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A Wizard Abroad
by Diane Duane
Book 4 of the ongoing Young Wizards series tackles the problem of what new direction to take teen wizards Nita and Kit in. After all, they’ve been to a parallel dimension, they’ve been at the bottom of the sea, and they’ve been to the farthest reaches of the universe. They’ve confronted the ultimate evil, they’ve participated in a redemptive sacrifice, and along with Nita’s kid sister Dairine– a 12-year-old wizard so powerful that she’s scary– they’ve even seen a reenactment of the Temptation in the Garden. Where do you go from there?
Simple. Ireland, silly.
Nita’s parents are still concerned that, after over a year of wizardry, she and her best friend and wizard partner Kit might be getting too close for comfort. So they pack her off to Ireland to stay with her Aunt Annie. But what begins as a holiday from wizardry, soon turns into a wizard assignment of cosmic importance. For the boundaries between the dimension of Faery and the real world have become thinned, and the residue of past magics has built up like so much toxic waste, so that ancient evil is poised to break into present-day Ireland… and there is little the wizards of the land can do about it.
What they need are four great signs of power representing the elements of water, air, earth, and fire: a chalice, a sword, a stone, and a spear that will turn back the troll-like Drows and the warg-like Pookas and, finally, Old One-Eye himself (a distinctively Irish embodiment of the Lone Power). Combining the rich mythology of Ireland (it helps to read the book’s Irish glossary first) with the galaxies-wide, oceans-deep, entropy-fighting wizardry of Kit and Nita, the story also includes a kitten named Tualha who happens to be a bard, and a rather gothic boy wizard named Ronan (!!) who gives Nita her first taste of romance.
Duane’s world of wizardry continues to grow in richness and depth. This story explores differences among different orders of Powers (angels?), makes more references to the elusive One (God?), and even hints at still another class of beings, the People of the Air (a.k.a. the Good Folk– somewhat like the Elves or Faerie of J. R. R. Tolkien’s imagination). The different ways wizards in different parts of the world do their work also makes things interesting. And down to earth a bit more, you see Nita growing up a bit, and trying to understand her relationships with Kit, Dairine, her parents, and others better. Her attraction to the brooding Ronan makes an appealing sub-plot, as if the adventure and mystery and humanity of the story aren’t enough to captivate you, from the wizard’s argument with her Mom at the beginning, to a cat’s flight up a chimney at the end.
For further development of these things, you’ll definitely want to read the next book in this series: The Wizard’s Dilemma. And the series Cat Wizards by the same author might also interest you… Oh by the way, see if you can spot some wicked puns in this book. If you’re not too bushed from all the teen romance and cosmic wizardry, you might enjoy a quiet snicker. But you have to keep your eyes peeled!