant planet for a wizardly cultural exchange program; Dairine, in her turn, plays host to 3 alien visitors. I like Dairine's stuff more here: there's a lot of hilarity in taking 3 aliens, 2 of whom are distinctly nonhumanoid, to a Long Island shopping mall. I also really like how Kit's older sister, the nonwizardly Carmela, also begins to show that she has power & significance even in a wizardly setting. Whereas Nita & Kit's side of things deals w/a species that rejected the advances of the Lone Power way back when they first became sentient. Which, that's nice, & I am sure there are lots of readers who would find the philosophical debates this entails interesting & touching, but it left me a little cold. I do adore Ponch, Kit's dog, who becomes more & more sentient & magically powerful (if confusing) over the last few books, so seeing him romp around this new planet & also do some v. helpful things for Nita & Kit is great.

Date: 2013-03-29 02:15 pm (UTC)
phi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phi
I love this series so much <3

Tell me about your DD tattoo please?

Date: 2013-03-29 02:19 pm (UTC)
phi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phi

Date: 2013-03-29 09:23 pm (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
Yes, the shark, and Ponch! Deep Wizardry (italics difficult on phone) is far and away my favorite, too.

The edition of the Irish one was a UK printing, for me, which I figured meant that "dual carriageway" etc. was the result of a heavy-handed editor. Perhaps not.


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