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A Wizard Alone
by Diane Duane
The sixth book in the Young Wizards series picks up a few months after The Wizard’s Dilemma, and a month after teen wizard Nita Callahan’s mother died of cancer. While she tries to pick up the pieces of her life, along with her sensitive father and her difficult sister Dairine, a strange and lonely intelligence begins making contact with her through her dreams.
Meanwhile her partner in wizardry, Kit Rodriguez, still trying to understand the amazing powers of his dog Ponch, finds himself flying solo on a mission to find a young wizard who has been stuck on his Ordeal for three months. And not surprisingly, the two mysteries gradually combine into one intriguing adventure, with a confrontation against the Lone Power at the end.
After exploring cancer in the previous book, A Wizard Alone uses teen wizardry to explore both the process of grieving after a loved one’s death, and the little understood condition called Autism. Indeed, certain similarities between the two problems braid the plot lines together in a satisfying way.
Plus the endearing and increasingly articulate character of Ponch continues to develop; a fascinating new young-wizard character is introduced; Kit and Nita’s family ties grow more interesting and richly detailed; and the effects of “wizardry leakage” on the appliances and people in Kit’s home provide a comical side-plot that means you will never look at your remote control the same way again.
It’s rare to see such an imaginative, entertaining sci-fi / fantasy series tackling such important and yet down-to-earth issues. Yet at the same time, Duane never lets her characters be mouthpieces or ideological chits; they remain real people, and the story itself is of the highest quality. I think the effect is to make Kit and Nita’s world so much more real, and to raise the stakes on their adventure so that it really matters to you.
And there are just enough questions left unanswered at the end of the book to make you impatient to get started on Wizard’s Holiday. What I wanted to know, for instance, was– when is Ponch going to take the Oath?