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The Young Wizards Series
Diane Duane
Magic Carpet/Harcourt

Diane Duane
Born May 18, 1952, Diane Duane was raised in Roosevelt (Long Island), New York. In college she studied astronomy, astrophysics, then switched to nursing and became an RN specialized in psychiatry in 1974. Her fantasy was first published in 1979 with The Door into Fire, the first title in the Epic Tale of the Five series, which earned her two nominations for the John W. Campbell Award for best new science fiction/fantasy author. In 1987 she married Irish fantasy writer Peter Morwood and in 1988 relocated to a home near Baltinglass, Ireland, where she continues to reside. Duane has written a number of Star Trek and other media tie-in books, some in collaboration with her husband. With close to 30 novels, numerous short stories, and many publications/scripts for other media to her credit, Diane Duane also takes time to enjoy gardening, collecting recipes and cookbooks, as well as computers and electronic communications.

The Young Wizards Series began in 1983 with So You Want to Be a Wizard and has reached five volumes with the recent release of The Wizard's Dilemma.

Diane Duane/Peter Morwood home page
Biography 1, 2
Bibliography: ISFDB, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (in French), 6, 7(in French), 8 (in French), 9, 10, 11

"On Writing Star Trek Novels": 1, 2
"On Inventing a Romulan Language for the ST Novels My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way
"The Queen, the Thief and the Dragon"
Excerpt from To Visit the Queen: 1, 2

The Book of Night with Moon: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
"Blank Check" in On Crusade: More Tales of the Templar Knights
Dark Mirror
Honor Blade
Spiderman: The Venom Factor
Spiderman: The Octopus Agenda
"Tina" in Horror at Halloween
To Visit the Queen: 1, 2
A Wizard Abroad


Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

The Young Wizards Series
So You Want to be a Wizard -- 386 pages
Deep Wizardry -- 371 pages
High Wizardry -- 353 pages
A Wizard Abroad -- 356 pages
The Wizard's Dilemma -- 403 pages

The Wizard's Dilemma
Deep Wizardry
So You Want to Be a Wizard
A Wizard Abroad
High Wizardry
The Young Wizards Series tells of the adventures of the young teen wizards Nita Callahan and Kit Rodriguez along with Nita's kid sister Dairine, as they use wizardry to defeat the chaotic plans of the Lone One, master of entropy. The imaginative and meticulously detailed locations for these battles include an alternate New York City, deep-sea waters beneath the Atlantic, interstellar space, a magic-saturated Ireland, and inside a diseased human body. Their descriptions and that of the characters are such that it is easy to suspend disbelief, enter the world of Diane Duane's young wizards and empathize with them as they face their enemy. The rapid pace, diverse adventures and genuine threat of what they are up against make the books the exciting page-turners they are.

The characters cast spells, but this is not the spellcasting of Dungeons and Dragons, Aleister Crowley, the villains of Dennis Wheatley novels, Harry Potter or even Jill Murphy's Worst Witch. These wizards use a manual and specialized language to use or modify physical and chemical characteristics of matter in a manner which allows the wizards to alter them or even communicate with them. Essentially wizardry is super-technological rather than supernatural, Dairine even accessing and building her spells through a computer.

Given this, plenty of high-intensity adventure throughout most of the series, the absolutely chaste relationship between Nita and Kit, and the lack of any overt theological tie-ins (for example, the theological concepts of sin and evil are never mentioned), the series would seem palatable to even the most dogmatic of theists, however much they might like to think that the mere thought of spellcasting drives children inexorably to Satanism. The character of the Lone One, while sharing some common threads with Satan, is really more a symbol of entropy/decay and selfishness, and isn't presented so much as a seductive, malevolent scheming individual out to corrupt souls, but rather as a sad and lonely creature who spreads his own brand of corruption to some extent because he doesn't know what else to do with himself, being essentially trapped in his "persona."

In this time when young magicians like Harry Potter are all the rage, and psychics and other "new-age" exploiters of the gullible are doing as much business as their more socially acceptable cousins the televangelists, it is nice to see a fantasy series so firmly founded in science. This isn't to suggest that The Young Wizards series is atheistic, as it does hold to the notion of one or more God-like entities having created the universe and continuing to influence it, it just doesn't wallow in the superstition-building that usually follows. The wizards' code to which Nita, Kit, Dairine and all the other wizards must adhere is one of help or non-interference to others, which can be largely summarized by the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

In the first book So You Want to Be a Wizard, we are introduced to Nita, a smart but socially awkward 12-year-old girl who is the prey of bullies. When she escapes them in the local library, she discovers, among the how-to books, the title So You Want to Be a Wizard. This sets her, along with the slightly older Spanish-American boy-wizard, Kit, on her way to her first mission. Together they enter a wonderfully detailed nightmarish alternate New York City where the Lone One is massing his minions for a full-scale trans-dimensional invasion of Nita and Kit's New York.

Their next mission, Deep Wizardry, takes them into dolphin and whale forms to re-enact an ancient deep-sea binding ceremony to re-imprison the Lone One (a bit like Cthulhu in Ry'leh). However, the ritual play of the binding ceremony requires one of the participants to freely offer themselves up and be devoured at a critical moment.

In High Wizardry, Dairine gets hold of a computerized wizard's manual, and Nita's pesky kid-sister is off on an interstellar debut mission of her own, before Nita or Kit can intervene. Faced with a Lone One who can snuff out stars like wet fingers on a candle, the trio is hard-pressed to defeat their foe.

In A Wizard Abroad a now maturing teenage Nita is sent to her aunt's in Ireland to cool the relationship between her and Kit, but she and eventually Kit and Dairine become embroiled in another binding ceremony, this one tied in to ancient Irish mythology.

Finally, in The Wizard's Dilemma, Nita must consider renouncing wizardry and entering a pact with Lone One, when magic seems unable to cure her mother of cancer. However, though they have grown somewhat distant, Kit is not about to see her take such a step, but ultimately it is neither of them who truly defeats the Lone One.

Despite the diversity and obvious attention to accuracy and detail in terms of the surroundings, there are aspects that, while probably overlooked by the target audience, grated on me as an adult. Firstly, while the characters were certainly not do-gooding goody-two-shoes, they apparently were essentially flawless. Neither Nita nor Kit ever even considers using the magic for their own selfish ends, not even something trivial like conjuring up of a gallon of chocolate ice-cream or a new skateboard. Especially since they at least initially have no adult mentors, it would seem odd that as 12- to 13-year-olds they would not experiment. Similarly, it strikes me that children of their age, however mature, would have a great deal more psychological difficulty handling the concept of giving up their lives to save others, than Nita does in Deep Wizardry (but then Diane Duane was a psychiatric nurse, so I may not be on very solid ground with that one). Similarly, there isn't, except for an alien possessed by the Lone One, a single wizard gone bad, or a mole amongst the good wizards. The Lone One, while he has a number of undead and other minions, seems to have few if any wizards on his payroll, apparently doing most all of his wizardry himself... well he is after all "lone." To mitigate this, I must say that the Lone One is not painted exclusively black and appears to be capable of redemption, at least in some of his many forms.

My second problem with the series is that none of the characters are really faced with a moral dilemma with which they ultimately have to deal. Dealing one on one with the Lone One is pretty clear -- he's bad; Nita, Kit and Dairine are good -- but in Deep Wizardry and The Wizard's Dilemma Nita is faced with some powerful moral dilemmas. However, in the first a fortuitous circumstance saves her from having to make a final choice between self-sacrifice and survival, while in the second her thoughts of forming a pact with the Lone One to save her mother are quickly quashed by Kit and her mother. Again these flaws are mitigated by strong messages of self-sacrifice and of not returning evil for evil.

For the young adult reader, The Young Wizards Series is a an exciting read with interesting and unusual locations and characters with which they can empathize. The clear, rational form of wizardry presented should offend no one and certainly brings up a number of physical and biological concepts rarely dealt with in young adult literature. Of course, readers may wish to scour their local library or used bookstore to find their own copy of the Wizard's Manual, but remember: it only comes to those born to it. So meanwhile, The Young Wizards Series can serve as a preview of what you can expect after you recite the wizard's oath.

Copyright © 2001 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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