Home > Book Reviews > Review: So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane

Review: So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane

This book starts off with a wonderful conceit:  a young girl, who seems to somewhat of a loner, ducks into the local library to escape notice of a bully.  There among the shelves, she lovingly touches the spines of dozens of books which she’s already read until she spies one that she’s never seen before.  The title reads, “So You Want to be a Wizard,” seemingly one of the myriad career books for kids.  Intrigued, she takes it home and finds that the volume is absolutely serious.  She can become a wizard, if she’s willing to pay the price.

She soon discovers that there is a whole unseen universe, where the trees recount their ancient battles with evil, where wizards protect the fabric of reality, and where young wizard apprentices must prove their mettle in service of good…. or possibly perish in the attempt.

Together with Kit, a neighbor boy who has also just recently taken the wizard’s oath, Nita must save the universe from being unmade.

I found the first scenes totally charming, since I can easily remember knowing each book on the library shelves and voraciously reading each one, sometimes one or two a day.  And, the author suggests that if you haven’t yet seen this book in your library, then you just may not be suited to wield the power.

The book is set near and in New York City and, frankly, it was shocking to see a reference to the Twin Towers.

One of the most interesting characters is that of “Fred”, a bright speck of light who is “accidentally” (there are no accidents) brought to earth via one of Kit and Nina’s first spells.  It turns out that Fred is actually a white hole whose mass is temporary stored elsewhere.  Fred provides many of the diversions by emitting large objects, mini-explosions, and light, but also supplies much of the humor due to his unfamiliarity with Earth (“….Schenectady.”  “Is that another world?”  “Nearly.”)  and also references to his elemental parts (“My gnaester will never be the same.” — after emitting some particularly large objects).

A jarring incident occurs early in the book as the two kids visit the local wizard advisories.  One of the advisories has a familiar, an exotic bird, who can foretell the future but seems very reluctant to do so.  To “encourage” the bird to speak, the advisory clenches his fit and punches the bird, and then threatens to do so again later if he doesn’t behalf.  This sounds both cruel and completely out of character for wizards who are protecting life.  I just don’t get it.

For me, the book had a few other inelegant parts, particularly as the three pass into another universe to find a book which names all things, and it doesn’t seem as fully realized as others I’ve read.  But, it was still enjoyable nonetheless.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars (finished February 11, 2011)

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Currently reading:  Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom, Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris, & Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr

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