Book Review: So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane

I just finished re-reading the Harry Potter series, and my thirst for fantasy, wizardry, and magic had not been quenched, so I picked up So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane without knowing much about it. I have to admit, I did have trouble getting into the book. I don’t know if the book was just slow to start or what, but I almost put this book down. Once Fred, the white hole, came into the picture though I became intrigued.

So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (Young Wizards #1)

Released: 1983
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Nita Callahan, thirteen years old, ducks into the local library to escape the torment of the neighborhood bully, Joanne. While hiding in the book stacks, she finds a book titled So You Want to be a Wizard among other career exploration books for children. She brings the book home with her and discovers it is about the art of wizardry. She believes it to be a hoax, but she decides to take the Wizard Oath anyway– just in case. The next day, when she is out trying to do her first spell, she meets Kit Rodriguez, a young Hispanic boy who gets picked on for being too smart.  She finds out he is also a fellow wizard. The two complete a spell together which summons an intelligent white hole, Fred, from space; he informs the young wizards that a book, The Naming of the Lights, has gone missing and the universe may be in danger. Nita’s doubts about the book are gone: she is a wizard.

I’m still baffled at Nita and Kit’s ability to have what seems to be a sudden understanding of complex wizardry though. I mean, the two only had the spellbook for a few days, and already they knew exactly what spells to use and when and how to manipulate basic spells into something more complex. It just didn’t seem believable even though it is a fantasy novel. It just seemed like they would have needed more training before jumping into the big stuff– the really big stuff.

I also had a problem with the way certain characters were introduced.  Sometimes their introductions seemed so sudden, specifically with the Perytons. When Nita and Kit are casting a spell, these villainous creatures begin to approach them. The two know them immediately as Perytons as if Perytons were creatures they passed in everyday life. When I initially read the passage describing the Perytons, I thought they were humans with wolf-like features, but I was very wrong. I later looked them up, and I guess they look just like wolves except for more evil…?*shrug*

Confusion aside, I am glad I picked up the book. I enjoyed the characters in the story. Nita and Kit, the protagonists, are underdogs, but they don’t feel sorry for themselves. Instead, they try to find ways to overcome the bullying they endure daily. It just so happens that the lessons they learn through wizardry hold the answers. Fred, the white hole that is summoned, is my absolute favorite though. He is just a fun character! His awe of the new world and the sun (which he describes as “cute”) is so heartwarming, and his comments often evoked a few chuckles out of me.

Sci-fi is as much a part of the book as fantasy is since much of the magic revolves around manipulating the physical environment and time. I was surprised at how complex this was considering it’s a book aimed at pre-teens. For example, Fred says:

[I] have to find a functional-Advisory nexus in a hurry. I found out that the Naming of the Lights has gone missing, and I managed to find a paradimensional net with enough empty loci to get me to an Advisory in a hurry.

I scratched my head at that one and proceeded to look up a bunch of words in that sentence. I appreciated that Duane didn’t dumb the book down though. It certainly makes for a challenging but fulfilling read.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was Nita’s closeness to nature. Her closeness allows her to communicate with and manipulate nature easier than say things that are man-made, like cars and planes, which appears to be Kit’s specialty. Nita’s closeness to nature allows for some really interesting dialogue between Nita and the trees that I absolutely adored.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a magic or wizard fix. It’s part of a series, and I think I’d like to read the rest, but I’m not in a rush to read them.