RogerBW's Blog

So You Want To Be a Wizard, Diane Duane 27 March 2024

1983 fantasy for children (and everyone else), first of a long series. While hiding from bullies in the library, thirteen-year-old Nita Callahan finds a book that promises to teach magic. But nothing is free.

On one level this is adventurous fantasy for children. But it's also all about morality: magic would often seem to offer a simple solution to problems, but even if that achieves its immediate goal, the wizard will have to live with the consequences. Having done a thing makes you the sort of person who does that thing, who will perhaps reach for it through familiarity when something else might be a better fit for the problem. And thus would a wizard-tyrant be made.

Or not. Maybe I'm reading too much into this. But Duane has clearly given it some thought, and as Nita (and fellow new wizard Kit Rodriguez) are quickly faced with a problem that seems far beyond their ability to solve their priority is always what is the right thing to do.

At the same time, there's organic humour—not jokes for the sake of jokes, this certainly isn't a comedy, but a realisation of the inherent ridiculousness of the situation. It makes Nita and Kit feel more like actual children, rather than like generic protagonists who happen to be young.

As far as books with children and supernaturalism go, this stands with Diana Wynne Jones and Madeleine l'Engle. It's moral without being moralising, educational without being didactic. This is a book of desperate struggles, tragedy, heroic self-sacrifice, and the importance of being a good person rather than just a powerful one. You know, for kids.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

  1. Posted by Rand Brittain at 07:48pm on 27 March 2024

    Did you read the original version or the updated "Milennium" edition from Duane's site? Interested to see how the differences strike people coming at the series fresh.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:49pm on 27 March 2024

    Original. I've read it before and I wanted the familiar version. Some time I probably will compare them.

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